2018 Season Preview: Kansas City Royals

2017 Review

Record

Pythag Record

BaseRuns Record

Runs Scored

Runs Against

80-82

72-90

72-90

702

791

Two years removed from what might be the densest dynasty ever (the Royals have two championships and four pennants in nine total playoff appearances), the Royals entered 2017 with vague hopes of competitiveness and left the year a clear rebuilding team. Their record masked a bottom-10 collection of talent that was staring down the barrel of free agency for more than a few of its best players.

It’s a good thing flags fly forever.

Offseason in Review:

Key Additions – Lucas Duda, Trevor Oaks, Wily Peralta

Things aren’t going well when Duda is your biggest free agent acquisition, but that was true before he came to town. Both he and Peralta are bounce-back candidates, though Duda’s reasonably consistent offense will likely make him a better bet than the oft-injured and kinda-bad-anyway starter. Peralta will be used out of the bullpen, where his intense stuff will play up further, and the Royals do have Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, and Mike Minor as recent post-conversion success stories. Oaks was the main piece coming back for lefty Scott Alexander and should be in the majors for a questionable rotation.

Key Losses – Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas, Mike Minor, Scott Alexander

Welcome to Reasons for the Rebuild, Lessons A-E. The Royals had an incredible exodus of talent thanks to free agency, and while the cumulative 2017 production of that talent wasn’t necessarily great, the top five names snagged nearly $275 million in combined contracts this offseason. That’s especially significant considering the remaining unsigned free agents, and while nobody will ever explain why the Padres signed Hosmer, stripping three of the seven 2+ WAR players from a bad team isn’t going to help anything. Alexander was the first domino to fall as a result, heading to the Dodgers for Oaks.

2018 Projections

ZiPS

Steamer

Pecota

65-96

66-96

66-96

There’s very little chance the Royals don’t end up with a top three pick in the 2019 draft, as the projections uniformly see them tying for the second-worst record in even optimal scenarios. If anything, it’s a bit surprising they aren’t projected lower considering they beat their expected record by eight games in 2017 and lost a huge portion of that team. Projections are notoriously conservative, of course, so it’s forgivable to take the under here.

Key Players:

The Royals are looking at everyone on their roster through trade-colored eyes for the next several seasons, and that starts with catcher Sal Perez, whose terrible plate discipline is made up for by back-to-back-to-back 20-homer seasons and a very team-friendly contract. He’s 28 in May and staring down multiple contenders who could use an upgrade behind the plate. Starter Danny Duffy is also affordably locked up through 2021, though he typically plateaus at about 25 starts a season, and could be a solid mid-rotation option for a team like Milwaukee. In the current relief market,  Kelvin Herrera represents a legitimate closing option, which has a ton of value. He’ll need to bounce back from a rough 2017, and as yet another pending free agent,  perhaps Kansas City can get more than compensation picks this time.

Key Minor League 2018 Impacts:

The main piece in the Alexander trade, Trevor Oaks cannot be kept in the minors long with names like Jason Hammel, Ian Kennedy, and Nate Karns expected to occupy slots in the rotation. Oaks’ projections make him the second-best pitcher on the team after Duffy with something close to a full season. 3B/1B/OF Hunter Dozier was a borderline top 100 prospect after 2016, reaching AAA and combining solid power with acceptable K/BB rates, but spent most of 2017 injured and has no positional home, particularly after the signing of Duda. Legacy Adalberto Mondesi (née Raul) is toolsy and probably a middle infielder, though slightly blocked with Alcides Escobar returning to short and Whit Merrifield entrenched at second.

Future Outlook:

The Royals’ 2011 best-farm-system-in-history resulted in only two playoff appearances, but they sure made ‘em count. Trouble is, there were quite a few 90-loss seasons (and for a while those were the good years) before that, and at the moment Kansas City is a franchise captured as it flies off the embankment but hasn’t started falling into the ravine below. They’ll get there.

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