Both OOTP23 and MLB The Show 22 had delayed releases this year as each of the two arrived for public availability on April 22. By that time the 2022 MLB season had already begun and the 2022 Kansas City Royals had featured a record of 5-6 going into that evening's game in Seattle. I had the option with OOTP23 to start the season from scratch at 0-0 on Opening Day but I also had the option to take up the real records, statistics, and injuries through April 21 and then go from there. I chose Door Number Two through OOTP's LiveStart feature.
For about a month I simply followed the Royals' roster moves. If Piccolo demoted or promoted somebody, I did the same. If some Royals player got injured for the season like Mondesi, I set that to be the case.
Now we get to today, May 14. My "Royals" have the exact same roster and are struggling like the real team but they have managed so far to achieve two more wins than the real team. Six under .500 at this stage (eight in reality) is no cause to panic this early in the campaign so let us continue day by day with AI injuries allowed and AI development allowed and then as GM be forced to make my own roster decisions because of AI stuff happening.
Strike One: "Greinke" loses a month due to injury
My "Royals" at that point had two major flaws. One was being last in the league in scoring runs. Two was being last in the league in runs allowed by starting pitchers. Compared to the other guys in the rotation, "Zack" had been decent. I needed to do something if I wanted to try to get the team back to .500.
Solution: Shop "Carlos Santana" for a starting pitcher
"Nick Pratto" got back from his injury (remember that I was tracking real injuries to the organization), "Santana" wasn't setting the world on fire, and without "Greinke" the "Royals" needed their young pitchers to develop quite a bit more before almost any of them could be expected to adequately fill a spot in the starting pitcher rotation. Without anybody looking ready, it looked like it was time to offer "Carlos" for starting pitching in hopes of somehow making the playoffs.
Result: "Jake Odorizzi" returns to Kansas City
Nobody, and I mean nobody was willing to take on "Carlos Santana" and the rest of his contract for anybody even resembling a decent starting pitching arm, veteran or prospect. When I offered to eat 75% of his contract, "Santana" finally did draw the interest of the "Astros" if I took on all of "Odorizzi's" contract. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so "Jake" was back. I also called up "Pratto."
For a couple of weeks after having "Odorizzi" and "Pratto" the "Royals" played about .500 and stayed about six games below that even-steven figure. While still hoping for the bats to warm up and for the return of "Greinke," something else happened.
Strike Two: "Bobby Witt Jr." injured until the middle of August
"Bobby" started slow but he was figuring things out and he was well on his way of becoming a solid middle of the lineup bat and even potentially the Rookie of the Year. The "Witt Jr." injury forced "Matheny" to juggle his lineup with "Rivera" and "Dozier" taking turns at the hot corner. Even though "Emmanuel" played like no world-beater, "Hunter" could not step up to even that mild competition to claim the full-time role.
Result One: Nine game losing streak
The "Royals" went from six below .500 to fifteen below that mark in short order. Additionally, "Odorizzi" let it be known that he wanted to play for a contender and that since he felt that "Kansas City" was hopeless for 2022 a trade out of town was suiting for "Jake." I shopped "Odorizzi" but decided to wait until the return of "Zack" before making any deal.
I might as well mention at this point that the "Kansas City Royals" had other things going on. Both "Taylor" and "Isbel" suffered ten to fifteen day injuries about this time and it got so desperate that GM "kcstengelsr" signed the legendary "Stefan Romero" as a backup outfielder. "Stefan" did not play very much while "Michael A." and "Kyle" were healing and "Romero" did mention his desire for better Japanese restaurants in the KC Metro, but this was all a minor issue compared to "Bobby Witt Jr." and "Romero" did eventually accept a trip to Omaha when the more regular outfielders returned.
Result Two: Cleaning house, "Odorizzi," "Dozier," and "Merrifield" traded
Not many teams were willing to take on "Jake's" contract for a decent prospect. The "Phillies" were in the Win-Now mode and made the best if not exactly exciting offer of pitcher "Ofreidy Gomez." Why not? "Gomez" at least was younger and cheaper and the "Royals" at that point were in the red for budget room after eating most of "Santana's" contract.
I wanted to make more moves with one being the underperforming "Hunter Dozier." "Dozier" at that point had the lowest WAR on the team at -1.7 and he could not even beat out "Rivera" at hot corner. "Vinnie Pasquantino" looked like a bat which could better help the struggling "Kansas City Royals." I shopped "Hunter" but with his contract I got zero takers. I offered to add "Merrifield" along with "Dozier" and got some modest interest. "Whit" had eventually managed to get his batting average up to a little above .240 with a whopping 0.0 WAR but at this point I was ready to make way for the new. I shipped both "Dozier" and "Merrifield" to the "Atlanta Braves" for youngish pitcher "Darius Vines." "Darius" was placed in "Omaha," "Vinnie P." was called from the farm, and "Ivan Castillo" made it back to the big leagues from the "Storm Chasers." "John Sherman" did like one thing about this trade--the "Royals" were now back in the black for budget room.
July 11 Amateur Draft: "Royals" draft "Cam Collier" with their first (ninth overall) choice
I don't know much about the kid, but "Goldberg" liked him. I guess you can check out: https://www.perfectgame.org/players/playerprofile.aspx?ID=577291
All Star Game: "Salvador Perez" and "Taylor Clarke" represent "Kansas City"
Salvy managed 27 dingers at the All Star Break and won the all-AI vote for AL catcher by a decent margin. "Taylor Clarke" was a surprise but he had been doing well out of the bullpen and AI liked him.
"Danny Duffy" was rehabbing with the "Dodgers" and suffered yet another AI-created injury setback. It took until early July before he was ready to try a game in "Oklahoma City." The "Los Angeles Dodgers" had enough pitching depth that after one game in the "International League" "Duffy" was released and became a free agent. GM "kcstengelsr" asked "Danny" what it would take to have him back in town and "Danny Duffy" replied, "A minor league deal, $330K in quick cash, and bury me in Kansas City." The "Royals" being ranked last in starting pitcher runs allowed, Duffman was not only signed, he was placed in the starting rotation. Here is "Danny Duffy's" first game back in "Royals" blue, which is also the first game of "Kansas City" after the All Star Break this Mid-July. The Tampa Bay Rays are in town and here it is on YouTube:
From Mid-July to Mid-August
The later part of July is a good time to check the roster for upcoming free agents, to check the contract extension demands of said free agents, and to perhaps shop upcoming free agents before the July 31 trade deadline. "Danny Duffy" had not been with the team for very long and he wanted $4M for 2023 and since I wanted to see more of him before committing that sum I decided for now not to offer an extension to "Duffman." "Zack Greinke" must have been enjoying his return to his old digs and he only wanted a bargain $2.24M for 2023. I extended "Zack" for next season and the fan interest improved a bit with the "Greinke" extension and the variable fan interest tends to help in selling tickets.
Solution: "Andrew Benintendi" Traded to the "Los Angeles Angels"
Trying to extend upcoming free agent "Andrew Benintendi" was another story. He initially asked for a five year contract worth over $80M. I counteroffered with two years at the dollar amount he wanted for the first two years of his five year demand. He then asked for four years. Although "Andrew" had been playing well and was one of the few bright spots on the 2022 "Royals," I decided that extending "Benintendi" might eventually reach some three year deal but at the risk of upsetting said player or at the risk of making him too expensive for other teams to ask for "Andrew" in trade. I shopped "Benintendi" to all teams with the desired return a prospect outfielder.
Most teams made offers of prospect outfielders for "Andrew Benintendi" but I decided that the "Los Angeles Angels" potential deal offered the most reward down the line. The "Angels" were in pennant contention and had suffered some outfield injuries and so getting an outfielder of the quality of "Benintendi" was on their wish list. For "Andrew" I was returned minor league infielder "Jeremiah Jackson" (drafted #57 overall in 2018) and minor league outfielder "Zach DeLoach" (drafted #43 overall in 2020 by the "Mariners," traded in 2022 to the "Angels" by AI). "Jackson" was assigned to the "Arizona Royals" while "DeLoach" was immediately promoted to the "Kansas City Royals" to serve as pine riding backup flychaser.
One other advantage in dealing "Benintendi" for young prospects was the resulting increase in budget room. Looking at expected arbitration guesses for this upcoming winter the "Kansas City Royals" without signing any free agents appear to have shaved $11M in total player salaries for 2023 compared to this year's figures. I am hoping that "John Sherman" will be happy with my work and give me a total budget next year large enough to spend more money on player development. I could only barely afford the $12M league baseline for player development this season and I wonder if one reason the young pitchers so far have not stepped up is because I haven't spent enough money on teaching them. In some cases the top prospects in the farm actually went backwards. For example when "Asa Lacy" needed to improve his control to get higher than AA he somehow took a step further into the wild side. The state of the "Kansas City" farm now shows the team ranked about 25th overall, a big dip from the 6th overall ranking before the season (promoting "Witt Jr." and "Pratto" removed them in consideration in farm rankings when the two earned enough big league service time). I plan on improving player development next year. I only wish that I had the budget room to have improved player development this year.
Result: The "Royals" to Mid-August
Trading some veteran bats did not seem to hurt the offense which was ranked 15th and last in the American League for runs scored. By Mid-August and still without "Bobby Witt Jr." the "Kansas City Royals" managed to reach 11th place in the American League for runs scored. Maybe some of the old veteran bats really were not going to find the fountain of youth anyway. "Carlos Santana" earned -0.2 WAR in 35 games for the "Astros." "Dozier" added -0.2 WAR in 24 games for the "Braves." "Whit Merrifield" managed +0.1 WAR in 23 for "Atlanta," while "Benintendi" in 14 contests with the "Angels" has tagged 0.0 WAR. Maybe in at least some cases the improved offense was a matter of addition by subtraction.
Pitching was ranked 15th and last in the American League at mid-July for starting pitching ERA and they were still ranked 15th and last for starting pitching ERA at mid-August. Of the starting pitchers only "Keller" and "Greinke" at that point had positive pitching WAR for the season. With no farmhands seemingly able to claim a spot in the starting rotation, I was forced to claim pitchers off the waiver wire in hopes that someone/anyone would be of help. I claimed pitchers "Logan Gillaspie," "Tyler Rogers," and "Griffin Canning." Roster room on the 40man for my various moves like even promoting infielder "Clay Dungan" was achieved by DFAing "O'Hearn," "Peacock," "Payamps," and "Bolanos." More 40man roster room was provided by the 60day IL assignments for "Barlow" and "Webb."
Basically the month after the All-Star Break had "Kansas City" tread water by "winning some, losing some." They had a little hot streak to pass "Detroit" and temporarily claim 4th place in the American League Central only to have a cold streak to return them to the AL Central cellar. "Vinnie P." played decently for a couple of weeks but then went ice cold, perhaps due to pitchers figuring out how the pitch the kid. I returned "Vinnie" to "Omaha" and again recalled "MJ Melendez" who had been getting regular playing time in "Nebraska" after "Cam Gallagher" returned from injury to the big club.
The "Royals" at Mid-August were in last place in the American League Central but "Bobby Witt Jr." returned from two months on the injury list. "Emmanuel Rivera" was again optioned to "Omaha" to get "Bobby" in the lineup. I placed on Twitch (for two weeks as I type this) the "Witt Jr." return game facing the first place in the AL Central "Minnesota Twins." Here it is:
And a bonus Twitch game is checking how "Scott Thorman's" "Omaha Storm Chasers" were doing in Mid-August, facing in Nashville the "Nashville Sounds" (for two weeks as I type this):
And a second bonus Twitch game is checking how "Chris Widger's" "Northwest Arkansas Naturals" were doing in Mid-August facing in North Little Rock the "Arkansas Travelers" (also for two weeks):
From Mid-August into early September
Prior to adding two more players with roster expansion I wanted to take a look from top to bottom at the "Royals" coaching staff. Besides not spending enough from the beginning on player development I had the suspicion that perhaps the best teachers in the organization were not slotted where the major needs happened to be. With the top hitting coach priority in "Kansas City" being the ability to work with and teach "Witt Jr." and "Pratto," I found out that the best hitting coach especially for "Bobby" and "Nick" was "Andy LaRoche" in "Quad Cities." "LaRoche" with his emphasis on improving contact skills became hitting coach for the "Royals" when he switched jobs with "Bradshaw." "Terry" was given the new job of teaching power hitting to the "River Bandits."
I took a long look at the pitching coaches in the "Royals'" organization for somebody who looked like they could guide fellows like "Singer," "Bubic," and the other young starting pitchers but nobody stood out. For example somebody who appeared to potentially be a good teacher for "Brady" might also be reported to be a poor tutor for "Kris." I did move "Cal Eldred" to the organizational minors to replace one minor league pitching coach but at the same time went outside the organization for the new pitching coach of the "Kansas City Royals." Long-time pitching coach "Larry Rothschild" was hired to work with the big club's hurlers and both "Brady Singer" and "Kris Bubic" seemed to be in favor of the change. "Larry's" emphasis on finesse promised to be a big change from "Cal's" preference for power pitchers.
The musical chairs did not stop with replacing the hitting coach and replacing the pitching coach. Coaches "Grifol," "Hollins," and "Wilson" were all reassigned within the organization to the minor league level replacing others who were underperforming in developing young players. For big league coaches I wanted as replacements people who could get along with the players, could work with "Mike Matheny" and the rest of the coaching staff, and who had teaching skills. Not much was known about the new Bench Coach "Adam Bernero" but some remembered that he pitched briefly for the Royals in 2006. New Third Base Coach "Brett Degagne" had most recently worked in the "Yankees" organization, while new First Base Coach "Chip Hale" had been coach of the Arizona University Wildcats.
The many changes to the coaching staff of the 2022 "Kansas City Royals" seemed to make a difference right away. Staff cohesion was reported to be "Happy" compared to the mere "Content" staff that had been the case earlier in the season. All coaches were now rated as having "Good" relationships with the active roster players while previously some coaches could only claim "Average" relationships with the team members. The team won eight out of the next ten games and again threated to leave the American League Central basement. "Vinnie Pasquantino" and "Angel Zerpa" were added to the active roster when teams were each allowed two more players for September.
Strike Three: "Bobby Witt Jr." injured again
"Bobby" was only back playing in the majors for a couple of weeks before he suffered another injury. The new malady was expected to keep him off the field until possibly the final week of the season. "Emmanuel Rivera" once again arrived from "Omaha."
I continued to check the waiver wire for pitching and claimed "Drew Strotman." Room on the 40man roster for "Drew" was made by the placement on the 60day IL of "Jackson Kowar." "Kowar's" arm injury was expected to take until around May of 2023 to heal. Other pitching news was "Mike Matheny's" decision to bring "Bubic" back into the starting rotation. "Kris" had been showing improvement while doing bullpen work.
September Song or playing out the string
"Kris Bubic" had several successful starts before landing on the 15day IL, "Bobby Witt Jr." rejoined the team a little earlier than previously expected, and the "Royals" played well in September. "Nick Loftin" was brought up to the majors when another bat was needed due to nagging injuries at various times to "Vinnie P.", "Isbel," and "MAT." "Michael Massey" might have gotten that phone call to report to the big club had he not himself been injured.
The team seemed to be finally jelling as a unit and the team was only six games below .500 with six games remaining in the regular season. Needing a sweep of those six games in "Cleveland" to finish at the break-even mark, "Kansas City" managed to only win one of the six against the then-hottest team in baseball. The "Royals" finished 76-86 for the season, finished 11th in runs scored in the AL, and finished 14th and next-to-last in starter's ERA in the AL. Three teams in the very tough AL Central achieved the postseason with the wild cards "Guardians" and "White Sox" both joining in the fun along with the division champion "Twins." "Kansas City" finished in the AL Central cellar but they had a 37-33 winning record after the All Star Break and they only trailed the "Tigers" by a single game.
Here is the final game of the regular 2022 season at the "Guardians" on YouTube:
To late to see action in "Kansas City," "Tony Gonsolin's" waiver claim went through. "Tony" should have a great opportunity for making the 2023 starting rotation. To make room for "Gonsolin" and to make space earlier for "Loftin," "Brentz" and catcher "Romero" were both DFAd. If there was a consolation for having a losing record it was the fact that the "Royals" in many but not in all cases were able to get their waiver claims accepted.
Owner "John Sherman" was reported to be "Very Happy" with my efforts. He should have been pleased that my 2022 "Kansas City Royals" turned a profit of over $38M.
Prospect for 2023
This team is not terrible but two problems need to be addressed. The immediate issue is finding a cromulent starting pitcher rotation as the young kids are either going to have to take big strides forward or they will end up sacking groceries. The long range problem will require a major rebuild of the farm system. The team needs a major improvement in player development and the farm lacks depth.
A Note about this OOTP23 play
I started with the correct active rosters, records, stats, and injuries as of the day of OOTP23 release, or April 22, but one has the option to begin on Opening Day. I have set up for another play of OOTP23 the complete 40man rosters and injuries as of Opening Day. I think my next go will turn off AI created injuries and also turn off all trades. Losing "Witt Jr." hurt, but imagine the "Angels" losing "Ohtani" for two months like what happened in my simulation with injuries and trades allowed. I also want to equalize the cash and budget room for all teams as it appears that AI GMs do very poorly when operating in the red like trading away their best players for cheap replacements. If I wanted to I could just turn over all GM responsibilities to "Piccolo" and see if he can do any better. Spoiler: If you had followed along you would have seen that despite adversity that the team did play .500 ball from May 14 until going into the final series at Cleveland. I didn't make any of my own roster moves until May 14 as I had been tracking the real Piccollo until that date.