How will things shape up in the AL Central?
Still-vivid memories of the 2015 World Series championship parade will have to sustain the Royals’ fan base as the slog back to respectability begins. The club’s championship core — most notably, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Lorenzo Cain — reached free agency together during the winter.
Now, the losing — er, rebuilding — starts, as GM Dayton Moore tries to resuscitate the franchise for a second time. The path back will be different, but it still starts with the draft. Perhaps Kansas City can emulate the Astros’ model — that is, if owner David Glass and Royals fans have the patience and Moore has the discipline to endure the losses, hoard the high draft picks and assemble the talent needed to contend again.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the ROYALS
“They’re in rebuild mode, but Dayton Moore has a long enough leash and a strong enough track record to bring them back — eventually. They’ll get a long look at some prospects we’ve heard about for a while. They’ve got a lot of their future tied to Raul Mondesi, because he’s got a really wide range of outcomes. He has not performed at all, but he’s still got great tools, and he’s the most exciting player they have. You could say the same about Jorge Soler, at least from a power perspective. He hit well in Triple-A last year, and they need to give him another year to try to figure it out. Whit Merrifield was not a highly touted guy, but they found out that he’s an everyday player in the big leagues, and that’s what happens when you’re willing to just see what a guy can do. They’re stuck with a lot of bad contracts: $68 million next year for five guys: Alex Gordon, Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy, Joakim Soria [Editor's note: Soria was traded to the Dodgers in January as part of a three-team deal that also included the White Sox] and Jason Hammel. Only Duffy is a long-term building block.”
Beyond the Box Score
Duffy Conundrum How will mercurial lefthander Danny Duffy, who signed a five-year deal worth $65 million before the 2017 season, react to persistent rumors the Royals were willing to listen to offers this winter? He’s beloved by the fans for his “Bury me a Royal” mantra, taking a hometown discount last season, and for charitable work in the community. Duffy also was arrested for DUI last season and is among the most valuable trade commodities for the rebuilding Royals.
Peak of Popularity The Royals have averaged 2.36 million in attendance the last four seasons. The club’s local TV ratings also have been among the best in baseball — 11.44 in 2016, which led MLB, backed up by an 8.46 in 2017, second only to Cleveland.
The Yordano Effect It’s impossible to ignore one sad reality when assessing the Royals’ current and future prospects: The tragic death of Yordano Ventura in a car accident last winter in the Dominican Republic looms large with respect to the small-market club’s prospects moving forward. Ventura was 38–31 with a 3.89 ERA during the first three-plus seasons of a promising career cut short.
Near-death experience Ned Yost, 63, suffered a broken pelvis and several broken ribs and was airlifted to a hospital Nov. 4 when he fell about 20 feet from an elevated tree stand on his farm in rural Meriwether County, Ga. Internal bleeding may have killed Yost had he not been able to use a cell phone to alert family members and receive prompt attention.
Braves Rebuffed Dayton Moore’s roots are with the Atlanta Braves, where he started as a scout in 1994 and worked his way up to assistant GM. He’s arguably the sturdiest branch off the John Schuerholz tree, so it made sense the Braves would be interested in bringing Moore back with Atlanta’s baseball operation in upheaval. But Royals owner David Glass denied permission for such a conversation to take place with Moore, who is under contract for three more seasons.
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Jesse Hahn