That’s right it’s baseball season! Sure March Madness is upon up and it seems like the Super Bowl just got over, but my brain is on summertime and Kauffman Stadium. So along with that it’s also time for for my kinda annual Royals preview. Mostly because there have been a lot of years I’ve wrote about the Royals but can’t remember all the years I’ve done it.
After achieving the ultimate accomplishment in 2015 the Royals clawed their way through the 2016 season to finish 81-81. To the casual baseball fan most would say the Royals lost their magic and 2015 was one of those lucky flukes or perfect storms.
Like most Royals fans I was disappointed in the overall record and finish of the Royals but wasn’t upset with the outcome. I think most true blue Royals fans would say it was almost a miracle to finish .500 after the dumpster fire that became the starting pitching rotation and the other injuries they encountered. It wasn’t mid 2000’s KC baseball but it wasn’t what we’ve become accustomed to either.
I kept trying to think of an elegant way to write this but I just haven’t been able to put it to words. . .the tragic death of Yordano Ventura still shocks me to this day. It sucks. Such a talented athlete and a guy that was an inspiration to millions. His loss leaves a giant hole in the Royals community and in the lineup.
Even though you never asked for it nor should you really care to hear it. . .here’s my thoughts on the 2017 Kansas City Royals.
THE KEYS TO SUCCESS IN 2017
No. 1 – Stay Healthy
The biggest difference between the Royals of 2015 and 2016 was pretty simple. . .health. The Royals did not have the luck they had avoiding the injury bug last season like they did the previous two. Sure injuries are part of the game and someone needs to step up but consider this list:
- Tim Collins started the season on the DL after Tommy John surgery.
- Jarrod Dyson started the season on the DL
- Mike Moustakus fractured his thumb in early May. Came back late May
- Pitchers Kris Medlen and Chris Young went on the 15 day DL in early May. Medlen eventually goes to the 60 day DL.
- Alex Gordon went on the DL in late may because of a wrist injury.
- Five Days after coming back from the DL, Moose tears his ACL. Done for the season.
- Brett Eibner goes on the DL June 1st after having a pretty decent start to his pro career with the Royals.
- Gordon comes back from the DL in late June. A couple days later, Lorenzo Cain goes on the DL.
- Wade Davis goes on the DL in early July. He comes back mid July and promptly returns to the DL in late July.
- Luke Hochever goes on the 60 day DL in late July.
- Chien-Ming Wang goes on the DL in late August.
That’s just the guys that went on the DL. It doesn’t include the number of guys who missed 2-3 games here and there due to bumps and bruises. Consider some the big stars of the Royals and the total number of games they played in 2016 vs. 2015. Moustakus had 27 vs. 147 the previous year. Lo Cain had 103 vs. 140.
As the Royals start the season they appear to be in moderately good shape. Jorge Soler has a strained oblique but should be back soon. Brian Flynn is starting the season on the 60 day DL and if appears as though Salvador Perez will be functioning just fine after his World Baseball Classic knee injury from his collision with Drew “I’m starting QB now” Butera-Moxon.
Obviously there was a great deal of concern for Salvy’s knee but I think too many people overlooked what that incident could have done to Butera’s luscious locks. That’s some grade A lettuce that was at stake.
The Royals have to stay healthy. They just don’t have the depth they did in 2014 and 2015 to make a run with their stars on the bench.
No. 2 – Get Quality Innings from the Starters
Because of the success of the Royals in 2015 and the lights out bullpen they had down the stretch a lot of fans including myself were cautiously optimistic at how the starters would perform in 2016.
It was pretty apparent early on the first six innings of every game not pitched by Danny Duffy was going to be a crap shoot. Nine different Royals started games for KC last summer and Duffy was the only guy who seemed to be moderately consistent.
In 2016 the Royals finished 17th in ERA and were 8th in home runs allowed. Consider that half of the Royals games are played at home in a stadium that wasn’t designed to give up a lot of home runs. Yikes.
With the loss of Ventura, the Royals have a gaping hole to fill in their rotation. This year the rotation looks to be shaping up with Duffy as the ace of the staff followed by Jason Hammel, Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas and Nathan Karns rounding out the top five.
Chris Young and Travis Wood may also see spot time as emergency starters this season but the real question about the future of the Royals starting rotation revolves around when Kyle Zimmer is going to be ready to make the move up the ladder to the big club and if Matt Strahm will be allowed to stretch out this season into the role of a starter. Strahm is currently listed as the Royals No. 1 prospect, a position previously held by Zimmer. Zimmer hasn’t hit his stride as a professional yet being marred by injuries since being drafted. The hope is he can return to form through 2017 and possibly contribute late in the season.
But as for the core rotation the Royals appear to be a step ahead of where they were last year when Dillon Gee, Chris Young and Kris Medlen had very significant roles throughout last season. Hammel, Vargus and Kennedy have veteran experience and Travis Wood is still another option for the Royals before having to go to the minors to find a starter.
But let’s be real honest. . .if Chris Young starts more than 1 game for the Royals, I’m probably going to be writing a college football preview because my interest in the Royals will likely be waning if things have gotten that far.
No. 3 – Hit the damn ball.
Last year’s KC Royals batting champion was. . .Paulo Orlando? Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Cain, Hosmer or even Sweeney or Brett. The big boys have got to put the ball in play and Cain and Hosmer have to lead the way. Yeah. . .that’s really groundbreaking stuff that I’m writing by overstating the obvious.
But the Royals can’t afford to have Moose, Gordon and Escobar to rattle off a .220 batting average and hope to contend in the AL Central. Soler is going to be an everyday outfielder for the Royals and was touted as a guy to solidify the outfield with Cain and Gordon. But keep in mind last year Soler batted just .236 in the regular season and finished the spring at .149. His contract. . .errrr. . .skills are going to be keeping the Royals most consistent hitter from last season on the bench for the majority of 2017. So the Soler experiment had better work out.
Raul Mondesi. . .welcome to second base. Where for the last 10 years Royals hitters have basically went to die, excluding Zobrist. The last 6 opening day starters for the Royals have been Omar Infante, Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt. Not exactly what we would call “fire” at the position. I hope Mondesi can put together a good season and prove to be the next everyday guy for the Royals at the position. Obviously his defense and speed are his main attributes to the team. Let’s hope his bat can also come around.
Brandon Moss was picked up to be the Royals DH and hopefully provide some needed power to the lineup. He’s had four season’s where he has hit 20 plus home runs and while being a career .241 hitter. If he can provide 20 bombs, 80 RBI and bat above .250 this season I’d say the Royals will be just fine at DH.
No. 4 – For the Love of God Please Do Something Positive Joakim Soria.
Please excuse the language, but for the majority of last season I forgot Soria’s first name. Whenever I talked to my friends and family about the Royals it seemed as though he was referred to as Fucking Soria. Please. . .Please Joakim. . .don’t make me have to turn the channel halfway through the 8th inning this year.
Depending on what models you look at the Royals are going to finish somewhere between third and dead last in the AL Central. Given the starting pitching and the lack of a three headed monster in the bullpen I can understand why the experts are counting the Royals out. But with the Wildcard expansion we all know that all you need to do is make it to the postseason and anything can be possible.
I see the Royals going 86-76 and picking up a Wildcard spot this season. Obviously I’d love to see them make a run at the World Series but I’m also realistic enough to understand they’ve got a lot of question marks heading into this season.
Duffy will be the pitcher of the year, Hosmer will win the KC batting crown, Herrera will be the best reliever and Matt Strahm will be the newcomer that turns heads this season.
Happy Opening Day everyone! It’s baseball season!!!