It will not take much to improve on last years 638 runs scored. So how will the Kansas City Royals do it?
In 2018 the Kansas City Royals began using a combination of John Jay, Whit Merrifield, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Chesler Cuthbert and Lukas Duda at the top of the lineup. Jorge Soler moved up and John Jay moved into the middle of the lineup as April went along. They did reasonably well once the deep freeze was over.
Danny Duffy, Jason Hammel and Eric Skoglund staking their opponents with 3 to 5 runs to start a game were the biggest factor for most of the early losses. We won’t even get into the bullpen woes. Believe it or not, Ian Kennedy was pitching well at that time as was Jakob Junis.
The bottom of the order was almost non-existent. Alex Gordon was hitting over .300 at one point, but it was mostly singles and then he went cold. Soler and Cuthbert got hurt and Jay was traded. That pretty much took away what little offense we did have. The rest is history. And that’s just what it is, history!
I envision a top of the order starting with Whit Merrifield followed by Adalberto Mondesi. Already an improvement in my opinion. The Royals will miss Mike Moustakas who batted third quite frequently early last year. This is where you want your best hitter in the lineup
Mondesi could move into third in the lineup if he continues hitting like he ended the season. Finding someone else for the 2 slot might be hard, though. At least to start the season, Jorge Soler would be my choice followed by Ryan O’Hearn. Salvador Perez would be my choice for fifth in the lineup.
This is a top of the lineup that looks to be at least league average or better at scoring runs. Certainly better prospects for success over the lineup at the start of 2018. I would be very surprised if this group has a month and a half averaging two runs a night!
The bottom of the lineup is where the Royals will need to see the biggest production increases. Alex Gordon, Hunter Dozier, Billy Hamilton and whoever ends up in right field have to contribute runs.
For all of Billy Hamilton’s offensive faults, scoring runs is not one of them. When he does get on base, he makes effective use of it. Despite a OBP under .300 he has scored 159 of them in the last two years. With at least one reliable bat behind him, he will continue to score. Putting him ninth in front of Merrifield would be a natural choice.
What we get from Gordon, Dozier and “Fill In The Blank” will probably decide whether or not we will increase the amount of runs we score. Gordon hit fairly well for most of the year. He had more power and a better OBP late in the year. It’s just not at the level we saw from Gordon earlier in his career. A platoon with Soler or “FITB”, against tough lefties might also increase production from left field.
The big question is what to expect from Hunter Dozier and the mystery right fielder. Dozier will need to pick up where he left off. A batting line of .250/310/450 at a bare minimum. Much more if the Royals don’t start looking for alternatives. He will get a long look.
If it doesn’t work out for him, it may be the opening Nicky Lopez has been waiting for. The Royals could bring Lopez up and move Mondesi or Merrifield to third. If Mondesi continues to hit, they could slide Lopez in between the two of them. Two players with high OBP’s at the top of the order sounds like a nice idea.
Another way he could find a roster spot is if all three right field prospects fail to hold the job. The Royals could move Merrifield to right and let Lopez take his spot at second. Either way we will need offensive production from Right Field.
I do expect one of Brian Goodman, Brett Phillips or Jorge Bonifacio to step up. A return to Bonifacio’s .255/.320/432 from 2017 or better would help him win the job. Goodwin hit .251/.313/.498 with the Washington Nationals also in 2017. Goodwin is a better fielder and is my bet to open the season on the big league roster.
So how does all this lead to more runs? As a complete lineup, this team has better potential to get on base and be driven in. Gone are Abraham Almonte, Lucas Duda, Ryan Goings, Alcides Escobar and Paulo Orlando who all played big roles during the early losing streaks. Their replacements are hungry and will be competing hard for their jobs and careers.
One last reason I think the offense will improve is management. Dayton Moore and Ned Yost seem committed to winning again. Gore is here to score. They want more contact and fewer strikeouts when runners are in scoring position. Keep the line moving. Do what you have to in order to win games. I think the Kansas City Royals are going to be an exciting team to watch offensively. Teams facing the Royals will have to be on their toes at all times. I can’t wait!