The Kansas City Royals, just two years removed from a World Series title, will look a little different in 2018. All year in 2017 it felt like the run was over and it was almost depressing. The Royals aren’t a big enough market to attract big names and the guys who got them their title were on the way out. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and most likely Mike Moustakas? Gone. AND they missed a chance to get prospects for them at the deadline. The rebuild is on in KC. They will lack power, their rotation looks pretty ugly except Danny Duffy and they don’t have a great farm.
Wily Peralta, RHP
Lucas Duda, 1B/DH
Jon Jay, OF
Lorenzo Cain, OF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Joakim Soria, RHP
Why they can win: They can win because there are two other iffy teams in the division in the Tigers and White Sox. They have some decent veteran guys who can maybe put some stuff together and some okay prospects who will get a chance to prove something. Salvador Perez and Duda could combine for 60 HR but after that it’ll be small ball.
Why they can lose: The Royals just are not that good. Nowhere on their team do they have an exciting stud to build around. They won’t have power, they’ll be average at getting on base and they won’t have great starting or relief pitching. The roster feels like a bunch of scraps put together until they can go into a full rebuild.
Bottom Line: The Royals could lose 90-100 games this year. Maybe Whit Merrifield can step up and be that exciting piece; he led the AL in hits post ASG last season. Danny Duffy is realistically not a number 1 but someone to rely on. But the reality is that they’re not deep anywhere, Alex Gordon is a liability, Sal Perez is overrated and their number 3 starter, Jason Hammel had a 5.29 ERA last year. Stuff could be ugly in KC this year, they need a good draft. It’s just a shame that it came so quickly after their title.
Major4 Numbers Game:
Stud: Danny Duffy, SP
Well, this a difficult decision like Houston, but for far different reasons. The Royals lost 4 of their top 5 WAR producers from 2017. Don’t get me wrong, Danny Duffy is great, but he is far from elite. He has some very strong attributes: he misses a decent amount of bats (21 K%), doesn’t walk many (6.7 BB%), and keeps the ball in the park (7.8 HR/FB%). One worry is the two ticks he lost off his 4-seamer (93 MPH), but it is still around league average and his nasty slider still generates whiffs (14.4%, Brooks Baseball). He should be a hot commodity come trade season to help one of the worst farm systems in baseball.
Sinkhole: Paulo Orlando, OF
This is a bad team. No other way to put it. There are reports that Orlando is a favorite to land one of the starting outfield spots. PAULO ORLANDO, he of a -0.4 WAR and 1.1 BB% in 39 games last year. I get it’s a small sample size, but it’s pretty damn hard for a major league player to put up those putrid numbers. It is not far off his career plate discipline numbers of 2.3 BB% and 21.6 K%. That is not good. At 32, his career best WAR of 1.7 in 2016 looks like his absolute ceiling.
Regression Candidate: Alex Gordon, OF
Thank goodness Gordon can still flash the leather out in LF, cause he was abysmal at the plate (62 wRC+ and OPS+). He just appears to have no confidence and is anxious at the plate: BB% dropped for the second straight year (11.8 to 8.3%) and K% was two points above his career average (23.3). There is some daylight for Gordon as his line drive rate and fly ball rate were above his peak years in 2014/2015, and his swinging strike (10.2) and contact rates (87.5) were in line with his career marks. We don’t expect him to reach all-star status ever again, but his elite defending and a slight regression to his career norms should make him relevant again. Hot take: Gordon posts a wRC+ of over 100 and a WAR >1.8 buoyed by his elite defense.
Impact Acquisition: Lucas Duda, 1B
Another rebuilding squad who subtracted more than they added, they did a nice buy-low acquisition of Lucas Duda to replace face-of-the-franchise Eric Hosmer. The Royals also signed Duda for $7.2M, about $140 less than the man he replaces. The two are very much opposites in their approach, but Duda has actually outperformed Hosmer in their career by wRC+: 121 to 111 (Fangraphs). While one metric isn’t a catch-all, it a fairly accurate representation of a hitters all around ability at the dish. Kauffman stadium won’t help Duda much, but he has played the majority of his career for the Mets and their cavernous confines. For the cost and the projected outcome, it seems like a solid short-term move for the Royals in 2018.
Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):
Nick Pratto, 1B
Khalil Lee, OF
Hunter Dozier, 3B
Josh Staumont, RHP
Why We Love Them: Because they’re a small market and they won a World Series in a big market sport. That was 2016 though. The faces of that team are long gone already and the Royals have become blah. The stadium looks awesome, boring jerseys, but overall you just get a blah feeling from the Royals right now. Whit Merrifield and Danny Duffy are likable, that’s about it though.