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Kansas City Royals 2019: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez

Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez

Speed and defense (along with a shutdown bullpen) were at the heart of the Kansas City Royals’ surge, culminating with the 2015 World Series championship. The club hasn’t finished above .500 in the three seasons since, matching the second-most losses in franchise history in 2018 (104). But GM Dayton Moore has made it clear that nothing has changed philosophically for Kansas City, which plays in a relatively cavernous ballpark and still covets athleticism — the fuel for its speed and defensive preference. The Royals largely sat on the sidelines during free agency, but the addition of former Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton — one of the league’s fastest players and best defenders — reinforced Moore’s vision for victory as the rebuild enters its second year.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Royals

“They’re really going to struggle again. They’ll bottom-feed to fill out their roster with bargain placeholders, then hope they can spin off one or two of them at the deadline. They signed Billy Hamilton, who doesn’t get on base but whose speed makes him a classic Royals player. That was understandable, but Terrance Gore? Why would a non-contender give a roster spot to a pinch-runner? Catcher Sal Perez is the rock, the franchise guy with Alex Gordon, who’s become a very low-impact hitter but can still play left field as well as anybody. The best player here is Whit Merrifield, a pure hitter with speed whose versatility would make him an ideal trade chip, if they chose to go that way — which they won’t. They’ve got a few faded prospects who look like they’ll never fulfill their promise. The one pitcher I really like is Jakob Junis, who has nasty breaking stuff. Brad Keller seems to know what he’s doing, and Danny Duffy has his moments — but at $15 million a year for the next three years, I’d move him if anyone comes calling.”

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Beyond the Box Score

Stolen Base Craze Contrary to conventional wisdom, five of the top seven teams in stolen bases last season were in the AL, including three in the AL Central. The Royals ranked sixth overall (and fourth in the AL) with 117 steals, but that number should balloon with two-time reigning AL stolen base champ Whit Merrifield, a full season for Adalberto Mondesi and the addition of fleet-footed Billy Hamilton.

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Goodbye Gordo

Alex Gordon might be entering his final year with the Royals. His contract — the most expensive in team history at $72 million — includes a mutual $23 million option for 2020, but Kansas City shouldn’t exercise it. Gordon has slashed .225/.310/.355 during the last three seasons, averaging 13 home runs and 46 RBIs with 133 strikeouts.

Yost's Swan Song Speculation has ramped in recent years about when Ned Yost will retire. He re-signed for 2019 on a one-year deal rather than leave the Royals in a lurch with an ongoing rebuild, and the job could be considerably more attractive next offseason. But is Yost’s successor already in the organization? He’ll certainly stump for bench coach Dale Sveum, though it’s hard to ignore the new special advisor for player development — former Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny — as a candidate.

Don't Say Rebuild People outside the Royals organization are free to use the word “rebuild,” but GM Dayton Moore rankles at the word. He believed that it was used as code to accept losing at the big league level during the first several months last season, an unacceptable premise for Moore. With the change in mindset, the Royals’ fortunes — whether correlated or not — also changed, including a 31–36 second-half record after going 27–68 before the All-Star break.

Build Off September Success The Royals had only one winning month in 2018 — September, after an influx of young and hungry players with the roster expansion. That can often be a mirage, but with so little turnover during the offseason, the Royals hope it provides confidence instead. And sets the stage for a more competitive club in 2019.

Rule 5 Magic Kansas City mined the Rule 5 Draft for its best starter last season and hopes to strike gold again with the additions of a pair of right-handed pitchers, Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis. The 6'7" McWilliams went 7–9 with a 4.38 ERA in the low minors with the Rays and Diamondbacks, while Ellis was 10–4 with a 3.93 ERA at Class AA/AAA in the Cardinals organization. Both factor into the bullpen mix for now but could start at some point.

Projected Lineup


2B  Whit Merrifield (R)
SS  Adalberto Mondesi (S)
LF  Alex Gordon (L)
C   Salvador Perez (R)
DH Jorge Soler (R)
1B  Ryan O’Hearn (L)
3B  Hunter Dozier (R)
RF  Jorge Bonifacio (R)
CF  Billy Hamilton (S)


3B  Kevin Gutierrez (R)
C    Cam Gallagher (R)
OF  Brett Phillips (L)
UT  Chris Owings (R)


LHP  Danny Duffy
RHP  Brad Keller
RHP  Ian Kennedy
RHP  Jakob Junis
LHP  Eric Skoglund


RHP  Wily Peralta (C)
RHP  Kevin McCarthy
LHP  Tim Hill
RHP  Chris Ellis
RHP  Sam McWilliams
LHP  Brian Flynn
RHP  Kyle Zimmer


4th AL Central