Baseball is finally, blessedly back! Instead of projecting rosters and talent, we can begin to evaluate what actually happens on the field, instead! As a baseball writer, there is little that brings me more joy than the opportunity to make that transition. Sadly, we’ve only had one game. Happily, I don’t care. Let’s go entirely overboard in analyzing what this means for the Royals going forward!
The Royals are clearly a playoff team
There were lots of naysayers suggesting that Zack Greinke might not be the ace of a competitive team at age 38. Greinke immediately proved them wrong with a dazzling performance. Sure, he didn’t get a lot of strikeouts and couldn’t quite manage to earn a quality start as he only pitched 5.2 innings. But he also kept his pitch count low and defeated a team that last year crushed the Royals in 14 out of 19 tries.
Additionally, the bullpen looked just as good if not better than last season. The defense was phenomenal with gold glovers or potential gold glovers at seven out of nine positions. It would have been nice to score more runs, but there were some huge positives from the lineup as well!
Obviously the Royals won’t go 162-0, but 100 wins doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility if all the games go similarly to that one!
The lineup had bright spots
First, of course, Bobby Witt Jr. showed that he is ready for the moment. In the bottom of the eighth of a tie game with two outs and a runner in scoring position he picked up his veteran teammates by driving home Michael A. Taylor with a double into left.
Nicky Lopez picked up right where he left off last year with a double and a key sacrifice bunt. Andrew Benintendi did his job in the middle of the order by driving in Witt Jr. Hunter Dozier managed to smack a double, as well. In fact, the Royals had more doubles than singles in the game. That’ll play!
Help is on the way
Carlos Santana didn’t have a great game, only walking once and getting erased when Dozier tried to bunt him over. However, Nick Pratto belted two homers in a double header in AAA Omaha’s opening day festivities. It’s only a matter of time until he and MJ Melendez replace hitters not getting it done at the MLB level. The Royals also have Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares currently on the bench in case Taylor continues to go hitless and Whit Merrifield continues failing to justify his Multi-Hit nickname.
Luck is on the Royals’ side
Immediately after Witt’s game-winning double, our own Shaun Newkirk made this tweet:
Witt Jr last two PA:— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) April 7, 2022
110.4 MPH line out that had a.420 xBA
90.3 MPH double that had a .090 xBA
That’s a fancy way of saying Witt’s RBI double only had a 9% chance of ever being a hit in the first place. Luck favors the Royals!
In the meantime, the Guardians seem completely disinterested in winning as they have only one guy in their lineup who particularly worries you and their rotation depth and bullpen reserves have been allowed to atrophy. Detroit is still counting on breakouts from players in a similar way to the Royals but without Bobby Witt Jr. The Twins traded away from their suspect bullpen to bolster their suspect rotation with a guy who may or may not actually be any good. And, finally, the White Sox have already had to put two stars on the injured list and neither is expected back particularly soon. The opening is there - if the Royals can take advantage of it!
The roster construction signals that the Royals are in a win-now mode
Why is Bobby Witt Jr. at third and Adalberto Mondesi at short? Because that provides the most offensive potential for the infield. What is Ryan O’Hearn doing in Kansas City? Providing a power bat off the bench. Why isn’t Brady Singer in the rotation? Because he can help the team win better from the bullpen.
The Royals aren’t interested in building a contender in 2023. They’re hungry for a playoff spot now, and they’re going for it. As I mentioned in the previous section, they’re already getting some breaks. Setting up the roster the way they have shows that they’re interested in doing everything they can to grab those breaks and ride them as far as they can go.
The 2022 Royals have talent. The 2022 Royals have depth. The 2022 Royals have attitude and luck. If the 2022 Royals don’t make the postseason, it won’t be for lack of trying.