KC Royals: Defensive struggles are concerning, but give it time

KC Royals, Whit Merrifield (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals, Whit Merrifield (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals defense has struggled more than usual, but they may just need time to adapt.

It’s always concerning to see a team struggle, especially after a good start to the season. For the KC Royals, while pitching issues have been a big headline so far, the bigger issue for many may be what seems to be a struggling defense.

If there is one thing in Kansas City that has always been at the forefront, it’s defense. After last night’s contest against the Rays, the defensive woes may be even more apparent.

"“Seems like the miscues are really hurting right now,” Matheny said. “But we’re going to have them, and we have to overcome them from the pitching side or defensively, we’ve got to make up for it somehow. And just like we know when mistakes are made on the mound, we’re going to have defenders who are going to pick us up there as well. There were a lot of things that just kind of snowballed. … And then the miscues seemed to add just too much momentum to come back from.” mlb.com"

Things may seem even worse since not only the team all around the field seems a bit out of place, but the team leader Whit Merrifield has seen his own defensive issues, something that is not as common with the typically perfect utility man.

Now as a team, they are sitting at 13 errors and a .977 fielding percentage after 16 games. Things may look a bit dreary now, but there is plenty of time for things to get better.

In 2020, some may remember the Royals started the season in a similar fashion, with defensive woes. In the first 13 games, they racked up 16 errors, including one game with 4. But, by the end of the season, they had leveled things out, limited their errors, and pulled their fielding percentage up to .985, the same as it was in 2015.

One thing that must be remembered about the Royals of 2021 is that in a way, almost every position is in a (somewhat) “new” state this year.

On a normal day, the outfield could be covered by three new players, one in his first major league season and two new to the organization. Hunter Dozier, while spending time in the outfield as well, has moved back to third, a position he must work into again. Carlos Santana is a new face at first. Nicky Lopez was thrown into a full-time role at shortstop, and after years of moving around and some consistency in the outfield, Whit Merrifield is back at second full time.

Other than Salvador Perez, some of the Royals are not only having to learn to adapt to new/old roles, but they are all still learning to play together.

At any given time, the outfield and both first and third base could be covered by players new to the organization, or new to the majors. While they have all had time to get to know one another and work things out in spring training, it’s obvious that this is a team still learning each other’s play style.

Of course, the argument could be made that these are major league players and they should know what they are doing. That’s not incorrect. But the Royals have a bit of a perfect storm with each position seeing a new face or a player moving to/back to that position full time.

Things are shaky now but give the Royals time. Defense is important in Kansas City and it is likely on the player’s minds more now than ever. Adjustments will be made and the defense will tighten up, it’s just going to take a little longer.

Kansas City will see the Rays one more time tonight and then will have a break before heading to Detroit. With an off-day on Thursday, the Royals will have time to put the past couple of games behind them and start fresh against an AL Central Rival.

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The Royals defense is suffering right now, but they just need some time to come together. A poor defensive start is concerning, but things can turn around quickly.