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The Royals could look a lot different in August

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Like, a LOT different

Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals swings during an at bat against the Seattle Mariners in the third inning of the MLB spring training baseball game at Peoria Sports Complex on March 09, 2021 in Peoria, Arizona.
Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals swings during an at bat against the Seattle Mariners in the third inning of the MLB spring training baseball game at Peoria Sports Complex on March 09, 2021 in Peoria, Arizona.
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

If you close your eyes and transport yourself back to 2011—you know, shortly after television was invented, or thereabouts—the Kansas City Royals were a sorry, sorry franchise. It had been a quarter century since they had last went to the playoffs, and eight years since the team had a winning record.

But the contrast between Opening Day and one day in mid August that year was stark. On August 10, some player named Salvador Perez made his Major League Baseball debut. And he was one of seven players who played in that game and weren’t on the Opening Day roster. Those players: Perez, Johnny Giavotella, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Louis Coleman, Felipe Paulino, and Greg Holland.

One decade later, and I can’t help but think back to that day in August 2011. That’s because it seems like it might happen again—and by “it”, I mean a pretty large shift in roster makeup for the last two months of the year. It’s headlined by a certain second-generation baseball player who is doing some things in Triple-A Omaha.

Witt leads one of four position players in Omaha who are already deserving of a call-up or will be deserving of one, too. Those others players are:

  • Nick Pratto—Witt’s roommate, the 22-year-old first baseman is ranked by Baseball America as the 92nd best prospect in baseball. He combines above average athleticism with strong plate discipline and good power from the left-handed side.
  • Kyle Isbel—The Royals thought enough of Isbel to include him on the Opening Day roster. He has struggled much of the year, but he seems like he might have made the right adjustments; over the last 28 days, he’s hitting .268/.384/.451, and he has a 1.590 OPS with just two strikeouts in the last week.
  • Edward Olivares—Olivares has been on the Brandon Finnegan Memorial I-29 Expressway so often as to deserve a route rename after him. He is too good for Triple-A, where he’s slashing .337/.410/.562 with a cool 17% K rate.

When could these hitters be up? Well, Isbel and Olivares already have been, so there isn’t an initial hurdle for them to get over. As for Witt, his call-up date has been the golden question since spring training. Traditionally, the Royals don’t always require their top hitting prospects to spend a lot of time in Triple-A, we could see a call-up within a couple weeks. Ditto Pratto. Of course, this is dependent on performance; while the Royals are quick to call up top prospects that hit well in Triple-A, they are rightfully more hesitant on prospects that don’t do well.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. There are multiple pitchers who could get the call in August that weren’t there on Opening Day. Those players include:

  • Jackson Kowar, who has continued to dominate Triple-A
  • Daniel Lynch, who the Royals are very high on despite his struggles
  • Daniel Tillo, who has been working back from Tommy John
  • Gabe Speier, who has been excellent out of the bullpen

Only Speier would be need to be added to the 40-man roster on the pitcher side, though Witt and Pratto would need to be added to the 40-man on the hitting side. Still, that brings us to our next point: the trade deadline is soon, plus, you know, the Royals stink. The Royals have six hitters and 10 pitchers who have accrued a negative WAR per Fangraphs. Most of those players are simply replaceable, and the good players are trade bait. Roster spots will be easy to find.

Simply put, a roster featuring a rotation of Kowar, Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Cerlos Hernandez and a lineup with Witt, Pratto, Isbel, and Olivares would be really interesting. In addition, it would be what the Royals have not been all year: young. The Royals have often been unwatchable this year not just because they’ve been bad, but because they’ve also been old and uninteresting. Now, not all of those players are going to pan out—remember my mention of the likes of Giavotella, Paulino, and Coleman above?—but if these young players play well enough in Omaha to deserve a call-up, the Royals won’t just be more interesting. They might be better, too.