After a visit to the Tampa Bay Rays, we head west to the Kansas City Royals, who also finished the season at 80-82.
The Royals got off to a rocky start with a 7-16 April. After a solid effort clawing their way back to a winning record by the start of July, they finished the month by winning 10 of their final 12 games and reached their best margin of seven games above .500. Unfortunately, that was as good as things got and the Royals finished the final two months of the season 25-33.
Collectively, the Royals were not a very good team at the plate. They lacked discipline and drew the least amount of walks in Major League Baseball. They even failed to work to a 3-0 count in 39 games. The Royals struggled to hit for extra bases and slugged just .420 as a team, 11th in the American League.
The biggest problem that held the Royals down was pitching. Starter Jason Vargas led the staff with an 18-11 record, but no other Royal pitcher won even 10 games. The Royals weren’t a swing-and-miss pitching staff as they tallied just 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.34 strikeout to walk ratio. By pitching for contact, the pitchers allowed 9.3 hits per nine innings and put pressure on their defense.
Even with the added pressure, the Royals defense was very good. Gold Glover Hosmer anchored the infield that committed just 46 errors. Kansas City committed a total of 79 errors on the season, which was good enough for third in the AL.
The Royals have three major contributors eligible for free agency this winter in center fielder Lorenzo Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas. Cain is likely on his way out the door, despite a solid year with 15 dingers, 27 doubles, 49 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. However, there’s a good chance Hosmer and Moustakas return to the Royals.
With Cain gone, the Royals will want a speedy center fielder who can hit for a solid average. In reality, the only bat on the market that would be a solid replacement for Cain’s is J.D. Martinez. However, he’s wanting lots and lots of American dollars and would leave a gaping hole in center field for the Royals.
Jarrod Dyson could make a triumphant return to Kansas City and possibly bounce back from the down year he had in Seattle. But he’s a downgrade from Cain as far as power and hitting for average. Another fit could be Carlos Gomez, but he’s also a step down from Cain for the same reasons. Both players have also had durability issues and missed significant time the last three seasons.
As it stands, the Royals have fourth-year player Paulo Orlando listed as the starter in center field. He’s played 60 of his 239 games in center and hit just .198 in 2017. If the Royals want to rebuild, Orlando could work, but they’ll need an upgrade to improve on the 2017 season.
Photo by Brigham Berthold