The notion of the KC Royals making a run for the 2022 postseason is hard to accept. Not since winning the 2015 World Series have they made the playoffs; not counting the short 2020 season, the Royals came closest to postseason play in 2016 when a .500 record left them 13.5 games behind American League Central champ Cleveland. Since then, they’ve lost at least 100 games twice and are 297-411.
Does all that mean Kansas City can’t contend for at least a Wild Card in 2022?
Perhaps not. It’s a definite long shot, but reasons exist to think competing for a postseason spot might be a bit more than just pipedream stuff.
The KC Royals will have an intriguing, high-caliber defense next season.
Big league teams don’t win championships, and seldom reach the playoffs, without excellent defense. Glove work won’t be a problem for Kansas City in 2022.
The Royals should be especially good up the middle. Start behind the plate with Salvador Perez, whose pitch framing and Defensive Runs Saved metrics appear to be the only reasons he didn’t win his sixth Gold Glove last season.
Then there’s the solid Whit Merrifield-Nicky Lopez double play combo—assuming, that is, that Merrifield stays at second and Lopez at shortstop. Neither won Gold Gloves in 2021, but both should have: Lopez committed fewer errors than any other qualified AL shortstop and led them with a .998 fielding percentage (but inexplicably wasn’t a Gold Glove finalist), while Merrifield (who was a finalist) led AL second basemen in putouts, double plays and assists, and had the third best fielding percentage.
Gold Glove center fielder Michael A. Taylor caps the Royals’ middle defense. His 2.7 dWAR, 11 assists and three double plays paced AL center fielders and his .992 fielding percentage ranked third.
And the club’s good defense isn’t limited to the middle. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi won his first Gold Glove last year, and first baseman Carlos Santana holds his own at first.
The Royals, then, have the defensive foundation necessary to compete.