KC Royals: 3 players who must not fail this season

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KC Royals, Brad Keller

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

The KC Royals can’t afford three critical players having poor seasons.

The KC Royals lost 104 games in 2018, 103 in 2019, and were on pace to lose 92 if they’d played a full schedule last year. Now, an aggressive winter puts the club on the path of more improvement; signing Mike Minor, Carlos Santana, Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Benintendi, and bringing back Greg Holland, make a run at .500 realistic. And if Wade Davis and Ervin Santana recapture the past, and a few other things fall into place, the 2021 Royals might even tease contention.

While the team’s ultimate success this season depends on the entire roster doing well, three players are especially critical and can’t have bad seasons if Kansas City plans on being better.

Starting pitcher Brad Keller, for one, is vital. He can’t afford to do in 2021 what he did in 2019, the season after he won the team’s Pitcher of the Year Award by posting a 9-6, 3.08 record in his first big league campaign. Keller was the star of the rotation, had by far its best ERA, ERA+ (140) and FIP (3.55), and tied Jakob Junis for most wins.

But his second season bore little resemblance to his first. He went 7-14, his ERA jumped to 4.19, and arm fatigue sidelined him for the campaign’s final month.

Keller reclaimed staff ace status last season with a fine 5-3, 2.47 effort in nine starts that again brought him Pitcher of the Year honors. It’s that kind of pitching he must deliver in 2021, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding Danny Duffy in the last year of his contract, and the big questions of whether Brady Singer and Kris Bubic will fare well in their sophomore campaigns and Mike Minor will meet expectations.

Keller is the rotation’s undisputed leader. The Royals can’t afford a repeat of his disappointing 2019.

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