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Opening Day Game Thread: Royals v. Guardians

It’s Bob’s time

MLB: Texas Rangers at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Across the past four seasons, the Royals have slowly but surely transformed from a 100-loss team with a barren farm system into a slightly more tolerable team with a fruitful farm system waiting to see the harvest.

In 2018, the Royals lost 104 games, tied for the second most in franchise history. They lacked talent at every level, but most notably seen with a pitching staff that finished 29 out of 30 teams in fWAR.

The woes of a 100+ loss season were compounded by the talent developing slump the Royals had been in since drafting its World Series core. In 2018, Kansas City didn’t have a single prospect in the top 100. Aside from Nick Pratto, a 2017 draftee, the system was incredibly thin, with Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias coming in at #2 and #3 in the system according to Baseball America.

Fast forward even just a half season later and BA’s top ten prospect rankings included Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic. While we are still waiting to see the fruit of the rebuild, it has been a swift and dramatic improvement from even just four years ago.

Now, Kansas City has four top-100 prospects – Bobby Witt Jr, MJ Melendez, Pratto, and Asa Lacy respectively – and have two former top-100 prospects on their current roster in Singer and Lynch.

The Royals are coming off a 74-win season, not good but also its best season since 2017, with a real chance to improve further.

Sitting at the center of those hopes is Witt Jr, who will make his Major League debut today. He is arguably the most touted and highly anticipated prospect in franchise history and joins Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi in an already talented infield.

Sitting similarly at the center of those hopes is a Royals starting rotation that will include a combination of 2018 draftees Bubic, Daniel, Kowar, and Singer, along with the return of 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, who will start today’s game. Notably, Singer will start the season in the bullpen, along with Kowar. The bullpen looks to be stronger than it has been in the past, with Scott Barlow coming of a career year, as well as the addition of lefty Amir Garrett. They’ll join the likes of Jake Brentz and Josh Staumont.

Aside from Bobby Witt Jr’s debut and Greinke’s return, the biggest news this Opening Day is that Brady Singer will start 2022 out of the bullpen, making him available to pitch today.

Greinke is making his 7th Opening Day start and his second with the Royals. He lasted started on Opening Day for Kansas City in 2010, going six innings strong in a no-decision, giving up just one run in his first start since winning American League Cy Young.

The Royals lineup looks familiar to the ones we saw throughout Spring Training. Witt Jr. makes his debut hitting second and starting at 3rd base with Whit Merrifield leading off the Royals season for the 4th consecutive year.

Kansas City will take on the newly minted Cleveland Guardians in its inaugural game since the franchise’s name change. Cleveland has a strong rotation but is a bit questionable at the plate.

They send Shane Bieber to the mound today opposite of Greinke, making his 4th career Opening Day start. He is coming off an injury-riddled 2021 that saw him start just 16 games. Neither starter is likely to get too much work, thanks to a shortened Spring Training. Bieber pitched just 4.2 exhibition innings, while Greinke only just beat him out with 6.2.

Here are your lineups for this afternoon’s game. For a deeper dive into the roster and today’s lineups, check out our Opening Day preview.