ell, readers, I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll give you the good news first — Royals baseball is back. The bad news is that it’s the pre-2014 Royals that are back.
There is no blueprint for a season like this. Sixty games. A sprint, not a marathon. However, the blueprint for this club was written over a decade ago when general manager Dayton Moore implemented “the process.” The process is simple, draft and develop pitching. Build around speed and defense. We saw it in action in the early 2010’s as homegrown talents in Danny Duffy, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas were home grown out of the draft system. That team won minor league championships in 2010, 2011, and then all landed in Royals lineups in 2012 and 2013. We know what happened the next two years.
Moore is looking for lightning to strike twice. The only downside is that we are very early in the process 2.0. So this team isn’t really anywhere near ready. Most players are still in the minors (or what would be the minors if there was a minors this year.) So what we have now is half-baked and only in its infancy. We have, however, seen that Moore is, again, doing it the right way. The debut of the 18th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Brady Singer, looked solid in his debut on Saturday and left the team in it long enough to steal a road victory in the 10th inning. But the rest of the rotation and bullpen is a tire fire and has more holes than Tranquility Base.
The lineup isn’t much better. There are names that you recognize like Gordon, Salvy and Merrifield, and even the next generation like HR champ Jorge Soler. But not enough consistency with names like Bubba Starling looking lost at the plate early. And corner players like Erick Mejia, Makiel Franco who are light hitters at the bottom of the order.
Still, there is no blueprint for a short season. Teams can and will go on hot streaks for three weeks, and the Royals could certainly be buyers at the trade deadline. Especially with the increased playoff landscape where over half of MLB teams make the playoffs.
However, I think it’s more likely that the team takes on water and sinks in the early weeks of the season, well out of it by August 1. Not truly a lost cause, however, because this team has a lot of similarities to the 2012 squad that had a horrible record, but gel’d a championship team into back-to-back American League Champions.
The other wild card is how new manager Mike Matheny will approach a team he knows isn’t quite ready for prime time. He seems more than willing to pull every lever he can reach. One of those guys that carries 25 clubs in his golf bag and has two putters. Matheny’s time with the Cardinals is well documented for its non-standard managerial moves. And we’ve already seen some of that by taking Danny Duffy out in the fifth inning on Opening Day and pitching a leftover meatloaf game for Game 3. Sometimes doing crazy stuff is called “ahead of its time” and other times it’s just called dumb. The Royals were able go to two World Series with undersized lineups and dominant bullpens and then forced most of the league to move in that direction. Maybe Matheny is on to something. Time can tell.
All in all, I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high for this squad. The bad news is that these Royals aren’t making the playoffs. The good news is that we at least have the boys in blue to grumble about for a couple of months.
PREDICTION: Royals Record 21-39 – Fourth Place in AL Central.
(Another prediction? You’ll enjoy Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed)