Monday, March 11, 2019

Kansas City Royals 2019 season preview

Aldaberto Mondesi. Photo from SBNation


         Winning the World Series in 2015 ended up an all-or-nothing thing, as the team lost 14 more games in 2016 than in 2015, fell by one win in 2017, before completely falling off the books in 2018. The Royals lost 104 games, which would have them finish last almost any season, but they will get the second overall pick because of the Orioles' abysmal season. The Royals will now get full seasons out of Ryan O'Hearn, Albaderto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier. The Royals have always valued speed, and now they have Whit Merrifield, who led the league in steals, Mondesi, and they signed four time 50 stolen base man Billy Hamilton in the offseason. Watching the trio on the bases will be as exciting for Royals fans as it will get.

           Offseason addditions: CF Billy Hamilton, RHP Brad Boxberger, LHP Jake Diekman, C Martin Maldonado, UT Chris Owings, OF Terrance Gore, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Drew Storen, RHP Chris Ellis, RHP Sam McWilliams

           Offseason subtractions: SS Alcides Escobar, OF Abraham Almonte, RHP Brandon Maurer, RHP Burch Smith, RHP Jason Hammel, INF Ryan Goins

           Rotation
The best WAR for a Royals' pitcher was 3.6, belonging to Brad Keller. The Rule 5 pick had a 3.08 ERA in 41 appearances, including 20 starts. But, he'll now shift full time to the rotation. Both Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy are on big contracts, and both had terrible 2018s. They had 4.88 and 4.66 ERAs, respectively, making just 50 combined starts. Jakob Junis had his first full season, with another average ERA in the 4.30s, but he led the team with 30 starts. The fifth spot is up for grabs. Eric Skoglund won't be back until about June 26 because of an 80 game PED suspension. Heath Fillmyer had a 4.26 ERA in 17 appearances, including 13 starts. Jorge Lopez made seven starts, and nearly pitched a perfect game against the Twins. Veteran Homer Bailey might also have a chance.

             Bullpen
After closer Kelvin Herrera was traded midseason, Wily Peralta made 14 saves, and could be the closer. But, the team brought in Brad Boxberger, the 2015 saves leader. Boxberger made 32 saves for Arizona last year. The team also signed Boxberger's Arizona teammate, lefty Jake Diekman. Drew Storen was signed to a minor league deal. He was decent with the Reds in 2017, but didn't play in the majors last season. Kevin McCarthy had a 3.25 ERA in 65 appearances. LOOGY Tim Hill pitched in 45.2 innings, but in 70 games. Another lefty, Brian Flynn, was the opposite. He pitched in 48 games, but in 75.2 innings. The Royals could go with 13 pitchers, with Rule 5 picks Chris Ellis and Sam McWilliams given the final spots.

             Catching
Entering Spring Training, the Royals had a top 5 catcher in Salvador Perez, who doubled as the team's main bright spot. But, Perez will now undergo Tommy John surgery and miss 2019. The team moved quickly and signed defensive specialist Martin Maldonado. Cam Gallagher got the backup spot when Drew Butera was traded at the deadline.

              Infield
The Royals have a young and exciting infield. 2B Whit Merrifield had 192 hits, and led the league with 45 stolen bases. At age 22, Albaderto Mondesi hit 14 home runs and stole 32 bases in 291 Plate Appearances. With Alcides Escobar gone, the shortstop job is his. First baseman Ryan O'Hearn hit 12 home runs in 44 games. Third baseman Hunter Dozier hit 11 home runs in 2018, and can improve at the starting job.

               Outfield
Billy Hamilton resembles how the Royals play: with speed and defense. Hamilton is a great defender, and stole 34 bases in 2019, though that was a good 20 steals below average. The Royals are steal happy, so if healthy, he can easily accomplish 50 stolen bases again. Alex Gordon is in the final year of his mega contract, and has underperformed, with just a .694 OPS in 2018. The right field spot/extra outfielder spot is up for grabs, between Brian Goodwin, Jorge Bonifacio and Brett Phillips. Bonifacio and Phillips have options, giving Goodwin the edge. Goodwin hit 13 home runs for Washington in 2017, but struggled so much in 2018 he was traded to KC, where he improved. Bonifacio hit 17 home runs in his rookie 2017 season, but rebounded with four. Phillips, a former top prospect for Milwaukee, has struggled when in the bigs.

                 DH/Bench
Jorge Soler has raw power, but has never been healthy, hitting just 11 home runs in 96 games in two seasons for KC. Chris Owings can play seven positions, and his versatility encourages the team to go with just three bench spots. The fourth outfield spot is between the three outfielders mentioned before. Gallagher is the backup.

                  Lineup
2B Whit Merrifield
SS Albaderto Mondesi
LF Alex Gordon
1B Ryan O'Hearn
DH Jorge Soler
3B Hunter Dozier
RF Jorge Bonifacio
C Martin Maldonado
CF Billy Hamilton

                   Rotation
Danny Duffy (L)
Brad Keller (R)
Ian Kennedy (R)
Jakob Junis (R)
Heath Fillmyer (R)

                    Bullpen
Brad Boxberger (R)
Wily Peralta (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Tim Hill (L)
Kevin McCarthy (R)
Brian Flynn (L)
Chris Ellis (R)
Sam McWilliams (R)

                    Bench
C Cam Gallagher
UT Chris Owings
OF Brian Goodwin

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: Kauffman Stadium
Manager: Ned Yost
GM: Dayton Moore
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 58-104

                     Steal of the Decade
The best trade for the Royals is more of a trade tree. The first trade, from 2010, was when they dealt Zack Greinke to the Brewers for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Oddorizi. Greinke has been an ace both before and after this trade. Cain has been a great defender, base stealer, and he has decent pop. He left the Royals before 2018 to go back to Milwaukee. Escobar played in 162 games three times for the Royals. They don't win the 2015 World Series without them. They don't win it without another player part of the trade tree. Jeffress barely pitched for the Royals. He has made his way back to Milwaukee twice, and established himself as an elite reliever in 2018. Oddorizi was flipped to the Rays with Wil Myers. Both have become decent players. In return, they acquired Wade Davis and James Shields (the Royals gave up two more players and received another). Shields had two very good seasons for KC, but left just in time for the 2015 win. In his three first seasons as a reliever in Kansas City, these were Davis' ERAs: 1.00, 0.94, 1.87. No way the Royals win in 2015 without him. They traded him to the Cubs for Soler in 2017, and with the Cubs and Rockies, he has 75 combined saves in 2017-18.

                       Prediction
The Royals were bad enough. Now, their best player is out for the year. They are involved in a three way death match in the AL Central. And by death match I mean they will be fighting for worst time in the division.

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