Posted on March 23, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Just two years removed from a World Series title, the Kansas City Royals appear to be on the decline. However, they made a push for a wild-card spot last year and made some positive moves over the winter in hopes of being competitive this season. But do the Royals have the horses to stay relevant in 2018?
The starting rotation was a problem for the Royals last season, and to make matters worse, they saw 18-game winner Jason Vargas leave during the offseason. It helps that Kansas City still has Danny Duffy to serve as the team’s ace. However, he had multiple DL stints last year, including an elbow problem in August.
Beyond Duffy, Kansas City’s rotation is littered with question marks. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel are both established veterans who should be dependable. However, both are deep into their 30’s and had ERAs over 5 in 2017, so they may not be a sure thing this season. The Royals are also high on Nate Karns. But he’s coming off thoracic outlet surgery last July, so there are still questions about his health.
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The back end of the Kansas City rotation isn’t much better. Jakob Junis is likely to get a spot after going 7-1 with a 3.55 ERA the second half of last season. The Royals are also hopeful Eric Skoglund can improve after a few rough starts last year. However, if Junis and Skoglund falter, there is little depth in Kansas City’s farm system, as most of the team’s top prospects haven’t even proven themselves in triple-A much less the big leagues.
Kansas City’s bullpen was solid if unspectacular in 2017, but that may be the best-case scenario for the Royals in 2018. Kelvin Herrera will continue in the closer’s role, although he had an unimpressive 4.25 ERA last season. He’s also not quite at the same level as some of Kansas City’s recent closers like Greg Holland or Wade Davis.
Aside from Herrera, Wily Peralta and Brandon Maurer are the most experienced relievers the Royals have. However, both had disastrous seasons in 2017, and if they don’t bounce back, the Kansas City bullpen could be in deep trouble this year. The Royals will need largely unproven pitchers like Kevin McCarthy, Andres Machado, and Burch Smith to emerge as reliable relief pitchers. If not, the Royals could end up having one of the worst bullpens in baseball this year.
The Royals were in the bottom third of most offensive categories last season, and to make matters worse they lost longtime stalwarts Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain over the offseason. The silver lining is that the Royals were able to re-sign Mike Moustakas at an affordable price to help anchor their lineup. In addition to Moustakas, the Royals signed Lucas Duda to replace Hosmer and still have Salvador Perez to give the middle of their lineup plenty of power.
However, the Royals have some huge question marks in their outfield. Alex Gordon continued to see his numbers decline last season, creating little optimism for his 2018 campaign. The Royals had high hopes for both Jorge Soler and Paulo Orlando last year, but both were endlessly disappointing. There was hope that Jorge Bonifacio would continue to emerge as an impact player for the Royals, but he was slapped with an 80-game suspension this spring. The signing of Jon Jay should give the Royals some stability in their outfield, but he’s unlikely to produce at the same level as Cain did the last few years.
After finishing 2017 with an 80-82 record, the Royals are due for a large drop off in wins this season. Re-signing Moustakas and adding Duda will only do so much, especially if Kansas doesn’t get bounce-back efforts from players like Gordon and Soler. There are also serious questions about Kansas City’s pitching staff. Look for the Royals to finish 66-96 in 2018, forcing them to start from scratch next winter.