Kansas City Royals: Offseason Questions and Answers

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 15: A general view of Kauffman Stadium before the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals on August 15, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 15: A general view of Kauffman Stadium before the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals on August 15, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

As we continue the long days of offseason baseball, many questions come up about the Kansas City Royals and their future. Instead of giving you my questions I decided to hear yours.

On Twitter, Kings of Kauffman asked a simple question. What potential questions about prospects, season predictions, Winter Meeting moves, offseason signings and more do you have about your Kansas City Royals? Some questions were answered on Twitter, while others were saved for this article.

Without further delay, here are some questions and answers for Royals Nation.

“Who will be added/subtracted from 40-man before rule 5 deadline?” — Scott K.

The Royals definitely need to make some moves when it comes to their 40-man roster. As it currently stands, they have 37 of the 40 spots filled meaning they can put three more players on their 40-man roster without having to rearrange anything. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

For those of you who don’t know what it means for a player to be eligible for the Rule-5 Draft and what it means to a team, here is a quick definition from Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com:

"Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2014 — assuming he was 18 or younger as of June 5 of that year — has to be protected. A college player taken in the 2015 Draft is in the same position."

This year the Royals have six notable players on their Top-30 list who are eligible for the Rule-5 Draft: Josh Staumont (11), Scott Blewett (20), Elvis Luciano (23), D.J. Burt (28), Foster Griffin (29), and Ofreidy Gomez (30). Other notable players are Frank Schwindel, Donnie Dewees, Elier Hernandez, and Jecksson Flores. (Yes, the Royals have others, but the odds of them being taken aren’t as high.)

When looking at this, I do see more than three players I would protect. First I would protect Blewett, Staumont, and Griffin. Blewett seems to be solidifying himself as a potential starter, while Staumont is looking like a potential closer with his high-heat fastball. Foster has glimpses of greatness, but while inconsistent at times a player I’m not fully willing to take a chance on.

However, this is where I might start rearranging things. As it stands, Bubba Starling is still holding a spot on the 40-man roster. It’s time to give him the Kyle Zimmer treatment and outright him, but resign him to the club. Maybe this will alleviate some of the pressure/expectations that might be weighing on his mind.

It seems highly unlikely that a team takes Starling because of his inconsistencies and health problems, and it would allow the Royals to protect another player of their choosing, but if Starling was taken in the draft it might be the best case for both sides. New starts, new beginnings.

And before we dive too far, Richard Lovelady and Nicky Lopez were college draft picks in 2016, which means they don’t have to worry about being protected this year. Next year, if they aren’t on the 40-man roster, is the time to protect them. Also, Schwindel wasn’t taken last year, and while I am a big fan, I don’t think he will be taken this year. Meaning they don’t need to protect him this year too.

“Which players are part of the next Royals playoff team?” — Rob F.

The majority of the next playoff team is currently in Lexington and Northwest Arkansas. Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kyle Isbel, Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, and Yefri Del Rosario are names to watch. While Lopez and Lovelady are already on their way, if the Royals are truly going to be competing here soon, those are the guys to watch.

The Royals have had two really good drafts, and some of the recent trades have really helped set themselves up nicely. And yes, the majority of the current roster will not be on the team during that run.

“Does [Jorge] Soler play out the remainder of his contract in KC?” — Nick P.

It depends on the development of [Khalil] Lee and if the Royals can find value with Soler still. If you follow Kings of Kauffman twitter, you would know that at the beginning of the year we were onboard the Jorge Soler hype train. However, when looking further, he does concern me a lot.

Over the past two years, since the Royals traded for him, he has played in just under 30% of games. Defensively he was getting better, however, his UZR (defensive rating) last year was -0.6 in right field. Unless they are planning on preserving him by making him a full time designated hitter, what might be the best case to see what trade value he could give the Royals.

If I’m the Royals, I’m building for 2020-2022. If Soler is truly going to be that power hitter the Royals need, then keep him. However, if they believe Matias is going to be that power hitter, getting some value in return for Soler sooner rather than later is the best move.

“What would a potential starting rotation look like for Royals in 2019” — Deep K.

Danny Duffy, Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, and then whoever has the best Spring Training. This could be Trevor Oaks getting a full year to prove himself. Maybe they give Ian Kennedy one last chance before moving him to the bullpen like they did Luke Hochevar (also trying to boost his trade value). They also have Heath Fillmyer and Eric Skoglund to look at.

If I had to put money down (which I’m not) I would say they start the year with Duffy, Keller, Junis, Kennedy, and Oaks in the rotation, with Kennedy moving to the bullpen by June and Fillmyer taking over.

“Other than [Adalberto] Mondesi, which players development is most important for a successful rebuild?” — Derrick

[Brady] Singer, [Jackson] Kowar, [Daniel] Lynch are the three players that must develop. If the Royals can get three starting pitchers in one draft, solidifying their rotation of Keller, Junis, Singer, Kowar, and Lynch for the foreseeable future then things just got a bit easier. They also need Lee, Matias, Isbel, and a third baseman of some kind to really round everything out nicely.

The Royals have a very undervalued farm system. A lot of “if’s” are placed on them, which is why they are lower in the rankings, but if those players do develop like they currently are the Royals could have a very deep farm system. Last time the Royals had a deep farm system they went to the World Series twice and won it once. Fingers crossed.

“What’s your prediction of [Ryan] O’Hearn next year?” — Sam

My hope is that he figures out how to hit left-handed pitching. What Ryan O’Hearn showed last year is he is a great power hitter, but only when the pitching is right-handed. Last year O’Hearn hit .313/.403/.705 against right-hand pitching and a dreadful .108/.195/.270 against left-hand pitching. Those numbers are way too different for comfort, in my opinion.

The power is there, he just needs to get more consistent no matter who arm the pitcher is throwing with.

What I see is a designated hitter though. Defensively, he was one of the worst first basemen during his time with the Royals. That could drastically improve if the Royals commit to him being there, but he really needs to get better if he’s going to be anything more than a right-hand specialist.

Therefore my prediction, if O’Hearn gets a full year I’m betting he hits between .240 and .250 with 15-20 homeruns. If you’re okay with that, then O’Hearn is the perfect stopgap for when Nick Pratto develops.

“When should we expect [Nicky] Lopez and [Richard] Lovelady to be up next year?” — Alex B.

I would imagine Lovelady starts the year with the Royals and Lopez makes the jump in July. If they trade Whit Merrifield during the offseason then I’d imagine Lopez starts the year with the Royals. Otherwise, look for a July trade to force him up or him to get the O’Hearn experiment this year.

“Will we trade Whit at max trade value? Is [Nicky] Lopez ready to play second?” — John T.

Max value? No. What the Royals value Merrifield appears to be different than the rest of the league. Which, I guess is fine. I love Merrifield and would love for him to become the Royals version of Ben Zobrist. If the Royals keep Merrifield I will not be upset. If they trade him, I hope it isn’t for a smaller value simply to say “we traded him”. But if they do trade him I would understand why.

As for Lopez being ready. If they trade Merrifield now then they believe he is ready now. If they don’t then they are going to try and boost Merrifield’s trade value (somehow more) and give Lopez time to develop just a bit more. But you never know if a player is “ready” until he gets to the big league.

“What would need to happen to call 2019 a successful season? Player development on the professional level, .500 record, farm system rebuilt to a certain degree?” — Alex W.

At the big league level, seeing Mondesi and Keller continue where they left off. Also seeing if O’Hearn can level out his left-hand hitting if Hunter Dozier can reinvent himself at third base, and lastly see what Brett Phillips actually is.

Record this year doesn’t really matter, simply because they are going to be moving so many pieces around so much to see what players can do. If they have a .500 season then the Royals are looking really good. However, if they lose 90-100 games this year, don’t be upset. You have to look past the record.

Most importantly though, they have to continue developing. Hope and optimism for the Royals future are based on player development. If you want fans to stay with the team because the rebuild will be shorter, then they guys in Lexington and Northwest Arkansas have to continue developing. If they continue developing as they have been, the year is a success in my opinion.

“Can Ned [Yost] Survive without defined bullpen roles? Rebuilding bullpens require flexibility.” — Chris L.

Ned’s role right now is to help give the younger players as much time to develop as possible. Also to see what they can mentally handle. Being a closer requires a different type of mentality, so finding that guy within the cluster of pitchers they have may take some time.

At the end of the day, Yost isn’t the future manager of the team. He’s been saying that he will stick around for the rebuild and when the team is ready to compete again he will give the wheel to the next manager. Yost is essentially taking all the heat for the production of the team so that when the new guy comes in it can be a smooth transition. Not saying it will work, but that seems the be the direction the Royals are moving.

Final Thoughts

A lot of great questions, and hopefully I answered them in a way that brought some clarity. The Royals have a lot to look forward too and be excited about. A lot needs to continue to fall into place, but if you stick around with this ball club then you might be surprised at what they will do.

They most likely aren’t going to meet the 2014 and 2015 standards yet, but give them some time to develop. They could reach that point sooner than you would think.

Ask questions, respond to my answers, let’s have a great Royals talk! What do you think Royals fans?