Baseball is headed back, and the Kansas City Royals are getting ready to get back into action on July 24th. The season will last just 60 games, with the majority coming against division opponents as the entire league sprints toward the playoffs. Even for a team slated to pace the bottom of the league, a truncated season is exciting because any team can get hot for a stretch—and in 60 games, that might be enough make the postseason. For whether that is likely, or even a good idea, let’s take a look at some storylines for the year.
You may not see this much on the field, but the feel of the team will be different this season, as Ned Yost retired and the Glass family sold the team to John Sherman. Mike Matheny steps in as manager after taking 2019 off. Matheny was let go from the Cardinals in the middle of the 2018 season after making the playoffs in his first four seasons, making one World Series. There was a perception that Matheny struggled with keeping a locker room together and did not work well with analytics, both of which he says he has addressed in his year away, so hopefully he will be a strong guiding force for the future of the team.
Can Jorge Soler continue his star turn?
Soler hit over half of his career homeruns in 2019, destroying the team record with an American League-leading 48 bombs, a .265 average and 117 RBIs. The average was low compared to the other numbers, but Soler had the look of a slugger like the team has not seen in some time. It will be hard to reach any eye-popping numbers in 60 games, but if the former Cubs prospect continues to mash the ball he will be a nice piece for the next phase of the team or a nice trade piece that could bring real return.
This group may headline both the cause and the reason to hope for another rough season. The argument can be made that the Royals have three starting pitchers that even belong on the back end of a contending team’s starting rotation, and three is probably a stretch. Brad Keller suffered from some bad luck last year—he had the team’s lowest ERA among starters at 4.19, but also led the rotation with 14 losses—but remains the clear cut “ace” of the staff. From there, you have Jakob Junis and Danny Duffy, who at this point, either of whom is capable of a good stretch, but neither have given much reason for optimism lately. Duffy and Junis are polar opposites, with Duffy never living up to his high billing for any consistent period and Junis blowing up on the scene despite a total lack of fanfare and interest. At this point, we know that neither is anything more than a back-end starter, and the names that come behind them are a little depressing.
With expanded rosters, we may see a little bit of some of the team’s top pitching prospects, though it isn’t extremely likely any will play any major part in the season. The minor league season has been cancelled, which is not good for a team that is building for the future, so hopefully the team can find a way to get some of the best and brightest involved. In all reality, if the team is going to be bad, I’m hoping they are remarkably bad. I think we all see this as something of a wasted season, but assuming the team is nearing a point of turning a corner with prospects making their way to the big leagues, a short bad season is better than a long one, and if a top draft pick comes from it, all the better. As we saw in the years that Moose and Hos and Salvy made their way to the pros, a new wave should be coming to give us optimism for our beloved ball team—but that doesn’t begin in 2020, so I think it’s time to settle in and just enjoy baseball without expecting much in return.