KC Royals Midweek Musings: Bobby Witt Jr., catchers and more

With less than 10 days to go until Opening Day, this week’s KC Royals Midweek Musings covers the possible temptation to play a rising prospect, catchers, intrasquad and exhibition games, and more.

Some KC Royals Midweek Musings while coming to the realization that Opening Day is getting so much closer:

Playing Bobby Witt Jr. may be tempting.  Bobby Witt Jr., the top-ranked prospect in the KC Royals organization, is predictably drawing attention in Summer Camp. But even with his good performance in the fast-paced run-up to an abbreviated season ripe for taking chances and experimentation, there are no strong signs that the club intends to deviate from its protective approach to the youngster who may be the franchise player of the future.

Witt’s minuscule professional experience–37 Rookie League games and Summer Camp–is the culprit responsible for the Royals’ decision to move cautiously with his development.

Now, however, the recently-turned 20 Witt may be tempting Kansas City’s powers that be. He’s been good beyond his years and experience in camp, both at bat and in the field. His hitting’s been solid, his glove work special at times; he’s put in some good work at third base, which could make the Royals consider playing him a bit there if newcomer Maikel Franco falters.

The wiser approach, though, is to stay with the plan and work Witt out with the taxi squad to prepare him for a full minor league season next year.

But you never know…

Catchers.  The KC Royals’ catching situation, recently worrisome after the positive COVID-19 tests of Salvador Perez and Cam Gallagher and an injury to Meibrys Viloria, suddenly improved late Tuesday afternoon when the club announced Perez is back, then inserted him in that evening’s intrasquad game.

Perez, who looked good in spring training, singled up the middle in his first at-bat. He has almost 10 days to get ready for the July 24 opener in Cleveland.

There was still no definitive word on Viloria, who the club’s announcers said was in the park and in uniform during Monday’s intrasquad contest.

I recently expressed concerns about the signing of catcher Oscar Hernandez, a move I view in its best light as the acquisition of a Summer Camp and taxi squad backstop. But the club seems to be giving him a real look–he played adequately Monday evening, although he looked rough on a couple of balls in the dirt and on another couple gone awry, then was in the game again Tuesday evening. Neither appearance changed my opinion that he’s not a long-term solution, even as a big league backup, and the Royals have better 2020 options.

If Perez, Gallagher and Viloria aren’t ready by July 24, perhaps it’s time to give MJ Melendez or Sebastian Rivero a shot until they are. The nature of this season makes it one for making bold moves. (If the club isn’t up to bold, Nick Dini should get the nod).

Intrasquad telecasts bring welcome relief.  Monday and Tuesday nights’ intrasquad games, streamed courtesy of the Royals, featured none of the technical enhancements that render games easier to watch. Absent from the screen were the score, count, stats and other informational tidbits usually taken for granted but vital to viewing. But the stream was certainly better than nothing; it was good to see live baseball again.

Fly balls were a bit difficult to track, making reliance on the announcers more important than usual, but the rest of the action was easy to see and follow.

The center field camera was sharp and afforded good looks at pitch movement and location, which made reduced camera coverage and angles tolerable

Despite the minor shortcomings, it made for a couple of evenings of live baseball, time well-spent and a welcome respite from replays of classic (and not so classic) KC Royals games of the past.

Kudos to the Royals for providing the streams.

Exhibition games.  The Royals have taken full advantage of the exhibition game allowance MLB afforded all clubs. By scheduling three contests–a pair with Houston and one with St. Louis–the club used its three-game allotment.

The games are important not only because they give the Royals three opportunities to play someone besides themselves, but also for the valuable chances they provide to test pandemic-related protocols and restrictions at home and on the road. Kansas City hosts Houston in back-to-back games July 20 and 21, then heads to St. Louis for a July 22 tilt.

Escobar, Aoki and Brooks.  Three former Royals remain active in overseas baseball–Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki are playing in Japan with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, while Aaron Brooks is with the Korean Baseball Organization’s Kia Tigers.

Through Tuesday’s games, Aoki is hitting .299 with four home runs in 20 games and Escobar continues to struggle at .232 in 17 games.

Brooks improved to 4-3 with a win Saturday; in 12 starts, he has an excellent 2.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

Baseball-Reference simulated season.  As the season approaches, baseball-reference.com’s simulation of the 2020 campaign continues unabated, as do the virtual KC Royals’ losing ways. They did beat Cleveland Monday, but the victory came after five straight losses. At 35-62, the Royals are fourth in the American League Central, 27 games behind division-leading Cleveland.

The biggest team news since last week’s sim update was the Sunday release of outfielder Bubba Starling.

Whit Merrifield continues to lead the club with a .315 average, Ryan O’Hearn’s 15 home runs are a team best and he’s tied for the RBI lead at 45 with Jorge Soler, Adalberto Mondesi has 27 stolen bases, and Jorge Lopez is 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA.

The Yankees, A’s, Cardinals and Dodgers join Cleveland as division leaders while Atlanta and the Nationals are tied for the top spot in the NL East.

Baseball-Reference uses Out of the Park Baseball 21 for the sim; updates appear around noon each day.

That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with more KC Royals Midweek Musings. Until then, stay safe and healthy.