2016 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL Central)
Next up, we’ve got the Kansas City Royals, and we’ll be joined shortly by Max Rieper from Royals Review to get his take on the 2017 Royals.
After two years of reaching the Fall Classic the Royals took a step back in 2016 and missed the postseason altogether. They’ll be looking to get back in 2017, but the direction of the franchise is kind of up in the air at this point. A lot of big name guys are in the last years of their deal for the Royals so how they start will go a long way towards whether they rebuild or go for one more championship.
The Royals traded away veteran closer Wade Davis to the Cubs in exchange for Jorge Soler; they also signed a few starting pitchers but no real home runs this offseason. The bullpen was a calling card when KC took home the title in 2015, but it will be interesting to see how dominant they are without Davis this year.
I’ve got the pitching staff towards the bottom of the AL ranked 12th; I’ve got their rotation and bullpen both 12th as well so at least there’s some consistency there. They signed a couple of veterans who could step up in the rotation and 'pen to bring them closer to league average but with the unfortunate passing of Yordana Ventura this offseason I don’t see them getting much higher than that.
I don’t see the bats being any better this year for the Royals as I’ve currently got their offense rated 14th in the league right above the White Sox. I’m just not sold on them being able to score as many runs as they’d like to.
The defense is still a calling card, and I’ve given Ned Yost a favorable grade as well seeing as how he’s a World Series Champion. However, they’re going to have to step it up considerably from my projections if they want to make it back to October.
Now let’s check in with Max Rieper to see what he has to say about the Royals heading into 2017.
First off, who are some of the younger guys we might not know about yet that the Royals are looking to make an impact this year?
"The Royals have become an older team, but they will likely need a few younger players to step up if they hope to contend past 2017, when many core players are eligible for free agency. One player with such promise is left-handed pitcher Matt Strahm. Strahm was a non-prospect a few years ago, but has steadily improved his velocity and put up good numbers in the minor leagues. Last year he was called up to the big leagues in August to help out in the bullpen and was lights out, posting a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings. The club still sees him as a starter long-term, but he will likely spend most of the year in the Royals bullpen. With Greg Holland and Wade Davis gone, the Royals are missing some of their pieces of the dominant bullpen that helped them win two pennants. Strahm will have to continue to be a lights-out reliever for the Royals to continue to win with their formula of shutdown relievers late in the game."
Do you see the team making any more moves before opening day?
"The Royals could probably use more bullpen depth, but after adding Jason Hammel and Travis Wood in the last few weeks, they are likely tapped out on spending money. There may be a desire to bring back reliever Luke Hochevar on a minor league deal. Hochevar had his season ended prematurely last year with thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and the word is he hasn't recovered as quickly as he would have liked. When healthy, he is a very solid reliever, but he has had some injury problems the last few years, including Tommy John surgery. He has been a part of the organization since 2006 and is very good friends with left fielder Alex Gordon so a reunion would not be surprising."
"The team also has a bit of a roster logjam with Cheslor Cuthbert. The 23-year old filled in well for Mike Moustakas at third base last year, but with Moose back from his ACL injury, Cuthbert is out of a position. He is out of options so he cannot return to the minors without clearing waivers, so the club is having him work out at second base, hoping he can make the transition. However, his defense was poor at third base, so a move to second seems unlikely. Instead, he could be dealt for a young pitcher to add to the bullpen mix."
Which will be stronger in 2017 in your opinion, the pitching staff or the offense?
"Neither has been very strong for the Royals the last few years, even when they were winning pennants. But the Royals may have a better rotation this year, especially with the depth they currently possess. Danny Duffy has shown flashes of being an ace-type pitcher, and Ian Kennedy surprised many by actually living up to his $70 million contract. After that, there is a lot of mediocrity - Jason Hammel, Jason Vargas, Nate Karns, Travis Wood - but it doesn't look like they will be throwing anyone out there that gives them no chance to win - as their fifth starters have done in past years."
"The offense has added some pop with Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss, but this club still lacks a big time power hitter and will likely be near the bottom of the league in home runs once again. Still, with Mike Moustakas back in the lineup, a healthier Lorenzo Cain, and possibly a bounce back season from Alex Gordon, there is a chance the offense could be better than it was last year."
Do you see the team more likely to make one more October push, or start looking to sell?
"The heart says this team will continue to show the drive and desire to make one more post-season run. But the head says this is still a team with a lot of flaws, that no longer has the dominant speed, defense, and bullpen that could overcome those flaws in years past. They are still fast - but not the fastest in the league as it was in 2015. The defense is still very good - but not overwhelmingly good as it was in 2015. The bullpen is good - but not shutdown great, as it was in 2015. The team is older now and more injury-prone, and the depth doesn't seem to be there to overcome a major injury or two. But who knows, this team has shown a propensity for overcoming pre-season predictions. "
With the Indians looking like they might have improved on a team that went to the World Series, does that effect the Royals plans at all?
"No, I think Dayton Moore knew he wanted to make one more run with this team while he had Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar under club control. Let's not forget that in 2014, the Tigers seemed like an unbeatable team, and the Royals only finished a game back of them and won a thrilling Wild Card game that spurred a magical post-season run that took them to Game 7 of the World Series."
As of now the latest Vegas futures bet has the Royals win total at 74.5. As of 2/10 the Atlantis still had them at 80.5, but I’m not sure if that’s still available.
As Max mentioned above, in the past the Royals have shown they don’t really give a damn what Vegas thinks but I think this is the year Vegas finally catches up to them. As you might can tell from what I’ve already written I’m not sold on this years Royal's squad; they’ve proved me wrong in the past, but I just don’t see much that I love about them this year.
I think they’ll hover around .500 for a few months then hit a losing skid and realize it’s finally time to sell. I think they’ll go under 74.5 wins and if you can still get 80.5 run as fast as you can to get that ticket. I think this years squad is a lot closer to a 90 loss team than an 80 loss team, and when it’s all said and done I think the Royals will finish around 73-89.