Kansas City Royals 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL Central?

The Royals may not be legitimate contenders in 2021, not in a division with the White Sox and Twins, but don't tell GM Dayton Moore and manager Mike Matheny. Kansas City enters the season expecting to challenge for the AL Central crown. Pitching is the division's main currency. It's also the strength of the Royals' farm system, but the big names in the pipeline — Asa Lacy, Daniel Lynch, and Jackson Kowar — aren't likely to make an immediate impact this season. Instead, Kansas City has a solid, if unspectacular, lefthander-dominated rotation backed by a gas-throwing bullpen. Matheny's lineup has some pop and speed and plays quality defense, but the bench is thin. It may not be enough to run down the AL Central powers yet, but Kansas City's comeback from the post-2015 World Series doldrums is underway.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Royals

Kansas City Royals logo"Carlos Santana was a good value; he still gets on base at a tremendous clip and actually plays well at first base even though he's pretty big physically. Michael A. Taylor has upside and he's fairly cheap; that's the type of move that's perfect for them. If he can make a little more contact, maybe you have something there. Mike Minor was more curious; I don't think they got a great value for him. They think a little differently, they value makeup and culture quite a bit, and they still have established stars who are high-character guys like Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez. They had some interesting things last year, like Kris Bubic and Brady Singer coming up. Singer was a famous prospect for a long time, and he's making good on his talent. You just wonder if they have enough of those guys. Maybe the plan is to trade a Santana and Minor and get something that fits more into their timeline — but then again, if there's an expanded playoffs, maybe some things break right and you could see them get there like the Marlins did last year."

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

Heckuva comeback For the second time in four seasons, the Royals had the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Catcher Salvador Perez missed the 2019 season with an elbow injury. He returned in 2020 to lead all catchers in doubles (12) and slugging percentage (.633), while also leading AL catchers in home runs (11), RBIs (32), and hits (50) despite playing in only 37 games. Perez, who won his third career Silver Slugger Award, missed time with blurry vision. Reds slugger Mike Moustakas won the 2017 award with the Royals.

 

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Can't stop him, sign him First baseman Carlos Santana had the worst season of his career in 2020, with career lows for batting (.199), on-base percentage (.349), slugging (.350), and OPS+ (91). But the Royals signed Santana, who tortured them during his 10 years in Cleveland, to a two-year deal worth $17.5 million anyway. Santana has more home runs (31), RBIs (93), walks (119), hits (155), and total bases (289) against Kansas City than any other club.


High-five for Keller Short seasons produce weird stat lines. RHP Brad Keller made nine starts last season for the Royals, allowing five runs in three of those games. But he also had five starts when he pitched at least 5.0 innings without allowing any runs, including Kansas City's only complete game shutout. There was only one game when Keller didn't allow either five runs or no runs — a 6.1-inning, one-run effort Aug. 31 against Cleveland. He didn't win that game, but he notched five wins for the season. George Brett, whose No. 5 was retired by the Royals, would be proud.


Fielding whiz Dayton Moore values defense as much as any GM, which is why Nicky Lopez will get a long leash in 2021. Lopez tied Dodgers second baseman Enrique Hernandez with an MLB position-best eight Defensive Runs Saved in 2020, according to FanGraphs, and led baseball with 25 double plays turned in 2020. He also led all MLB 2B with 43 out-of-zone defensive plays, according to FanGraphs. 


Handsome man-ager Sadly, Mike Matheny was unable to reclaim the Most Handsome Manager crown. He sat atop former NBC Sports baseball writer Craig Calcaterra's tongue-in-cheek rankings in 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he's been relegated to second place behind Minnesota's Rocco Baldelli during his two seasons with the Royals. The rankings are released each December in conjunction with the Winter Meetings, which were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

RF    Whit Merrifield (R)

SS    Adalberto Mondesi (S)

C     Salvador Perez (R)

DH   Jorge Soler (R)

1B    Carlos Santana (S)

3B    Hunter Dozier (R)

LF    Andrew Benintendi (L)

CF    Michael A. Taylor (R)

2B    Nicky Lopez (L)

 

BENCH

1B    Ryan McBroom (R)

3B    Kelvin Gutierrez (R)

OF    Edward Olivares (R)

C      Cam Gallagher (R)

 

ROTATION

RHP    Brad Keller

LHP    Danny Duffy

RHP    Brady Singer

LHP    Mike Minor

LHP    Kris Bubic

 

BULLPEN

RHP    Ian Kennedy (C)

RHP    Scott Barlow

RHP    Jesse Hahn

RHP    Jakob Junis

LHP    Richard Lovelady

RHP    Josh Staumont

RHP    Kyle Zimmer

RHP    Jake Newberry

 

2021 Prediction: 4th in AL Central

 

(Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez photo courtesy of @Royals)

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