KC Royals: Big questions loom as season set to start

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals, Carlos Santana
(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals’ infield has a new look this season. It could be a good one.

Not since Eric Hosmer played his last game for Kansas City in 2017 have the Royals been truly comfortable at first base. They tried Lucas Duda (twice), Ryan O’Hearn, and Ryan McBroom before moving Hunter Dozier there late last season. It looked like he might be the answer, but KC went in another direction in the offseason.

And that direction may finally be the right one. The club signed former Cleveland star Carlos Santana, a power-hitting switch hitter, and he’ll be at first when the Royals open Thursday. Don’t let his career .248 average worry you—he has a .366 OBP and 240 home to his credit. Will he be the same All-Star Santana who hit .281 with 34 homers and 93 RBIs in 2019? If he is, KC will have found its answer to Hosmer.

How long will Whit Merrifield be the KC Royals’ second baseman?

Nothing is set in stone, but it looks like Whit Merrifield is in for a long stay at second base. Nicky Lopez lost the job when he failed to show any improvement at the plate this spring—his excellent glove finally wasn’t enough to overcome his soft bat. So Merrifield is, for now, the second base solution, and will continue to be unless Lopez cures his hitting ills in the minors, a turnaround that isn’t likely to occur any time soon.

Will Adalberto Mondesi continue to hit like the All-Star he might become?

Was it really that long ago Adalberto Mondesi, the potential-packed KC Royals’ shortstop, looked so horribly lost at the plate? He entered last September homerless for 2020 and “hitting” .186, but turned baseball upside down with a sizzling six-homer, .356/.408/.667, 1.075 OPS final month that reminded everyone what he’s capable of. Mondesi cooled off this spring, but not by much, slashing .303/.343/.606 (.949 OPS). He’s looking good and not showing signs of dipping below Mendoza again. He needs to maintain the good hitting.

Related Story. Mondesi needs a full, healthy season. light

Can KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez avoid the mega-contract curse?

All eyes will be on Salvador Perez this season. Can he repeat his wonderful comeback campaign of a year ago when, after missing all of the 2019 campaign, and despite a positive COVID-19 test and vision issues, he exploded with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 37 games, and a .333/.353/.633 line?

And the Royals’ All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger-winning backstop will be scrutinized for yet another reason—the four-year, $82 million extension he recently signed that kicks in next year. It’s the biggest deal in franchise history, exceeding the similar, but less lucrative, contracts Alex Gordon (four years, $72 million) and Danny Duffy (five years, $65 million) signed but never quite lived up to. Now, the question becomes whether the same fate will befall Perez. It’s not likely.