You don’t need a crystal ball to tell that the Royals roster as currently constituted will be quite bad next season. But we have math to support that proposition, as Dan Szymborski of Fangraphs has released his 2024 ZIPS projections for the Royals.
Szymborski writes that Bobby Witt Jr. is the “saving grace of this lineup, the only player on the Royals with a high chance of being elite at whatever it is he does.” ZIPS projects the young shortstop to be a 4 WAR player with a line of .275/.323/.481 and a flirtation with another 30/30 season, with Nomar Garciaparra as a top comp.
No other hitter projects to be a 2 WAR player, although Szymborski writes “there are a few pockets of respectability.” Vinnie Pasquantino has an interesting comp in Tino Martinez, and role players like Devin Mann, Dairon Blanco, Kyle Isbel, and Samad Taylor project to be among the most valuable Royals hitters, perhaps damning with faint praise. MJ Melendez projects to have a line of .249/.326/.455, but his value is virtually erased by a very poor defensive projection and Colby Rasmus is his a top comp. ZIPS has not bought into Nelson Velázquez’s terrific second half last year, projecting him to be a .237/.301/.426 hitter. Young prospect Javier Vaz projects to have a .334 on-base percentage, better than any hitter on the current roster other than Pasquantino.
Szmborski writes that the pitching is “a lot like the lineup, only with no equivalent to Witt, making them like the pitcher version of the never-produced Lucky Charms cereal, Oops! All Oat Things.” Not a single pitcher projects to have an ERA under 4.00 or a WAR over 2.0. Cole Ragans projects to be the best on the staff despite a short track record, with ZIPS predicting a 4.04 ERA. ZIPS likes Brady Singer to bounce back with a 4.47 ERA but does not predict very good numbers for Kris Bubic of Daniel Lynch. Minor league Noah Cameron has one of the better projections, but there isn’t much to like among the starters. James McArthur has a 4.07 ERA as a reliever, and newly acquired Nick Anderson projects to have a 4.06 ERA, although his health is in question. But overall the bullpen projects as below replacement level, which may be unprecedented in ZIPS projections.
Overall, this is a bad roster with not much help on the way. As Szymborski puts it, the Royals are a “90-loss team, something Royals fans are sadly familiar with. And unfortunately, the Royals are the worst type of 90-loss team: one without much in the way of upside.”