It’s hard to believe, but the KC Royals are about to put their 52nd season in the books. Including Friday night’s game against Detroit, Kansas City has just 10 games left to play before players scatter for the winter and J.J. Picollo embarks on his first offseason as general manager.
Little will happen, of course, until the World Series ends and the free agent season begins. Complicating any roster tinkering Picollo has in mind will be the uncertain state of labor negotiations, which could result in changes to the way clubs compensate players, the luxury tax system, and possibly even arbitration and free agency.
But before the Royals make any offseason news, they have to play those final 10 games. And although any chances of making the playoffs vanished long ago, compelling reasons remain to pay close attention to what the club does between now and next weekend’s conclusion to the season.
Will Andrew Benintendi, for example, stay hot? He’s been extraordinary this month, slashing .370/.404/.605 with 23 RBIs in 21 games.
Can rookie pitcher Jackson Kowar, the organization’s fifth best prospect per MLB Pipeline, give the Royals reason to believe he should start 2022 in Kansas City? He’s struggled in almost every one of his seven appearances (0-4, 11.45 ERA); because he’s not projected to start in the Detroit series, he may pitch only once more this year, and could benefit from a good final performance.
And will Kyle Isbel, who’s been getting a look in the outfield, make enough of an impression to figure into the Royals’ early plans for next season?
Let’s take a look at three other things to keep an eye on down the final stretch.
Will the fourth place KC Royals be able to avoid the AL Central cellar?
Going into Friday’s game at Comerica Park, Kansas City is 69-83 and will be alone in fourth place in the American League Central. While 70 wins is all but a certainty, staying out of last place isn’t.
Last place Minnesota was only two games behind the Royals entering tonight’s play. But the Twins schedule doesn’t bode well for escaping the cellar—counting tonight, they have four games left with the Blue Jays, who are almost 20 games above .500 and in the thick of the Wild Card race, then play the surprising Tigers three times before finishing up in Kansas City with three head-to-head games with the Royals, against whom they’re 7-9.
The Royals have three with Detroit, a makeup game Monday in Cleveland, then three at home with both the Indians and Minnesota. Cleveland is the toughest test—the Indians have beaten KC nine out of 12 times this year.
It will be close.