After winning the 2015 World Series, the Kansas City Royals are in the middle of their own rebuild and are looking to the future.
After back-to-back World Series appearances, the Royals haven’t had a record above .500 since their championship in 2015. Now, after two 100+ loss seasons, they are rebuilding right alongside the Detroit Tigers. While neither team has much hope for a competitive 2020 season, fans of both teams will be able to cheer on the teams’ highly heralded prospects as they make their debuts.
We reached out to Jordan Foote, site expert at Kings of Kauffman, to continue our series of Q&A sessions with Detroit’s divisional rivals to ask a few questions about the Royals’ rebuild and what to expect for the 2020 season.
Motor City Bengals: What separates the Royals’ rebuilding process from Chicago and Detroit’s rebuilds?
Jordan Foote: While back-to-back World Series appearances (and one win) was a terrific run, it kind of came back to bite the franchise in a sense. The team was average at best in 2016 and 2017, yet Dayton Moore failed to trade off any of his core pieces that were bound to depart anyway. This set the franchise back and caused a more lengthy rebuild than originally necessary. The farm system struggled and is just now being rebuilt to an acceptable level, but it would have been replenished a lot quicker had Moore traded a Lorenzo Cain or Eric Hosmer in 2017. It was obviously worth the championship, but the Royals have been paying quite the price and their window was only open for two years.
Of the three top pitching prospects in the Royals farm system, who is most likely to arrive in Kansas City first?
Definitely Brady Singer. While Daniel Lynch has garnered plenty of attention as a guy with a potentially higher ceiling than Singer, Singer is the most MLB-ready pitcher the team has in the farm system. Lynch and Jackson Kowar were sent to minor league camp on Saturday the 7th, but Singer stayed. That says a bit about how highly the Royals think Singer can go. He probably won’t break the Opening Day roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him join the MLB squad a month into the season.
Which Detroit Tigers prospect are you most likely to wish played in a different division?
This won’t come as a surprise to any of MCB’s readers, but I really wish Casey Mize was either a Royal or a member of another division. He’s going to be one heck of a player — and probably a thorn in the Royals’ side for years to come.
Are there any surprise performances so far this Spring?
Outfielder Bubba Starling has been swinging a great bat this spring. He has two doubles and a pair of home runs despite not even playing in all of the Royals’ games thus far. First baseman Ryan McBroom has put some power on display after not hitting a single home run last season. He’s really stood out and appears to be vying for the starting job at 1B.
On the mound, Danny Duffy put together an excellent outing on Saturday. Four innings, zero runs allowed, six strikeouts. He’s on relatively thin ice as far as the rotation goes, so it’s good to see him pitching well in spring training.
Does Ian Kennedy return to the rotation or remain as the team’s closer?
Kennedy will definitely remain the team’s closer. He is owed $16M this season and will be a free agent after this year but thrived in the role last season, so the hope is that if he does so again this year… perhaps a contender will be okay with taking on his salary and possibly sending a prospect back to KC in return for Kennedy’s services.
Is this the year that Adalberto Mondesi stays healthy and breaks out? Or will the shoulder labral repair surgery hold him back?
Kansas Citians (and Royals fans in general, for that matter) are super excited for what the future holds for Mondi. He has all the potential in the world and could truly become one of the best shortstops in the game. He actually was just examined by the doctor that did his surgery, and all signs point to him being on track for an Opening Day return. The goal has always been to keep him healthy enough to last a full season, so that’s the number one priority as of right now.
What can we expect to see from Salvador Perez in his return from Tommy John surgery?
Salvy is one of the best leaders to ever step into a Kansas City Royals dugout. His arm has looked good so far this spring but I must admit, I’m not entirely sure he’ll see the same amount of playing time he’s had in recent years. He will still play upwards of 100 games at catcher, but the team will probably give him more time off to keep him fresh. Expect a rejuvenated and determined Salvador Perez in 2020.
Does Whit Merrifield finish the season in Kansas City?
I sure hope so. If the Royals were going to trade him, they should have done it either last season or over the winter. Now that he’s into his new contract and has emerged as the best player on the team, it seems as if Dayton Moore is sold on him ushering in the next wave of Kansas City Royals. He’s worked extremely hard despite being on some bad teams over the last few years, so he deserves to be here when the team is ready to win big.
Which Royal is a player that every baseball fan should know about?
There are a few easy answers. For starters, Perez/Mondesi/Merrifield/Soler are the big ones, but those are pretty much household names at this point. One position player who’s flown under the radar and could be in for a good 2020 season is second baseman, Nicky Lopez. He reminds me of Merrifield when he came up: Not anything flashy, but he works extremely hard and is elite at putting bat to baseball. He struggled for a large chunk of last season but after putting on 18 pounds of muscle over the offseason, expect his numbers to match his elite speed and defense.
Also, keep an eye on the aforementioned Singer and Lynch. Both should be really good pitchers and will likely be at Kauffman Stadium by the end of the year.
After back to back 100 loss seasons, when do you see the window of contention opening for Kansas City?
2020 should be a season of about 65-67 wins, which is certainly an improvement over 58 and 59 in 2018 and 2019. If things fall right, a 70-win season isn’t out of the question. This year is all about figuring out who belongs on the team long-term. 2021 will be about prospect development and learning how to handle winning more games. 2022 is the year the contention window opens back up, assuming prospects continue on their tracks of development and Moore ramps up his free agency efforts.
Are there any projects that you are doing at Kings of Kauffman that you’d like to plug here ?
Right now, we’re doing a lot of prospect-centric stuff. We are currently kicking off a “Projecting the prospects” series. We’ll be going through all 30 of the Royals’ top farm system prospects and giving best/worst/likely case scenarios for each player. It’s a must-read series for any fan of an opposing team that wants to learn more about what the future of the organization looks like.
We’d like extend a big thank you to Kings of Kauffman and Jordan Foote for taking the time to chat about the Royals today. You can read more of his work on Kings of Kauffman. Follow both Kings of Kauffman (@KingsofKauffman) and Jordan Foote (@TheBestFooteFWD) for some great insight into the Royals organization.