Kansas City Royals: Reinforcements are Not Far Away

Feb 20, 2017; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals players Raul Mondesi (27), Ramon Torres (46) and Paulo Orlando (16)pose for a photo during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2017; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals players Raul Mondesi (27), Ramon Torres (46) and Paulo Orlando (16)pose for a photo during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports /

Werner Park, home of the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers, is 195 miles north of Kauffman Stadium. It could contain the Royals’ keys to an American League Central title in 2017.

The Kansas City Royals appear to be ready to make another run at the playoffs in 2017. With most of their core left from playoff runs in 2014 and 2015, Kansas City Royals fans should be excited about what the rest of 2017 has left to offer.

As excited as Royals fans ought to be about the final 88 games, things are not going to be as easy for Kansas City as they were in prior years.

The Royals have a couple of glaring holes in their lineup that must be addressed before any serious talks about playoff contention begin, but help may be closer than you think.

Short Stop

In 2014, Alcides Escobar had the second best year of his career. He slashed .285/.317/.377 and hit a whopping 3 HR. He also stole 31 bases that year and epitomized what the KC Royals were all about. “Put the ball in play, play good defense, and run fast.”

Escobar has been pretty awful ever since. So far in 2017, Escobar is slashing an abysmal .210/.230/.276, and that’s after a “hot” June in which he’s slashing .264/.273/.368. Perhaps the biggest issue, Escobar is no longer a threat to hit for any kind of power and isn’t running. With just two stolen bases so far on the campaign.

There are not many people in Kansas City that are more fond of what Alcides Escobar means to this team. He was the ALCS MVP and hit the second most memorable HR in the 2015 World Series. My goodness I love watching that video!

Unfortunately, the 2017 KC Royals still trail the reigning AL Champs by 2 games and don’t have time to wait for “Esky Magic” to return. If Esky doesn’t return to 2014 form fast, like really fast, Ned Yost and Dayton Moore may have to find a different solution.

Luckily for them, there’s a shortstop that’s slashing .346/.379/.564 about three hours north on I-29.

Old friend Raul Mondesi is absolutely crushing the ball in Omaha. With six homers and 15 stolen bases for the Omaha Storm Chasers this year, Mondesi is showing everyone why he was the Kansas City Royals’ top prospect heading into 2017. Flashing all five tools at AAA.

A move at SS doesn’t come without its risks, however. We all remember how lost Mondesi looked at the plate in his brief stint with the Royals earlier this year. He’s still striking out almost 25% of the time. The last thing Moore wants to do is rush Mondesi back and end up delaying his development even more. I just don’t know if there’s time to wait.

More from KC Royals Prospects

The Kansas City Royals need to catch Cleveland sooner rather than later. A SS who makes an out 77% of the time, and doesn’t steal bases when he does get on, can really hamper a lineup. This would be a difficult decision to have to make, but I think there’s a chance that everyone involved could benefit from Mondesi batting 9th and playing SS for the Royals after the All-Star Break.

Designated Hitter

Moore has made some outstanding free agent signings in the past. Brandon Moss has not been one of them. GMDM deserves all the credit in the world for trying to fill the shoes of Kendrys Morales, but Moss has simply not been good.

The power has continued to be there for Moss, at times. With nine home runs he’s tied with Eric Hosmer for fifth most on the team. Moss’ power has value on this team, but that value is on the bench.

I wrote an article recently in which I discussed the Royals lack of ability to trade for impact bats. While that may or may not prove to be 100% accurate, Dayton Moore has already solved the issue.

The KC Royals have a DH. He is currently playing with Mondesi in Omaha.

Yes sir, Jorge Soler is crushing the ball in Omaha. Batting .317/.445/.683 with 11 home runs in 104 at bats. Soler appears to be well on his way back to Kansas City.

The biggest reason that the Kansas City Royals need Soler in the DH role now, is his success against lefties. He’s currently hitting .350 against lefties in Omaha. The guys currently on the Royals roster are not. Kansas City has really struggled against lefties in 2017. Soler could provide some immediate boom in the lineup.

I don’t think Moss’ time is done in Kansas City quite yet. He still provides some versatility and veteran presence that this team will need down the stretch. But your designated HITTER cannot be hitting .184 if you want to win your division.

Expect Soler back in Kansas City after the All-Star Break, if not sooner.

The Bullpen

Perhaps the signature of the Kansas City Royals 2015 World Championship was the best bullpen the MLB has seen in years. If the Royals could get the lead by the seventh inning the game was over. Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland made up my favorite positional group in Royals history.

Herrera is the only one left in 2017.

We all know about the bullpen’s struggles so far this year. Joakim Soria makes some of us nervous when he stands up to get a drink of water in the bullpen. Herrera’s slider has seemingly ended up in the fountains more than it has ended up in Salvador Perez‘ glove. Matt Strahm is now in the rotation for the time being. This bullpen needs help quickly.

Good news Royals fans, Omaha is here to answer your prayers.

There are a three guys in Omaha right now that I think have a chance to appear in the Royals’ bullpen before 2017 is over: Kyle Zimmer, Josh Staumont, and Brian Flynn.

Ah yes, Royals Folk Legend Kyle Zimmer. I am not kidding. Zimmer has thrown 11.2 innings for Omaha this year. He has struck out 11 and only surrendered 13 total baserunners. Zimmer has an electric fastball and a hammer of a curveball. He may very well end up being a solid bridge guy for Kansas City in 2017…granted that he’s healthy (say your prayers).

Staumont has struggled mightily to throw strikes while in the starting rotation for Omaha this year. While admitting that he’s a long shot, 100 mph fastballs will play at any level. A move to the bullpen may be exactly what Staumont, and the Kansas City Royals, need in 2017 to get him back on the right track.

Flynn is a guy that the Royals probably planned to carry in the ‘pen at the beginning of the season. He fell through the roof of his barn and his just now pitching again. Flynn held hitters to a .198 batting average in 55.1 IP for the Royals in 2016. He has struck out 14 batters so far in 12.1 IP for the Omaha Storm Chasers. While the control isn’t quite back yet, the stuff seems to be there for Flynn. This suggests that he will be back in Royal Blue sooner rather than later.

The Kansas City Royals have played incredibly well since April ended. Going 30-21 in May and June combined. While they have faced steeper tasks than their current two game deficit, perhaps none will be more challenging than catching the Cleveland Indians in 2017.

Next: The Duffman Cometh

The return of Danny Duffy and hopefully Nathan Karns is going to be huge for this Kansas City Royals team, but look out for a few fresh faces to come down from Omaha and help carry this team to October, too.

Ed. Note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of the Storm Chaser’s home park.