With the Royals, I shouldn’t be confused as a glass-half-full kinda guy. But I am a realist. Which is why I spent so much time on Twitter defending Michael A. Taylor, because that’s something a reasonable person does.
The point was simple: Is Michael A. Taylor a starting Major League center fielder? Probably not. But was his defense good enough to make him a reasonably valuable player who had a higher rWAR than Andrew Benintendi despite being in a role he probably shouldn’t be in? Yes.
That’s my approach. The Royals are the Royals. They are who we think they are. And being a fan of a bad team is no fun. But the reality is that swapping Michael A. Taylor at-bats for Edward Olivares at-bats, while maybe being more fun and a better investment of at-bats, probably wasn’t going to make the Royals that much better.
And in years past, that would be my approach today. The only difference is that now, unlike in 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021, Kansas City actually has guys that at least could be getting at-bats and in some cases probably should be getting at-bats.
I wasn’t going to die on the Ryan McBroom over Ryan O’Hearn hill because neither are very good players. It would have been an exercise in futility to care. But now, the Royals are terrible. They can’t score runs. In fact, they are scoring runs worse than any team in baseball.
And they have some guys who could take jobs at the Major League level. My colleague Jeremy Greco wrote a piece a few days ago saying that the Royals are going to get better. And that’s absolutely true. He wrote about positive regression, as well as some aggressive moves.
But I want to go a step further. I want to blow up the Royals. Not all of these moves would succeed. Not all of these moves are real. Most of them probably won’t happen, at least not immediately. This is just a hypothetical blow up, so don’t yell at me in the comments.
This team is tough to watch, so we can at least have some fun and talk it out. Here’s how we can blow this team up.
Fire Cal Eldred. Kidnap Brian Bannister from San Francisco.
This article is going to devolve into nonsense, but this is mostly real. The Royals have an organizational pitching problem. They had an organizational hitting problem, but the returns from Bobby Witt Jr, Nick Pratto, and MJ Melendez, along with other hitters in the minor league system have shown it has promise.
Pitching is another story. The struggles of Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, and Jackson Kowar is pretty good proof of that. There is too much talent in that group, including two former top 100 prospects, to be as bad as they are. At some point, you have to look at organizational failure, something Alec Lewis highlighted in his latest piece.
Interestingly, Junis is not the only pitcher to have moved on and succeeded. Brad Boxberger was averaging 90 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019, and the pitch was dropping 20.1 inches on average. In 2021, after signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, Boxberger was averaging 93.5 mph on his fastball, and the pitch was dropping 14.1 inches on average, enhancing the rise effect and making it much harder to hit. In 2019 with the Royals, Wily Peralta was not throwing a splitter. Now with the Tigers, it’s the pitch he earns more whiffs on than any other. Jorge López is throwing nearly four mph faster with the Baltimore Orioles this season than he did with the Royals in 2019. Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jason Adam is one of the best in baseball this season. He’s throwing a changeup most often (he only threw the pitch 7.9 percent with the Royals in 2018) and utilizing a slider, which he did not throw with the Royals.
Notably, current Royals big leaguers are not ignorant of the strides others have made elsewhere.
I don’t know who the replacement is for Eldred because I think the problem is at an organizational level. With that said, he’s still gotta go. And then once that happens, they should poach Brian Bannister from San Francisco and bring him home. Not as the pitching coach, but as his current director of pitching title.
He should have never been allowed to leave.
Call up Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino
The two easiest moves the Royals can make right now to prevent fan apathy and create excitement is to call Pratto and Big Italian Breakfast up to Kansas City. They are also the two moves that make the most baseball sense.
These guys aren’t Ryan McBrooms replacing Ryan O’Hearn. They are legitimately pushing towards the Major League squad. Pratto is currently on the injured list, so this might have to be delayed, but he should be off soon enough.
Pratto’s bat is his most important feature, but his defense would make an already elite infield that much better. Pasquantino is more difficult. He is a high-floor-low-ceiling type player with an above-average hit and power tool. But he’s going to struggle to find a position.
With Pratto in the mix, DH is where Pasquantino would have to start to get at-bats. Which means. For this to happen, some folks gotta go.
Bench Carlos Santana, Michael A. Taylor, and Hunter Dozier. Demote Ryan O’Hearn.
Santana opens up the first base job for Pratto, as well as some at-bats at DH. And with O’Hearn in AAA, that leaves a spot on the bench for Santana and his contract that the Royals won’t want to eat. He’s also probably an outright better guy to have on the bench than O’Hearn, with solid plate discipline and defense.
On O’Hearn, a legitimate candidate for demotion batting cleanup for a Major League team is bad. Having the worst player in baseball since 2019 batting cleanup for a team is really, really, really bad.
Start Kyle Isbel in Center Field. Start Edward Olivares in Right Field When He Returns. Consider Demoting MJ Melendez.
Who knows if Isbel is a legitimate answer. The calls for Isbel feel similar to the calls last year for Olivares in the sense that it’s more out of frustration than a love for the player, but Isbel is a more legitimate prospect than Olivares. But he has played well when given opportunities and is a good enough defender in center field. There isn’t a good reason to block him with Taylor, and in moving Taylor to the 4th outfielder role, he can actually be valuable in his proper role.
Olivares has been legitimately good this season and should get his shot in right as long as he keeps hitting, relegating Dozier to the bench. However, it looks like he will miss around six weeks with a right quad strain, so for now, Dozier stays in right.
And now Melendez. The only unfun thing of this article and maybe the most serious thing. The reality is that in a world where Pratto and Vinnie are in Kansas City, there isn’t a spot for Melendez. Salvy isn’t going anywhere and Vinnie can’t play anywhere else.
But more importantly, Melendez shouldn’t be backing Salvy up or DH’ing. For starters, he’s the most volatile hitter of the bunch. But further, his defense has trailed off in recent years and he needs regular reps behind the plate. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have him sit behind Salvy and it makes less sense to have him move positions, let alone to a position that he won’t have reps at.
Melendez is the only player who is truly blocked for the moment. For his good and for the Royals, he should stay down unless he absolutely forces his way into the starting lineup with his bat in this first stint with the big league club.
Promote Brady Singer. Demote Kris Bubic. Move Jackson Kowar to the bullpen.
Singer is the best pitcher of the 2018 bunch. At least so far. He hasn’t been anything special, but he is a Major League-caliber starting pitcher. Or at least he was in 2020 and 2021.
Bubic was that caliber in 2020, not so much in 2021, and absolutely hasn’t been in 2022. But he’s also not someone that can just be stuck in the bullpen and would benefit from having some time to figure it out at AAA. Bubic, more than anybody, is a product of the organization. He was never a high ceiling guy, but he’s also too good to be this. This demotion isn’t waving the white flag. It’s me not giving up on him. Hopefully he can figure it out, despite the Royals institutional failure with pitchers being a deck stacked against him.
Kowar, on the other hand, might be cooked as a starter, but he has the profile of a bullpen guy. His velocity and a plus-plus changeup make a move to the bullpen more plausible. I know it’s early, but it’s hard to envision him ever being a starter.
We did it. We blew up the Royals. Here’s a potential lineup that includes an eventually healthy Olivares:
- Kyle Isbel, CF
- Bobby Witt Jr, 3B
- Andrew Benintendi, LF
- Salvador Perez, C
- Nick Pratto, 1B
- Edward Olivares, RF
- Vinnie Pasquantino, DH
- Whit Merrifield, 2B
- Nicky Lopez, SS
I should once again point out how unscientific this is. The lineup is junk science and might not even improve the team. And further, this almost certainly won’t happen. But maybe it would be more exciting? Let’s talk it out.
What should the Royals do with this team?
This poll is closed
Full blow up
Be aggressive, but not this aggressive
Stand pat and be patient
This Royals team is actually good, you’ll see