A new era of Royals baseball will begin this season with many young talents from the farm system expected to play for the club. While Kansas City kept veterans from their winning seasons in 2014 and 2015, they lost big bats to the offense too.
Ned Yost is returning for his eighth season at the helm and how the Royals perform this year will determine his future with them. It’s fair not to expect a lot from a team amid restructuring the roster but the Royals are in a rather noncompetitive AL Central division outside the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, which means the Royals can easily make noise depending on results.
The Royals won’t be the same without Eric Hosmer, but the team has the pieces to return to October baseball sooner rather than later. With the restructuring process underway, let’s look at the strengths, weaknesses and new additions to KC going into 2018.
1 Greatest Addition: Lucas Duda
The Royals wasted little time getting a first baseman after losing Hosmer to the San Diego Padres. Though the club re-signed Moustakas, the club signed power slugger, Lucas Duda, to a one-year contract and added another veteran presence in the infield at the same time.
Duda was an all-or-nothing player last season, hitting .217 with 30 home runs between the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays, but he takes his fair share of walks. He’s also played in the World Series, ironically as a Met against the Royals in 2015. This is a plus for a team looking not to put their fans through nearly 30 years of frustration by making the postseason consistently.
Duda’s presence should also help Hunter Dozier, the Royals No. 7 prospect according to MLB.com, transition into potential first base duties as the year goes on too. In the meantime, Duda is a reliable option for the Royals and should have no trouble setting an example for the younger players.
2 Greatest Loss: Eric Hosmer
Hosmer signing with the Padres was a big blow for the Royals, especially after he hit a career-high .318 with 25 homers and 94 RBI last year. His being their top priority this offseason makes it sting more since GM Dayton Moore couldn’t convince him to stay and help the club win another title. The good news is Moustakas is returning, so it doesn’t hurt too much not having Hosmer.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to a franchise favorite, but Royals fans should be grateful for everything Hosmer did. He’s one of the greatest Royals of all time and he also helped the club end 29 years of frustration by leading the team to back-to-back World Series appearances and a title.
3 Greatest Asset: The defense
Hosmer’s defense will also be sorely missed, but the Royals were tied for second place in team fielding percentage last season at .987. The Royals young core plays better-than-average defense and it’s always been said defense wins games.
For a team that still has an above average offense, a strong defense could keep this club in contention for a wild card spot or AL Central title. Gold Glove shortstop Alcides Escobar resigned with the club this offseason and Alex Gordon will continue manning outfield duties with defensive wizards Paulo Orlando and Jorge Bonifacio regularly.
Also, Salvador Perez, a career .994 fielder, will take on catching duties once again, which makes the Royals defense that much more exciting to watch this season.
4 Greatest Liability: Alex Gordon
Gordon is still a great defender in left field (11.5 UZR in 2017), but his hitting abilities have plummeted since re-signing with the team in 2015. Injuries haven’t helped his cause either, landing on the disabled list for nearly half of 2015 and a decent amount of 2016. Last season was the worst season of Gordon’s career as he hit just .208 with nine home runs.
Defense may win games, but the only way for the Royals to get Gordon on the field is inserting him into the lineup. As the longest-tenured Royal, the team will ride on his shoulders. When Gordon’s on his game, the team will be too and vice versa. A bounce-back season will be key as well in the event the Royals want to trade him for more talent during the season.
5 X-Factor: The rotation behind Danny Duffy
Danny Duffy is the ace of the rotation and for good reason. The only problem is he can’t pitch 162 games. His 3.81 ERA last season was the best on the team, but he posted a 9-10 record. Jason Vargas put up a very nice first half but stumbled in the second half and finished the year with an 18-11 record and 4.16 ERA.
Vargas is now with the New York Mets and the rotation doesn’t look good outside of Duffy.
Another blow for the Royals is the loss of Jesse Hahn, who was acquired from the Oakland A's in the Brandon Moss trade last month. Hahn was looking for a fresh start after two disastrous and injury-plagued seasons but will have to sit out for a while because of a UCL sprain in his pitching elbow.
Nathan Karns did well for the Royals before landing on the DL but the other three starters could raise concerns if the Royals want to compete in the AL Central. A good defense can only take a club so far before the pitching has to step up and if the pitching doesn’t figure out their problems, the Royals will find themselves in trouble as the year goes on.
6 Final thoughts
It’s not likely that the Royals will make the postseason in 2018 but this team isn’t far from putting together winning teams that can contend soon. The AL Central will be anybody’s division to win for years to come and the Royals have depth in the farm system close to being ready for the big leagues.
Yost isn’t guaranteed to keep his job after the season is over but GM Dayton Moore is staying in KC for a while. The Royals won’t go through a rebuilding process unless the farm talent doesn’t turn out to be as good as they hope to be and with that said, look for the team to stay in postseason talks for the next few years.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?