4.) Bullpen returns to form
In many ways, the 2017 Kansas City Royals looked nothing like the 2015 edition that won the World Series. Gone were the instances of keeping the line moving. Instead, the offense waited for home runs. The bullpen — long the biggest strength of the team — became its Achilles’ heel. Sure, the starting pitchers contributed to the issues with an inability to pitch deep into games. But even the back-end of the bullpen, Kelvin Herrera in particular, wilted under the pressure.
Bright spots emerged in the form of left-handers Mike Minor and Scott Alexander. The former of which will likely cash in this offseason, but the latter will be back in 2018. Peter Moylan could also sign elsewhere. The rest, as it stands, should be back. For the Royals to have any shot at making the playoffs, the bullpen will have to be much better than last season. It doesn’t have to be as good as the one the team deployed in 2014-15. It doesn’t even have to be as good as the 2016 one when Wade Davis and Herrera held down the fort. But it can’t be like last year’s disaster.
Granted, it’s easy to point out that the bullpen needs to improve. Having that actually happen is another matter entirely. Again, part of the onus is on the rotation to pitch deeper into games. At the end of the day, though, Herrera, Joakim Soria and the rest of the guys in the bullpen have to step up. The team could obviously look to add some arms with a few good relievers coming through the farm system. But if the team is going to compete at the highest level, the guys who need to come through are already in Kansas City.