The 2021 KC Royals weren’t playoff caliber last season, but they did improve. Discounting the 2020 campaign, a measure rendered less than reliable by the pandemic, last year’s 74-88 record proved the team was better than the 100-plus loss 2018 and 2019 clubs.
Despite that improvement, the Royals won’t return to the World Series this season. They simply won’t be good enough. But they should flirt with .500, a mark they haven’t achieved since 2016.
What will it take? Better pitching (especially from the starters), more timely hitting, good health, lineup stability (a regular, reliable right fielder, anyone?) and sidestepping the bad that can befall any team at any time.
Let’s take a closer look at four things Kansas City must avoid.
The KC Royals can’t afford the slew of injuries they had last season.
Adalberto Mondesi, Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Richard Lovelady, Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, Danny Duffy, Ronald Bolaños and Emmanuel Rivera have one unfortunate thing in common—injuries forced them all out of the lineup for long periods last season, something the Royals can’t have in 2022 if they want to win more.
Most infamous of those injuries were, of course, the oblique and hamstring issues that robbed Mondesi of most of his season. Keller’s lat strain caused the Royals to shut him down in August. Lovelady went down with a UCL sprain the same month, had Tommy John Surgery, and will likely miss all of 2022. Shoulder fatigue dogged Singer from late July on. Duffy spent time on the IL with two flexor strains before the club traded him in July. A forearm strain kept Bolaños out of the majors for most of the campaign.
Rivera missed several weeks with a hamate fracture. And Carlos Santana’s hip problem nagged him throughout the second half.
Kansas City’s hopes for a much-improved 2022 won’t survive such a string of key player injuries.