As recently as a few weeks ago, things were looking very bleak for the Kansas City Royals in 2018. After a few surprising moves, is the team’s 2018 outlook any different? Let’s take a look.
Here’s what we were expecting at a few weeks ago:
- C: Salvador Perez
- 1B: Empty Hole/Hunter Dozier
- 2B: Whit Merrifield
- SS: Alcides Escobar
- 3B: Cheslor Cuthbert
- LF: Alex Gordon
- CF: Paulo Orlando
- RF: Jorge Bonifacio
- DH: Jorge Soler
Now, here’s a possible Opening Day lineup:
- C: Perez
- 1B: Lucas Duda
- 2B: Merrifield
- SS: Escobar
- 3B: Mike Moustakas
- LF: Gordon
- CF: Jon Jay
- RF: Soler/Michael Saunders/Tyler Collins (not set yet)
- DH: Cuthbert/Soler
As you can tell, a lot has happened recently. General Manager Dayton Moore went out and acquired veterans Lucas Duda and Jon Jay to shore up holes the roster had. He also brought back fan-favorite and the franchise’s single-season HR leader, Mike Moustakas. Although some were hoping for the Moustakas move, no one saw the Duda or Jay signings coming. That goes to show just how little we know about Moore’s plan to bring the Kansas City Royals back into contention.
With that said, it’s time to reevaluate our projections for how the Royals will do in 2018. Our Dylan Miles published a piece a little less than a month ago about the PECOTA projections and how they’ve been wrong about the club in the past. Originally, PECOTA projected the team to win 66.5 games this year. Obviously, you can’t win half a game, so we’ll go with 67. On March 6, that figure dropped to 65. Let’s take a look at how, if at all, things have changed in terms of the Royals’ outlook in 2018.
If everything falls into place this season, (literally everything), the Royals could win 85 games. I just cannot see this team competing for first place in the AL Central despite the recent moves made. If Danny Duffy pitches like an Ace, Jakob Junis grows up a ton, Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel bounce back from disappointing 2017 seasons AND Nate Karns can stay healthy, the rotation could be decent. That’s quite a few IFs and not nearly enough certainties.
Let’s address the lineup. Assuming returning pieces such as Merrifield, Moustakas, Perez, and Escobar don’t regress, that solves part of the problem. If the Royals are in contention late in the season, it’s likely also in large part due to Gordon experiencing a resurgence and Soler tapping into his immense power potential. The free agent acquisitions of Jay and Duda will also have to work out fairly well. Oh yeah, not to mention Cuthbert will need to hold down the DH position and any prospects that play won’t be able to struggle much.
This is without mentioning health and the bullpen, which is a completely separate article (seriously, check it out). In addition to nearly every member of the lineup/rotation needing to maintain or progress, the bullpen must become respectable again and most of all, the Royals have got to stay healthy. We’ve covered the good – let’s get to the bad.
On top of a lack of progression that would already hinder the team’s success, let’s factor in regression. What if Gordon is even worse than he was last year? Although it isn’t likely, what if Soler follows suit? Even if Merrifield is solid in 2018, it’s possible he doesn’t set the world on fire like he did last season. Moustakas hits 20 home runs instead of 38? It’s possible. Pérez can’t stay healthy and the Duda + Jay signings backfire? You’re looking at what could possibly be the worst lineup in baseball.
All signs point to Duffy and Junis putting together impressive 2018 seasons but for the sake of this scenario, both will struggle. Karns will either be ineffective or injured for the majority of the season. Hammel and Kennedy will follow up their 2017 campaigns with equally bad 2018 seasons. The bullpen isn’t good.
When you put all of the aforementioned shortcomings together, you likely get a team that loses 100 games. Instead of banking on everything going right or all things falling apart, it’s time to be fair and look at what’s most likely to happen.
Thus far, we’ve established an absolute ceiling of 85 wins and an absolute floor of 100 losses (60 wins). In all likelihood, Duffy and Junis will be respectable in 2018. Kennedy and Hammel will either be the same as 2017 or possibly improve a little bit. Kelvin Herrera shouldn’t struggle as much in his second year as closer. Merrifield will probably be one of the best players on the team. If Moustakas, Duda, and Jay fall off, it shouldn’t be by nearly as much as the worst-case scenario. Jorge Soler can’t be much worse than last year and if his offseason training stories are true, he could improve in 2018.
We’ve discussed both sides of the double-edged sword. Albeit it’s remotely possible the Kansas City Royals win close to 85 games or lose 100+ games in 2018, the most likely outcome is somewhere around 75 games. I’m going to sit right in the middle of the two most common projections. I’ve read many fans predict a 71-91 record, and I’ve seen lots of others predict 81-81. There are too many “what if” situations to be certain, so 75 it is.
What do you think, Royals fans? How do you see the team finishing the season: above or below .500? Let us know what you have to say in the comments!