The Royals have had a quiet off-season, largely standing pat and relying on younger players to continue to develop. That will make this a crucial year of evaluation to determine which young players will be part of the future.
Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs released his annual ZIPS projections for the Royals today, and it projects some promising futures for some players, with a lot of uncertainty for others.
Szymborski notes that “KC’s minor league hitters didn’t come roaring out of the gate”, and the group has a lot of question marks. Vinnie Pasquantino projects to be the best hitter on the team with a 125 OPS+, followed by Salvador Perez, then two other 2022 rookies - Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez. There is a significant drop off after that with only outfield prospect Tyler Gentry projected to be a league-average hitter.
Some of the comps for the young hitters are interesting as well. Royals fans may be encouraged by Pasquantino’s comp to Wally Joyner or MJ Melendez’s comp to Darrell Porter, while Bobby Witt Jr.’s comp to Brett Lawrie is underwhelming.
Shortstop prospect Maikel Garcia also projects well as the sixth-most valuable position player with comps to long-time big leaguers like Jason Bartlett and Brian Roberts. ZIPS is a bit more skeptical with Nick Pratto, projecting a line of .227/.317/.419.
A sneak peek at the ZiPS x FanGraphs Depth Chart for the next team to go in ZiPS, the Kansas City Royals. pic.twitter.com/0dHNCRhKt9— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 9, 2023
On the pitching side, Szymborski notes that the Royals lack in quality, they make up for (kinda) in quantity. That is, the Royals have few stands outs - he writes “ZiPS is sold on Brady Singer and precisely none of the team’s other starters with the possible exception of sorta prospect Angel Zerpa” but he also writes that they pretty much have ten or so pitchers that are interchangeable.
I’m not sure I mean this as a compliment (I don’t), but when running the projections, they have the gentlest dropoff between their top five starting pitchers and their next five (or 10) starting pitchers of any team in baseball I’ve run so far.
The roster is so deep that ZiPS almost thinks that Jordan Lyles, the team’s biggest free-agent signing this winter, is one of the 10 best starting pitchers on the team!
The other young starters project fairly poorly, and the projection system also has free agent pickups Jordan Lyles and Ryan Yarbrough with ERAs near five. The bullpen projects to be a strength with Scott Barlow, Richard Lovelady, Dylan Coleman, and Amir Garrett to be the most valuable pitchers on the team other than Singer.
What do you think? What projections stand out to you?