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Royals Review Roundtable: The second half begins

We reflect on a nightmarish first half.

MLB: APR 18 Rangers at Royals Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The All-Star break gave us a chance to catch our breath and reflect on this nightmarish season. With the Royals getting back to play tonight, I thought it would be a good time to take stock with our writers to try to make sense of all this putrid baseball.

What was the most disappointing thing about the first half?

Greg Walker: Where to start? Brady Singer can’t strike anybody out, Vinnie Pasquantino went down for the year, and only one of last year’s rookies has really taken steps forward. In year six of a rebuild, this squad is on pace for the worst record in franchise history, with little help on the way in the upper minors.

Preston Farr: The offense. Most namely, the young bats. There were a lot of questions before the season about the pitching but I think overall many expected this offense to be pretty good. That simply hasn’t been the case and it’s pretty concerning if that doesn’t improve in the second half.

Max Rieper: MJ Melendez. He was the guy I thought reflected the hitting approach the best and I saw a lot of potential in him last year. This year he has been one of the worst hitters in baseball. He’s striking out too much, but what is most mystifying is his lack of home run power this year. He also hasn’t transitioned to the outfield well at all, so I am very uncertain how he fits into the Royals’ plans going forward.

Hokius: For me it was the realization that the team is not only bad on the field, but bad off the field. There just do not appear to be any redeeming qualities to this franchise right now, morally, ethically, or even business-wise. It seems like a complete disaster.

What was a bright spot for the Royals in the first half?

Preston Farr: Pitching developments and Maikel Garcia. Garcia looks like he can become a good, everyday player with really great defense. Carlos Hernández, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, and Jonathan Heasley have given us glimpses of hope in the pitching department. If that continues and amplifies, it should create a lot of hope for the future.

Hokius: Maikel Garcia. He’s looked like a true MLB starter. Only time will tell if he can keep it up, though.

Greg Walker: Bobby Witt Jr. His defensive turnaround has been remarkable, as he is tied for 10th among 152 qualified infielders in Outs Above Average after finishing 157th out of 162 as a rookie. While his batting line is almost the same as last year, he has an 87th percentile xwOBA and he’s underperforming that stat by the sixth biggest margin of any hitter in baseball. Watch for a big second half from him offensively. He’s already eclipsed last year’s fWAR total and on pace for a 4+ fWAR season.

Max Rieper: I was a bit skeptical of Maikel Garcia going into this season, but now I see what evaluators who were higher on him than the stats warranted were talking about. He brings very smooth defense, a patient eye at the plate, good speed, and he has decent power for an infielder. He seems to have a high floor at this point as a guy that can at least be a semi-regular with a ceiling of a very solid starter and leadoff hitter for the future. Also have to give some love for Freddy Fermin, a nice feel-good story. I’ll admit I didn’t understand why they added him to the 40-man roster but the Royals seemed to be right about him.

What did you think of the draft? How would you grade it or what would you have done differently?

Preston Farr: It was fine. The draft was fine. Kansas City swung for the fences. They took risks that they haven’t recently. They drafted like a front office that knows they have to figure it out or get replaced. It may crash and burn and cost some jobs, but drafting safe hasn’t exactly created a winning team or top farm system. I give it a solid B due to the potential. I would’ve taken Matt Shaw at 8 and supplemented that pick with back to back prep arms to balance out the risk factor some.

Greg Walker: There are a number of guys I would have preferred in the first round, but I’m biased towards guys that I’ve watched play a lot in college. I think they did a good job looking for upside on day one and going with some safer college guys on day two that still offer some ceiling. We won’t truly know for many years how this draft turned out and we still don’t even know exactly who will sign, so I rate this draft four turkey basters full of oil.

Hokius: I probably would have tried to play it safer with more developed, college players. That said, I think I understand why they didn’t and I can only hope it will pay off.

Max Rieper: I agree with most of the narrative that they took some unnecessary risks - there were some very polished college bats available with good upside in round one. Taking high schoolers in later rounds makes sense, and I do like Blake Wolters and Hiro Wyatt quite a bit, Hunter Owen, Jared Dickey, and Spencer Nivens could be later round steals and I’m a sucker for funky lefties like Jacob Widener. Overall I think Royals fans would have been thrilled with this draft had they not taken such a risk with Blake Mitchell in round one.

What are you expecting at the trade deadline?

Hokius: I’m expecting the Royals to make a handful more deals, especially one involving Scott Barlow. I expect Royals fans will be unimpressed by the returns generally.

Preston Farr: Trades. But not enough. I think the Royals will be active but I don’t think they’ll do what most hope. They should trade Scott Barlow and Edward Olivares. Trading someone like Nick Loftin in a package deal to improve value is an option but not one they likely pursue. I think Kansas City adds maybe one additional notable prospect at best before the deadline.

Max Rieper: I think Scott Barlow is dealt more for quantity rather than quality. Nicky Lopez gets traded for a marginal prospect. I am skeptical they make any more moves beyond that, but typically newer GMs like to make a lot of moves to put their stamp on the club, so maybe JJ Picollo will surprise us.

Greg Walker: I think there’s a high probability Scott Barlow is moved. Beyond him, I don’t know who else there is to trade. Maybe somebody wants Matt Duffy, or I suppose there is an outside shot Nicky Lopez gets moved. I expect this to be a considerably less exciting deadline for Kansas City than last year’s was.

What are you looking forward to in the second half?

Preston Farr: I want to see Cole Ragans, I’d like to see Angel Zerpa and I want to see some change. Rolling out Edward Olivares over Tyler Gentry doesn’t make sense. It’s not fun. Bring up Nick Loftin if he isn’t traded and see what he’s got. The Royals should make the lineup — save for Maikel Garcia and Bobby Witt Jr. — open season. If you’re hot, you get a shot. Ride the hot hands the rest of this year and see who really can play at the major league level. That’s what a true evaluation year needs.

Max Rieper: I’d like to see if Nick Pratto can become a good starter. There’s a lot to like but he does take a lot of called strikes and he hasn’t hit for much power yet. I want to see if Brady Singer has turned the corner and can finish with a strong second half. I’d like to see if Alec Marsh can be a piece going forward - his stuff looked pretty good but his results have been very mixed. I’m very curious to see how Picollo treats the trade deadline - does he think the team is on the right path, or does he think things have gone wrong and he needs to shake things up?

Hokius: I’m looking forward to trying to dive into the minor leagues more and get excited about the young players down there. My favorite MLB players, Pasquantino and Bubic, won’t be back until next year so I don’t have a lot to be excited about there.

Greg Walker: Hoping that somebody beyond Witt, Maikel Garcia, and Freddy Fermin (?!) actually steps up and contributes something offensively.