Kansas City Royals 2020: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL Central?

A new era begins with former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny taking over in the dugout and John Sherman taking over in the boardroom after buying the team from David Glass. Kansas City is eager to return to relevance after consecutive 100-loss seasons; it just won’t happen this year.

 

The Royals have a few cornerstone players — Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez — but the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, isn’t good enough to contend, and the farm system’s bounty remains a year or more from harvest. Avoiding 100 losses seems like a good 2020 goal for Kansas City, which didn’t significantly improve a pitching staff that had the fourth-worst ERA in baseball last season (5.20). Meanwhile, Perez’s return from elbow surgery is the only major addition to a lineup that had the fourth-worst OPS (.710).

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Royals

Kansas City Royals logo“They had a few bright spots last year, especially Jorge Soler, who hits every mistake over the fence and doesn’t get beaten by fastballs upstairs anymore. Hunter Dozier can really swing it, and now he knows he belongs. He’s fearless, and I love the old-school, no-batting-gloves look. Whit Merrifield is a throwback guy — he’ll do anything to spark the team — and Adalberto Mondesi is a premier defender who probably doesn’t get enough credit for how easy he makes stolen bases look. His gap power surprised me, too; you can’t run fastballs on the inner third to him anymore. Their rotation is mostly innings-eater types like Brad Keller, Jakob Junis and Danny Duffy; not a lot of upside there, but I’d like to see what Mike Montgomery does with a full-time shot at starting. Ian Kennedy really took to the closer’s role; he’s always been such a good strike-thrower, and if he needs to elevate, he can do that and throw his off-speed off of that. Thirty saves on that team was remarkable.”

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

Remade Matheny New Royals manager Mike Matheny never won fewer than 83 games in any full season as Cardinals manager, but perceived shortcomings as an in-game tactician and his “old school” way of handling a clubhouse hastened his exit in St. Louis. He’s apparently well aware. Since joining the Royals, Matheny says he’s worked on a master’s degree in organizational leadership, took an analytics course and hired a media consultant to help eliminate “blind spots” and grow his managerial style.

 

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Downtown Stadium Built in 1973, Kauffman Stadium remains a gem among MLB ballparks with its iconic outfield fountains and impeccable viewing angles. Still, many fans dream of a downtown stadium with the thought that it could drive continued economic development in the city center. The Royals’ lease at “The K” doesn’t expire until 2031, but new owner John Sherman indicated at his introductory press conference that the new ownership team would explore “what’s best for the club.”

 

Help on the Way During their first full pro seasons in 2019, the Royals’ trio of 2018 first-round picks — Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch — combined for a 3.14 ERA, 8.65 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 393 innings primarily at Class A Wilmington and Class AA Northwest Arkansas. All three will be 23 years old on Opening Day.

 

Creating Value Ian Kennedy signed a five-year, $70 million contract in 2016 — a deal that didn’t seem terrible after he went 11-11 with a 3.68 ERA in his debut season with the Royals. Kennedy then became a flashpoint for fan frustration after going 8-22 with 5.06 ERA in 2017-18. While he remains overpaid, Kennedy responded to his demotion to the bullpen last season by locking down the closer role, going 3-2 with 30 saves, a 3.41 ERA and a career-high 139 ERA+ to allow Kansas City to salvage some value.

 

More Rule 5 Magic? General manager Dayton Moore struck gold in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft with a trade for righthander Brad Keller. Might Stephen Woods turn into a similar feather in Moore’s cap? Woods, whom San Francisco traded to Tampa Bay as part of the Evan Longoria deal, missed all of 2018 with a shoulder injury, but he bounced back to go 9-3 with a 1.88 ERA in 86.1 innings at Class A Charlotte (Fla.). He must stay on the Royals’ roster throughout 2020 or be offered back to the Rays, so he figures to eat up a bullpen spot.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

CF    Whit Merrifield (R)

SS    Adalberto Mondesi (S)

RF    Hunter Dozier (R)

DH   Jorge Soler (R)

C     Salvador Perez (R)

LF    Alex Gordon (L)

3B    Maikel Franco (R)

1B    Ryan O’Hearn (L)

2B    Nicky Lopez (L)

 

BENCH

SS    Humberto Arteaga (R)

C     Cam Gallagher (R)

1B    Ryan McBroom (R)

OF   Bubba Starling (R)

 

ROTATION

RHP    Brad Keller

LHP    Danny Duffy

RHP    Jakob Junis

LHP    Mike Montgomery

RHP    Glenn Sparkman

 

BULLPEN

RHP    Ian Kennedy (C)

RHP    Scott Barlow

LHP    Tim Hill

RHP    Jorge Lopez

RHP    Jesse Hahn

RHP    Kevin McCarthy

RHP    Kyle Zimmer

LHP    Randy Rosario

 

2020 Prediction: 4th in AL Central

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