The Kansas City Royals are not projected to be all that good in 2020. Those who watched the Royals play in 2019 and then paid attention to their lack of meaningful moves this offseason aren’t surprised by such a statement. The Royals have essentially chosen to stand still and hope that their prospects continue to develop as they inch closer to another window of contention. That’s great for the future, but where does this leave Royals fans in the here and now?
If you are a Royals fan then there are reasons to look forward to the coming season. There are actually far more reasons to look forward to 2020 than it seems on the surface. Make no mistake, the 2020 Royals are going to be a bad baseball team, but they should also be a very fun baseball team. I’m not advocating for teams to be bad, but at the same time, fun baseball is still fun baseball.
2019 was a breakout season for Jorge Soler and 2020 should solidify what was suspected all along; Soler is a legitimate offensive threat. The oft-injured designated hitter finished 2020 setting the Royals all-time home run mark with 48. Soler wasn’t just a masher either, he was a quality professional hitter.
The former Cuban standout amassed a DRC+ of 142 and a bWAR of 4.5. Coming from the DH spot that is mighty impressive. Soler isn’t projected to be that dominant in 2020, but Royals fans would be well within their right minds to think he can produce at his 2019 level again. Some dudes are hitters, simple as that, and Soler is a hitter through and through.
Hunter Dozier also took a massive leap forward in 2019. He remained average defensively, but his ability to make hard contact led to a 118 DRC+ and 3.0 bWAR. Dozier’s profile has never screamed top of the line hitter and minus the pedigree of Soler it’s far easier to see him regressing. Still, at the age of 28, Dozier is entering his prime and there were no red flags during his excellent 2019 campaign. The Royals standing pat and trusting Dozier to at the bare minimum stay at his 2019 level is a smart move from a team that needs to show the fans that their prospects are starting to come around.
Another smart move by the Royals front office is bringing Alex Gordon back for one more year. By all indications, this is a farewell season for the longtime Royals left fielder. He wasn’t terrible in 2019, he managed a 1.2 bWAR, but the writing was on the wall. Gordon’s bat has slowed down, and there’s only so long that he can continue to pull quality baserunning out of his toolbox before Father Time takes that away from him as well.
The Royals brass has brought Gordon back as a stopgap measure and to give the Royals fans and Gordon a chance to say goodbye to one another. When you know you’re team is going to struggle, giving the fans what they want—a final season with Gordon—is the smart move.
The rest of the Kansas City roster consists of hope, potential, and those possibly to be dealt away. Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez represent a hope for the future, while Bubba Starling is potential possibly missing its shot at coming to fruition. Meanwhile, Whit Merrifield is still around, still quite good, but still out of place on a team that will not contend anytime soon. Salvador Pérez will be returning from elbow surgery, but he’s more in the Gordon camp than the Merrifield one. On the whole, the position players on the Royals roster are an odd assortment of inadequacy, realized potential, fond holdovers, and the dream that things will be figured out this season.
This preview has been all offense so far, there’s a good reason for that. Whereas the Royals offense offers, at the very least, some potential the pitching side of the ledger is dreadful. The Royals have collected a gaggle of arms that exude potential wasted, reclamation projects fraudulently sold to them by Driveline, generic journeymen, and a few quality arms that are on the downswing and will only truly be beneficial if they can be traded for anything. All the focus in Royals land is on their young offense and if that distracts fans from the awful pitching situation then all the power to them.
The Royals won’t be good in 2020, nor do I believe they will be good in 2021. Still, they have put together an interesting group of players on offense. Everyone should want to watch Soler smash baseballs, or Mondesi steal bases. There’s nothing wrong with electrifying youngsters on the offensive side of the ball. At some point, the Royals will need to develop some pitching or all the potential on offense will be for naught.