The 2020 season was another rough one for the Royals, although K.C. fans got their first looks at potential long-term rotation pieces like Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. Both were inconsistent but showed signs of their potential (Singer, particularly), and the club has more arms on the horizon. Top prospects Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar probably aren’t too far behind Singer and Bubic. For a club that finished 12th in ERA and 18th in FIP this season, it’s encouraging to have many promising young arms on the way.
As such, it’s not particularly surprising that general manager Dayton Moore focused more on a need to augment his lineup than his pitching staff during an end-of-season chat with reporters (link via Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com). The trade of Trevor Rosenthal and potential departure of Greg Holland creates a need to “supplement” the bullpen, per the GM, but Moore spoke more directly of a need to upgrade multiple spots in the batting order.
“We definitely need more on-base guys,” Moore said. “We need more quality [at-bats] from probably two other spots in that lineup.”
Indeed, the Royals’ .309 OBP tied them with the Mariners for the fifth-worst mark in all of baseball. Only the Tigers, Rangers and Pirates posted lesser on-base numbers.
Moore sounded pleased with this past winter’s addition of Maikel Franco, noting that the former Phillies top prospect helped to lengthen the lineup. Franco played in all 60 games of the season and posted a .278/.321/.457 slash that handily topped the composite .240/.300/.438 output from Royals third basemen in 2019. The 28-year-old, who is controlled through 2021 via arbitration, continued proving difficult for opposing pitchers to strike out (15.6 percent) and was six percent better than a league-average hitter by measure of wRC+.
Franco doesn’t necessarily fit the “on-base” mold that Moore referenced in this week’s comments, however. He’s walked in 6.8 percent of his career plate appearances, below the league average, and carries just a career .304 OBP. He was a valuable member of this year’s Royals club and certainly earned a spot on next year’s roster, but forthcoming additions might be a different mold of player.
So, where might the Royals look to upgrade? Moore and his staff have the benefit of some versatility in the lineup. Whit Merrifield continues to produce no matter which position he’s playing, and he can slot in at second base or any of the three outfield spots. Hunter Dozier looks like a potential long-term option at first base, but he can also handle right field. Both players’ ability to handle multiple spots should allow the Royals to pursue a broader array of targets.
We know Salvador Perez, signed through next season, will be back behind the dish after a brilliant rebound campaign in 2020. Adalberto Mondesi’s glove, wheels and still-tantalizing overall upside will keep him at shortstop, but he’s posted a sub-.300 OBP over the past three seasons. Jorge Soler will return as DH and bring his light-tower power and career 11 percent walk rate to that role. Alex Gordon, who had a .299 OBP in his final season, is calling it a career after 14 years in the Majors.
Perez, Dozier, Merrifield, Mondesi, Franco and Soler will likely occupy six of the Royals’ lineup spots in most of next year’s games, health permitting. That leaves the club open to pursue outfield upgrades at any of the three spots, an improvement over Nicky Lopez at second base (.228/.279/.307 in 594 career plate appearances) or perhaps a first baseman if Dozier is pushed back the outfield. The Royals probably won’t be fishing at the top of the free-agent market, but there are high-OBP names in the middle tiers of free agency at potential positions of need. Tommy La Stella, Cesar Hernandez, Robbie Grossman and Matt Joyce are among the options to have posted quality on-base marks in recent years. The trade market and an expected slew of non-tenders will only add further options for the Royals (and others) to explore.
The Royals won’t completely overhaul the outfield mix, as Moore spoke of a desire to see more from Franchy Cordero — a player he says he’s pursued in trades for three years. The Royals also picked up Edward Olivares in a second deal with the Padres, giving them another player to take evaluate in 2021. Still, it doesn’t sound as though we should be a surprised to see the club add a veteran outfielder and second baseman this winter as they continue a slow march back to competitiveness.
I don’t think the royals are as far away as most people think
I’m not a Royals fan but I’ve got to say I agree with you. I mean their rotation looked pretty solid and promising with Singer and Bubic both pitching in 4.00 or so ERA ball… you’d have to assume they’ll only improve going forward and that right there is a pretty solid start to a strong (and young) rotation and that’s not even considering Keller’s impressive season or that Duffy will hopefully rebound a bit off of last year’s struggles. Then they have a solid core of the aforementioned 6 guys expected to be in the lineup again next year… if they can in fact find 2/3 other higher OBP guys to fill in the gaps and pickup a solid RP or 2 (or potentially keep Holland) they would have a pretty solid group going into next season. Maybe not a true “contender” but I’d say it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to be around a .500 team… and who knows with a few good breaks… they could find themselves in contention for a wild card spot… or at least close enough come trade deadline time that they could at least consider being buyers and not sellers for a change… and at least be in a spot to play meaningful baseball down the stretch! Sure there are quite a few “ifs” involved BUT I definitely think they have the potential to be competitive sooner rather than later!
I agree. I think the Royals were a + .500 team this season if they play the full season. 60 games is such a small sample size. When you look at their SOS, record, and the way it played out with injuries – the reason for their losing season was the Cubs / White Sox back-to-back series when they were dealing with Covid.
Bad Teams 9-4:
Playoff teams: 17-30
1-9 White Sox
They beat the bottom feeders they should beat and they were competitive with most of the upper level teams. I think if they played the Cubs later on, they’d at least split 2-2. The 0-3 Brewers run was rough.
Then we look at the changes we’ve already made – Edward Olivares hit .274 in his 18 games. Cordero demonstrated his value in the last week. There’s our starting left and centerfielders for 2021. Moving Dozier to 1st got Whit over to RF where he can be a more effective defender.
Cam Gallagher demonstrated an ability to hit this season – and made huge strides. I’m shocked more isn’t be said about this given he’s entering arbitration. His OPS. OPS+ and BA only trailed Salvy. If that’s the real Cam Gallagher, the Royals can afford to shed Soler and rotate C / DH and give Salvy rest days but keep his bat in the line-up. I’m excited for this prospect as I feel Soler has not done enough to develop as a defender to re-sign him long term. We’re gonna re-sign Salvy so having two aging hit first players is not gonna be a good move.
I don’t really see a reason to spend a bunch of cash this off-season except to fill out the bullpen. Resign Rosenthal, Holland. We definitely need to re-sign Franco to a team friendly 3-4 year deal. Get him paid for his hard work and lock-up 3rd til Witt / Loftin are ready to come up. They are still probably a couple years out due to their ages.
Actually. I think the Royals (my favorite team) Could have reached 500 if Salvador Perez had not been out with that weird fluid on the eye thing. He was out for 22 games…Even if he had only been out for five games I think they could’ve reached 30-30.
I’m not sure about some of those suggestions – Why would the Royals sign a 36-year-old? We just said goodbye to a 36-year-old who was retiring. If anything we try to find someone more like a Franco. And I still think Nick Pratto will likely be the first baseman in three years. He likely would have been playing in the minor leagues (AA maybe?) this year if there had been a minor-league season.
Remove Cam’s name & insert James McCann’s & I concur with just amount all of your sentiments…
Dozier can also play 3B, so that’s even more versatility. He has a bad reputation defensively but by the eye test he’s comparable to Franco there. Also don’t forget prospects like Bobby Witt, Kyle Isbell and Khalil Lee likely to get long looks in 2021.
As to Mondesi, I don’t think it’s fair to just use his overall numbers. He was awful in July and August but he hit .356/.408/.667 with 6 HR 20 RBI and 16 SB to go along with elite defense in September. Coming off shoulder surgery and I believe struggling mentally with being quarantined in the US instead of going home to the DR took a toll on him. He’ll be back next season.
I Noticed earlier in the season he was wearing a mask to bat. Something was wrong with him or he probably thought he was going to get the virus if he didn’t wear the mask while batting. Then finally he ditched the mask while batting and he started to do better. The one day off he had this year I think helped him reset. But I’ve never been a big fan of him ever since he was the second baseman in 2017 to start the season and not Whit Merrifield! (I think Ned Yost was an idiot to make Mondesi the starting second baseman based on spring training stats)
This headline makes it sound like he just watched the Moneyball movie.
He may have but Without players on base, you do not score. You need to have players to improve the OBP portion of the OPS stat because the slugging portion can’t score enough runs unless guys are on base when all of the extra base hits happen.
Dayton Moore has blatantly disregarded players with high OBP’s for the last decade. Even in his best seasons the Royals were Better than the league average once in that category. Typically near the bottom of the league.
Dedinitely a nice group of prospects starting pitchers. A’s went college pitching heavy in 2016 with mixed results taking Puk Jeffries, Shore. Puk and jeffries have had injuries and Shore traded for mike fiers. Also could’ve taken singer in 2018 but got wrapped into that kyler murray drama
Needs for this offseason:
-Sign some bullpen help (plz bring back Rosenthal!)
-Trade Merrifield (and possibly Franco)
-DFA Nicky Lopez
If you trade Whit and DFA Lopez, who plays 2nd?
I mean, I get Rosenthal. That might happen.
The opportunity to trade Merrfield has passed. He will play out his contract in KC.
DFA Nicky? He’s 25 with years of control. We’d be stupid to DFA him.
I am not sure if we’ll be able to bring back Rosenthal. His agent is Scott Boras. Plus the Padres just won their wildcard round and are going to the NLDS. Who knows (depending on how far they go) he might get a pretty penny that the Royals will not be able to afford. I’d like to have him back. I’d also like to see Josh Staumont as the closer next year If we don’t bring back Rosenthal or Holland..
I don’t know about Hunter Dozier but otherwise team looks promising if you can fill in a few more spots on the roster.. It’s too bad they’ll probably give Perez most of what Gordon’s freeing up because it takes away any chance they would have of grabbing an ace in free agency
Salvy is signed through the 2021 season. And Gordon was only earning a very small amount this year. And Jaden more isn’t known for signing good starting pitchers at least the last couple of years after the World Series (Edison Volquez was a good signing and so was Jason Vargas But Ian Kennedy was overpriced Jason Hammel was a scramble to sign after the unexpected tragic death of Yordano ventura, Homer Bailey was a good “sign to trade” deal in 2019, but I’m not sure if we get that lucky next year. “Aces” Usually cost a pretty penny and we really can’t afford to give up a draft pick…We lost a draft pick in 2016 due to signing Ian Kennedy. And yes I know he wasn’t an ace.
the Royals could be a sneaky contender if they add a good OF, a cheap rental SP, and a few BP pieces this offseason
I think Alex Wood would be a good bounceback candidate to add to their rotation
i like Wood as well, i think if he can stay healthy someone’s winning the jackpot on signing him. he also relieved a bit when he came up with the Braves if I remember correctly, so perhaps he could help there as well if he doesnt fit into the rotation. ideally its someone who fits in with Keller, Singer, Bubic, and one of Duffy (who has also shown ability out of the pen in the past) or Junis. I think relying on Junis and Duffy isnt a good idea if you want to sneak in. even someone like Hahn could slide back into a rotation spot. (though he may be too effective and an injury risk to move out of the pen)
Don’t forget the 2 (milb) SP’s mentioned in the article: Daniel Lynch & Jackson Kowar, the 2 players picked between B. Singer & K. Bubic. Before things got wacky Singer, Lynch & Kowar were expected to get called up “sometime” during the 2020 season. All 3 reached AA last year. Bubic, who pitched in A & Hi-A last year did a commendable job in the MLB this season.
Move Merrifield back to 2B, if they insist on keeping Lopez use him off the bench. Put Dozier at 1B as O’Hearn continues to be a terrible hitter at the major league level. Keep Franco at 3B. With Soler as the primary DH you have the entire OF to play with
Not completely sold on Franco, but otherwise agree completely. They also need to fortify the BP.
While Nicky Lopez is very bad at hitting, his defense is the best (or second) in the AL among 2nd basemen. I think he is worth keeping around solely for that purpose as the 9 spot. At least see what you have with him while in a rebuilding mode, and perhaps his offense will become serviceable.
.Lopez is only 25 and has played in a whole 159 MLB games. Not exactly a large sample size to rule out his bat long term. His glove is elite. We just need escobar production from his bat.
We need better than Alcides Escobar…Like a little bit better. Unless you meant a different Escobar?
Simple/best thing is to do the obvious – Merrifield to 2b (Lopez utility) GET ONE solid outfield bat via FA/trade- then let Cordero/Oliveras/Lee/Heath who (I really like)/Starling and the rest batttle it out for remaining OF roster spots … Lopez should get enough chances as utility to show his bat has improved enough to MAYBE move Merrifield at the trade deadline and get his starting job back … but if Royals want to get off to a hot 2021 start, I’d want all bats on deck and Lopez doesn’t have one.
Simple/best thing is to do the obvious – Merrifield to 2b (Lopez utility) GET ONE solid outfield bat via FA/trade- then let Cordero/Oliveras/Lee/Heath (who I really like)/Starling and the rest batttle it out for remaining OF roster spots … Lopez should get enough chances as utility to show his bat has improved enough to MAYBE move Merrifield at the trade deadline and get his starting job back … but if Royals want to get off to a hot 2021 start, I’d want all bats on deck and Lopez doesn’t have one.