The Kansas City Royals are about to indulge on a playoff chase on Friday night that could symbolize the beginning of the end of what is one of the greatest eras in team history. Six prominent Royals are set to hit free agency at the end of the year, and we all know what the farm system doesn’t have as far as replacements go.
To be fair, I don’t think that the Kansas City Royals rebuild will be as long or as terrible as some people do. I would be willing to bet good money that Eric Hosmer re-signs in Kansas City, but he may be the only one of the six starters to do so.
The good news is that the Kansas City Royals have a good chance to make the playoffs this year though, so let’s talk about 2017!
The Kansas City Royals bullpen has been atrocious lately. Outside of Cain and Whit Merrifield, the Royals aren’t stealing bases anymore. The defense has been its normal self for the most part, but even former Gold Glove Award winner Alcides Escobar has 12 errors this season (yuck).
The Royals don’t currently have a RF that I feel comfortable with defensively. The starting pitching has been spotty at best. There is no clear number two any more with Jason Vargas‘ recent struggles.
Even with all of this dysfunction, the Royals find themselves 5.5 games back of Cleveland for the lead in the AL Central. Only a 0.5 game back of the LA Angels for the second Wild Card spot.
Kansas City plays host to the aforementioned Cleveland Indians starting Friday night for a three-game series, which will be crucial in their run to a playoff spot. With all of the things that the Royals are NOT doing well right now, they have to maximize the things that they are doing well.
Two ways that they might be able to do that is to add some speed and defense to the lineup, in the form of Raul Mondesi and Bubba Starling.
Before you get me started on Mondesi’s struggles at the plate earlier this season, don’t. I watched the games. I watched him flail at sliders at his back foot and chase fastballs two feet off of the plate. I KNOW. But one thing Mondesi did do was play good defense and run like hell.
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Here’s the thing. Escobar and Alex Gordon have been literally the worst hitters in the MLB this season.
Among all qualified hitters, Escobar and Gordon have the two worst OPS’ in the MLB in 2017. Gordon has the worst SLG% in the MLB, and only Dansby Swanson is stopping Esky from being second to last again.
If you’re a fan of fancy numbers, Gordon is fourth to last in WRC+. Esky is dead last. At least Esky was stealing bases when he struggled in previous seasons. He has four this year.
Starling and Mondesi are going to run, they’re going to play good defense. Those two facets of their game are not what is keeping them from the big leagues. What’s been keeping them from the big leagues is their offense AND THEY’RE BEING BLOCKED BY THE TWO WORST HITTERS IN THE ENTIRE GAME OF BASEBALL.
Mondesi has had a magnificent season at Triple-A with Omaha. He’s currently hitting .309 with 13 HR and 20 SB. He’s made some mechanical adjustments, simplified his approach and is having success that he hasn’t seen in his minor league career.
Bubba has had a bit of a career saving season with the Storm Chasers in 2017. After a miserable April he hit .289 in May, .291 in June, and .290 in July. He’s added seven homeruns to go along with five stolen bases. Much has been made about his Gold Glove caliber defensive ability.
Like I said before, the Kansas City Royals need to get maximum performance in the areas of the game that they do well. Relentless speed and other-worldly defense won them a title in 2015. We know we’re getting both of those things from Mondesi and Starling. All they’d have to do is NOT be the worst hitter in baseball.
Both players have made great strides in their offensive games this season. I’d like to see both of them get something of an audition when rosters expand in September. They don’t have to be good. They can hit eighth and ninth. They might provide a nice spark plug to this Kansas City Royals offense down the home stretch.