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Kansas City Royals 2022: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

All-Star catcher Salvador Perez and the Royals hope the next influx of young talent will help the team contend for a playoff spot this season

Kansas City's young stash of talented arms already has arrived in the big leagues — minus potential ace Asa Lacy, a 2023 rotation candidate, and Jonathan Bowlan, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. This will be the year Kansas City's stash of positional talent — shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., first baseman Nick Pratto and catcher MJ Melendez — catches up. Don't expect all three to break camp with Kansas City, which has improved its win percentage three straight seasons and will try to surge above .500 for the first time since winning the World Series in 2015. A lot would have to go right for the Royals to contend in the AL Central, but it's not far-fetched to think Mike Matheny's club can hang around in the Wild Card race with a more productive lineup, especially if the young pitching takes a leap forward and the bullpen comes together.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Royals

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"They're trying to build up that young pitching, but it's not coming along as quickly as they hoped. I haven't seen a whole lot of swing-and-miss stuff from their starters, but I do like Brady Singer a lot. He's a keeper for sure, and I think Kris Bubic is, too. They've got some nice arms in the pen with Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont and Jake Brentz, and Carlos Hernández made an impressive transition to the rotation down the stretch. Offensively, they're a speed and pressure team, always have been, and then they'll hope Salvy Perez hits a three-run homer. Andrew Benintendi turned the corner at the end of the year, but Carlos Santana was a big disappointment; when his on-base percentage craters, there's not a lot he can offer a team. Whit Merrifield just keeps rolling along, and while Nicky Lopez had a breakout year at shortstop, Bobby Witt Jr. is coming along to take that position for years to come. There's some swing and miss in Witt's game, but there's an awful lot of power and speed, and he'll be their best player very soon."

Beyond the Box Score

Front-office shakeup After more than 15 years, Dayton Moore was promoted to the newly created position of president of baseball operations in a reorganized Royals front office. His longtime assistant, J.J. Picollo, who joined Moore's front office shortly after his arrival in 2006, ascended to the general manager's role. Such restructuring has become more common throughout Major League Baseball in recent years, but it's unlikely to substantively change Kansas City's overall approach to roster construction and draft philosophy.

Kansas City Royals 2022 Baseball Cover

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Pratto's placeholders Hunter Dozier, Carlos Santana and Ryan O'Hearn may cycle through at first base for the Royals in 2022, but it's all merely a prelude to Nick Pratto's arrival. Drafted 14th overall in 2017, Pratto is a silk-gloved first-base prospect who took a major step forward in 2021 with his bat. Between Double- and Triple-A last season, Pratto slashed .265/.385/.602 with 36 home runs, 98 runs scored and 98 RBIs. His strikeout rate remains high, but his walk rate also climbed last season. If that trend continues, Dozier, Santana and O'Hearn shouldn't hold him back.

Getting defensive Nobody had a higher ultimate zone rating (13.3) than Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor last season — and it wasn't close, with Oakland 3B Max Chapman checking in second (8.7), according to FanGraphs. Only Carlos Correa (20) had a higher defensive runs saved total than Taylor's 19, so it was no surprise that he was rewarded with a new two-year, $9 million contract by a club that puts a premium on center field defense.

Out of gas Flamethrowing setup man Josh Staumont had the second-highest average fastball velocity among relievers at 98.2 mph in 2020, helping fuel a 13.0 K/9 rate. But the short season combined with an offseason COVID-19 bout left Staumont feeling gassed midway through 2021. His average fastball velocity dipped to 96.6, which ranked 28th among relievers last season, as his K/9 dropped to 9.9. If there's good news, the drop in velocity forced Staumont to concentrate more on command, which led to an improved walk rate and could pay dividends in 2022 if the velo bounces back.

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30-30-30 Club For a few hours last fall, Royals wunderkind Bobby Witt Jr. joined the exclusive 30-30-30 club with at least 30 home runs, steals and doubles in a minor league season. Only Luis Robert (2019) and Grant Desme (2009) have accomplished the feat since 1990. But Witt's record was erased when the game was delayed and eventually canceled by rain. Officially, Witt finished with 33 homers, 35 doubles and 29 steals at Double- and Triple-A combined last season.

Projected Lineup

LINEUP

2B    Whit Merrifield (R)
SS    Nicky Lopez (L)
C     Salvador Pérez (R)
LF    Andrew Benintendi (L)
3B    Bobby Witt Jr. (R)
DH   Adalberto Mondesí (S)
1B    Hunter Dozier (R)
RF    Kyle Isbel (L)
CF    Michael A. Taylor (R)

BENCH

C     Cam Gallagher (R)
OF   Edward Olivares (R)
1B    Carlos Santana (S)
3B    Emmanuel Rivera (R)

ROTATION

RHP    Zack Greinke
RHP    Brad Keller
LHP    Kris Bubic
RHP    Brady Singer
LHP    Daniel Lynch

BULLPEN

RHP    Scott Barlow (C)
LHP    Amir Garrett
LHP    Jake Brentz
RHP    Taylor Clarke
RHP    Carlos Hernández
RHP    Joel Payamps
LHP    Gabe Speier
RHP    Josh Staumont

2022 Prediction: 5th in AL Central