2019 again brought loss for the KC Royals, but more bright spots for the future began to shine through and some players found their way to the front.
Welcome back to the KC Royals top players and pitchers of the decade. As a quick reminder, we are traveling our way through the past decade of Royals teams, and attempting to pick out the top position player and pitcher from each year.
We’ve finally made it to the 2019 season in this series of top players and pitchers from the past decade. 2019 was another year, much like 2018, that was hard to watch for many fans. The team improved by one win, holding their losses at 103. Improved might not be the best word, but moving on.
The interesting thing about this team was that there was some life that was finally seen again. The offensive production was not as bad as some may think. The issue was that no offense could keep up with the inconsistent pitching the Royals saw all year from their own rotation and bullpen. Either way, there were still some players and pitchers that stood out, and that deserve the mention for top player.
2019 was a decent year for many Royals position players. Alex Gordon finally got things figured out and turned his year around. His defense was on point as always but his offense showed positive stats for the first time in a few years.
Adalberto Mondesi also had a bit of a breakout. He, unfortunately, didn’t get to see the whole season, only playing in 102 games, but he was still able to slash .263/.291.424, and add 10 triples, 62 RBIs and swiped 43 bases.
Hunter Dozier is another player who finally had his breakthrough. Dozier managed 139 games with a short time out due to injury and slashed .279/.348/.522 with 10 triples and 26 home runs. He struggled at times defensively but has the athletic ability to improve, which he showed throughout the year.
Now comes the hard part. There are two top-level players from 2019 who did great things for the team and really showed their worth. The first player is Jorge Soler. Soler finally put together a full, injury-free, season playing in all 1662 games.
He struggled at the beginning of the season with strikeouts, but as the season progressed, he showed improved discipline. It obviously didn’t hold him back, though. Soler slashed .265/.354/.569 on the season, adding 117 RBIs, 95 runs and 48 home runs. He broke the Royals single-season home run record of 38 and was the American League Home Run King of 2019.
The other player in line for the top, is Whit Merrifield. Merrifield had another amazing year, solidifying his place in the future of the Royals and as a fan favorite. While Merrifield and Soler both had awesome years, Merrifield is the top player of 2019 for the following reason. He led all of the majors in games played (tied with Soler), at-bats, hits (back to back years) and triples (tied with Mondesi and Dozier). Whit also slashed .302/.348/.463 and added 16 home runs, 74 RBIs, and 105 runs.
What also gives Whit the edge is that Soler was typically the DH. Whit played all over the field. There was no telling where you might see Merrifield end up as the game progressed. His abilities as a super-utility player are perfect for a team like the Royals, allowing him to take the top spot for 2019.
Honorable Mentions: Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi
There isn’t much to say in the way of Royals pitchers for 2019. The starters were not great. Brad Keller held the best ERA at 4.19. There is some argument that he also ranked towards the bottom in run support when he was on the mound, suggesting it’s not entirely his fault.
Had Homer Bailey and Jake Diekman spent the entire season with the Royals, they may have been in the top spot runnings. Danny Duffy looked to be turning things around a bit too, but he continued to struggle with inconsistency.
Typically with the Royals, the bullpen is better. Unfortunately in 2019, it wasn’t. The bullpen did increase in effectiveness as the season progressed, but one issue was that there weren’t enough players to depend on to pitch every game. Still, some stand out.
Scott Barlow had a decent year. He held an ERA over 70.1 innings and had a nice strikeout per 9 rate at 11.8, but he struggled with walks as well, with a walks per 9 at 4.7.
Tim Hill was another reliever that should get some notice. He held a 3.63 over 39.2 innings. His innings aren’t as high as some, but Hill was primarily used in special circumstances. Hill held a decent 8.8 strikeouts per 9 and kept his walks per 9 at 2.9.
Taking the top spot for the Royals pitchers for 2019, though, is Ian Kennedy. Ian Kennedy entered 2019 with a lot of unknowns surrounding his future. He was unable to produce in a starting role, so he was moved to the bullpen. It turned out to be the right move.
Kennedy saw his strikouts per 9 jump to 10.4, his walks per 9 at 2.4, and held an ERA of 3.41 over 63.1 innings pitched. Kennedy also managed to record 30 saves, putting him in a very small class of pitchers who have a 20 win and 30 save season in their careers. Kennedy proved himself in his new role and provided some life and consistency when the Royals needed it. For these reasons, he takes the top spot.
Honorable Mentions: Tim Hill, Scott Barlow, Brad Keller
Thank you for following along as we traveled through the last decade of Royals baseball to find the top players from each year. Here’s to hoping the 100 loss seasons will be left behind as we go into a new decade and quickly approach the 2020 season.