Things feel sort of different right now. There have always been complaints, some quiet and some loud, but the last few days have started to feel like something in the past that I remember. Actually, two times I remember in the social media era. The first is back in 2010. The situation with Trey Hillman in charge had just become so obviously irreparable that the Royals had to make a move. You heard about it from fans and from the media. And Hillman was replaced. Then again around midseason 2014 (specifically after getting swept in Boston right after the break), the murmurs got louder everywhere. What’s funny is that the two times felt similar and resulted in very different endings. In 2010, Hillman was fired and Ned Yost took over. In 2014, the cries for Dayton Moore and Ned Yost’s jobs were pretty loud. After they fell to 48-50, I wonder if they’d have kept their jobs if not for the mythical winning 15 out of 20 games comment coming to fruition. We all know what happened next that season and the year after. But here we are again. The Royals are floundering, as they are wont to do. And the discussion is once again taking a very public tone. Will a change be made? It’s hard to say, but I think without a crazy winning streak, something has to shift and soon.
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Let’s talk candidates
Okay, so I don’t think the Royals are going to clean house, but the question almost always comes up when you mention moving on from this person or that person, if not him then who? There’s an argument that I’ve seen from many people, a lot of whom I respect their opinion, when discussing the general manager/president role and they ask if you’d look for someone with experience in rebuilding a farm system and winning with a small market. And then they immediately say that you’re describing Moore. While that’s factually accurate, I also would say that I am looking for a candidate who has not lost 100 games multiple times. Or one who has been in charge for 16 years with three seasons above .500. But I digress. My point is that I wanted to give an answer to that question of “if not him, then who?” And so I’m going to do that right here with my top candidates.
President/GM: Scott Harris - This would require a total house cleaning because he’d need to be brought in as the president since he’s the GM of the Giants already and has been for three years after working with both Theo Epstein and now Farhan Zaidi.
Watch out here for Matt Forman, who John Sherman would have known from his time in Cleveland.
Manager: Pedro Grifol - I still love Grifol and think he’d be a great manager. He’d be my pick. I understand if people would want to go outside the organization and if you did, I’d say Carlos Beltran and Joe Espada would be a couple top candidates. Maybe see if Matt Quatraro from the Rays wants a top job.
Pitching Coach: Everett Teaford - I don’t know if he’d leave the White Sox, but what he’s doing with pitch development over there is really cool and I think he’d be a nice fit to help get these young starters the tools they need.
Hitting Coach: Keoni DeRenne - Yep, I’m staying in-house again and going with one of the more influential voices from the minor league hitting overhaul.
Like I said, there’ll be differences of opinion and this likely isn’t to mean anything, but as long as we’re talking about moves, this is what I’d strive to do.
Too much contact
I wrote this week on Inside the Crown about the Royals issues with pitches in the heart of the plate and how they’re not hitting them. Immediately, they decided to do better, well at least Whit Merrifield did, hitting the first one he saw out of the ballpark. So maybe writing about their contact issues here will help that as well. You might be wondering what contact issue they have. Coming into play yesterday, they had the lowest strikeout rate in baseball among their hitters. That means they’re making plenty of contact, right? Yep. And there’s the problem. I’m not sure I’d have believed this if I didn’t see it myself, but before yesterday’s action, they were middle of the pack in swinging at pitches outside the zone. Last year they were worst in baseball. So that’s kind of nice to see. But again, they’re making a lot of contact when they shouldn’t be.
They were eighth in contact percentage on pitches outside the strike zone, which is one of the few times that, outside of a two strike pitch, a swing and miss is better. Those just aren’t pitches you can do damage on. The league average on pitches outside the zone is .152 with a .209 slugging percentage. The Royals are hitting actually better than the league, but better means a .194 average and .254 slugging percentage. Both are actually top-five, but that’s not good. I’m not exactly sure how you teach swinging and missing, which means that if the Royals offense wants to offset any of their issues, they’re going to need to be one of the best teams in terms of not swinging at piches outside the zone. I don’t know that I see that happening, but I will say that I think a lot of the guys coming up through the system do a much better job with this, so maybe that’ll start to turn soon.
Lesser discussed minor leaguers
We talk a lot about guys like Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto and any of the young pitchers who have been in the big leagues who are back in the minors at any given time, but there are a few Royals minor leaguers I think we’re not giving quite enough attention to. The one part of this organization I think I truly believe in right now is the hitting development, which is a very weird thing for me to say, but what they’ve done speaks for itself. And with that said, I spoke with a scout this week who told me that he thinks Michael Massey is not only a big leaguer and soon, but a difference maker. I’d temper my expectations maybe a touch because I don’t think he walks quite enough for me to be sure he’s going to be an offensive force, but the scout told me he sees a guy who should hit for a solid average and 20-25 home run power while playing good defense at second base. I’ve seen conflicting reports about his defense, but he did win a gold glove, which may be totally meaningless but it’s better than nothing. So he’s someone I would watch for to get promoted to AAA sometime reasonably soon.
That same scout also told me that Drew Parrish could last in a big league rotation today if he wasn’t allowed to face a big league lineup a third time. Full disclosure, he’s generally more bullish on players when he talks to me than when he files reports, but he’s also the guy who told me last year that MJ Melendez went from being a flameout to a top prospect again and he told me that on like May 12 when the season started just a week earlier. But aside from Parrish and Massey, I’ve heard great things about Tyler Gentry, Nick Loftin (both offensively and defensively), Maikel Garcia and John Rave. I know people talk a decent amount about Loftin, but maybe not quite enough. I just wanted to pass along the good reports on some players we don’t hear as much about.
Cycles and no-nos
We saw two of the more rare events in baseball this past week, a no-hitter and a cycle. Even if it feels like no-hitters are commonplace now, there have only been 316 ever. And there have only been 335 cycles. Ever. For a comparison, three-home run games are pretty rare. And there have been 642 of those historically. So when both of the rare things happen at the same time, it’s pretty interesting, to me anyway. And it of course makes me think about the Royals who haven’t had a no-hitter since Bret Saberhagen in 1991 and haven’t had a cycle since George Brett in 1990. Sure they’ve had guys get close, but nothing. The Blue Jays and Guardians are the only teams to be waiting longer than the Royals for a no-hitter and only the Reds have gone longer than the Royals since their last cycle. The Marlins have never hit for one, but have only been around since 1993.
So who is the most likely? I think the cycle is a pretty easy choice. It generally but not always requires power and speed to get the triple and that describes Bobby Witt Jr. But I’ll give you a different name - Hunter Dozier. Dozier has 24 triples since 2018 and has 10 and six in his last two full seasons respectively. For the no-hitter, that can be so hard to predict because sometimes they’re just the most random events, but I will say that as frustrating as Brady Singer is to me, when he’s truly on, he can be nasty to hit. We saw that against Cleveland in 2020 when he had a no-hit bid, and I anticipate we’ll see that again at some point. So of all the guys in the organization now, I’d pick him. But it would probably be Jackson Kowar or something.