Breaking Down The 2018 Kansas City Royals Pt. 1
Let me root, root, root for the Royals (and Cubs),
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.
MLB’s bizarre off-season is over. Spring Training is done. The 2018 Opening Day is upon us and I can say with certainty, “I have no clue how the 2018 Kansas City Royals season is going to play out.” Seriously, I’m hoping if I put my thoughts down here, I might be able to draw some clarity. As of this moment, the Royals haven’t even set their 25-man roster, so you can hardly fault me for being hazy. Let’s go with what we do know.
the Opening Day line-up:
- LF Jon Jay (L)
- 2B Whit Merrifield (R)
- 3B Mike Moustakas (L)
- 1B Lucas Duda (L)
- DH Cheslor Cuthbert (R)
- RF Jorge Soler (R)
- CF Alex Gordon (L)
- SS Alcides Escobar (R)
- C Drew Butera (R)
Some quick thoughts:
- Ned has broken from form leaving back-to-back lefties then righties.
- Salvy is missing due to an MCL tear and will miss 4-6 weeks.
- Gordon is starting in CF while Jay is in LF
While it’s nice to limit opposing pitchers’ lefty/righty advantage, I’ve always felt Ned placed too much importance on this. Skilled hitters can hit pitching from either side. Conversely, skilled pitchers can carve up batters from either side. All this is to say I don’t mind Ned switching things up, it’s just an interesting diversion from the norm.
Salvy tore an MCL carrying his luggage? Talk about bad luck. ‘Nuff said.
Gordon starting in CF has me scratching my head. Don’t get me wrong, his defense has been top notch for years. I just question his speed versus Jay’s. Maybe it’s just an Opening Day experiment? Who knows? Time to get into the geeky stuff.
The Stats (Baseball-Reference)
For the non-stat junkies, a slash line is batting average/on-base percentage/slugging.
Jon Jay started 86 games in the OF (32LF-43CF-11RF) last year for the Cubs and his Fielding % was 1.000 in each location. You have to admit he’s versatile. His career (8-years) slash line is .288/.355/.383. For as speedy as he is in the outfield, he has a puzzling 51-30 stolen bases versus caught stealing career. So he gets more singles than anything else and, when he’s on, he’s not reading the pitcher’s move well enough to get better jumps.
Given what he accomplished last year, it amazes me that Whit Merrifield didn’t make last year’s Opening Day roster. All Two-hit Whit did last year was finish 3rd in team batting. Whit slashed .288/.324/.460 and finished 5th in home runs (19) without being up the full season. He added speed in the lead-off spot as well as some pop. If he could improve on last year’s output, he would be a stud this year.
Was there anyone on the Free Agent market more perplexing than Mike Moustakas? It just shows that baseball economics are out of whack, but that’s another post for another time. Moose grabbed the Royals home run record from Bye-bye Balboni as well as proved he was adaptable at the plate. He was patient and learned to use the opposite field to break down defensive shifts. While he slashed .272/.314/.521, his defense dipped to .962 which is 10 points below his best in 2016. More than anything else, Moose returning helps soften Hosmer’s move to the Padres. Even if his power takes a step back, his opposite field hitting approach should improve Moose’s numbers.
What can I say about Lucas Duda? The image burned in my brain will always be his wild throw from first on Hosmer’s mad dash from third to tie the game in the 9th inning of 2015’s World Series Game 5. That’s unfair, I know. Sadly, until the next 1B stud arrives, Duda (and others) will be judged against Hosmer. How different are they? Hosmer’s career slash – .284/.342/.439. Duda’s career slash – .242/.340/.457. In career fielding, they both share a .995%. They’re not that different. What we’ll miss is Hos’ leadership, personality, and hair. Face it, Hos inspired many kids’ haircuts for years. I doubt Duda will do the same, but who knows?
The rumor is Cheslor Cuthbert will be rotating DH duties with Jorge Soler and Moose. Unless they plan to put Cuthbert in the OF, I’m not sure how that will work out evenly. The goal this year was to see what Cuthbert could do with a regular gig at 3rd. Moose’s return put the kibosh on that. There’s just not enough data to draw further conclusions here. There is potential, though.
Speaking of potential, is there a better descriptor for Jorge Soler? He’s always had plenty of pop in his bat (when he makes contact) and his defense during Spring Training has allegedly gotten better. How much better remains to be seen… perhaps only until Jorge Bonifacio returns from his 80-game suspension. Again, there’s not enough data here to draw any conclusions.
Alex Gordon has plenty of data from which to draw conclusions. From an offensive standpoint, however, most of that means bad news. During Spring Training, when offensive numbers rarely matter because of the Arizona air and pitchers working on specific pitches, he slashed a dismal .127/.234/164. His batting average the previous three years went from .270 to .220 to .208. What will it take to get Gordo back to 2015 form? A Delorean so he could avoid that wrist injury. Either he’s unwilling or unable to take a page from Moose’s opposite field hitting book and that makes a $40M detriment to this team over the next two years.
Escobar returning means they aren’t as confident in Mondesi’s progress as they were last year. He could be a catalyst again this year if he focuses his hitting efforts on finding gaps rather than hunting for power. That’s the main reason for his decline early last year. Once he stopped trying to hit homers, his average a extra-base hits improved. #EskyMagic anyone?
American hero Drew Butera is in a tough spot. He’s a definite step down from Salvy, but at times can surprise teams with his bat handling. If he can slash like he did in Spring Training (.250/.370/.333), I think fans would be happy with that while Salvy is out.
It’s possible that Mondesi and Orlando will make the 25-man roster and they can be quality replacements in the field. Orlando has certainly shown more at the plate than Mondesi, so that’s promising. I’m just anxious to see all this potential in Mondesi manifest so he forces Ned and the organization to play him daily.
That’s it for tonight. I’ll give the pitchers a go tomorrow once we know more. Stay tuned.