A year ago, 14 games into a new season, energy and enthusiasm surrounded the KC Royals. Their 9-5 record, a surprise considering the club’s reputation for slow April starts, was good for a 1.5 game lead in the American League Central. Everyone knew first place wouldn’t be where the club would end the season, but winning was a welcome development for a team saddled by two 100-plus loss seasons in its last three campaigns
Unfortunately, things are different now. The Royals’ record and place in the standings are reversed—at 5-9, they have last place in the division all to themselves. A dismal offense and shaky starting pitching explain the five-game losing streak that began four contests into the season and the club’s current four-game skid.
Manager Mike Matheny, a skipper not prone to employ different lineups, changed his up three times in Seattle over the weekend, but to no avail—the Mariners swept his Royals, leaving fans to wonder what batting order they might see tonight when the club begins a trio of games against the White Sox in Chicago.
So, other than the City Connect uniforms they unveiled Monday, is there anything to get excited about when it comes to these Royals?
Zack Greinke hasn’t won a game yet for the KC Royals, but he definitely will.
The mid-March signing of former Royal and 219-game winner Zack Greinke ignited new optimism about Kansas City and helped rid fans’ mouths of at least some of the lockout’s bad taste.
Greinke, though, is winless in three starts, but blame for that rests more on the team’s bats than it does on Greinke’s arm. The Royals scored three runs in his Opening Day start, two in his second outing, and none in his last.
Greinke has done his part and what the club signed him to do. Although he’s 0-1, he boasts an excellent 2.25 ERA, has walked only three batters in 16 innings, and hasn’t given up a home run.
The probable future Hall of Famer will be fine. He’ll win his share of games before the season ends.
There’s much to look forward to when it comes to Zack Greinke.
The KC Royals’ relief corps has been a joy to watch so far this season.
The bright spot of Kansas City’s 2022 campaign has been the bullpen. Only a surprising collapse Saturday night in Seattle significantly blemishes its record; otherwise, the present collection of relievers has been superb.
The back end is especially impressive. Scott Barlow is his usually reliable self (1-0, 1.13 ERA and a save), Josh Staumont leads the team with nine appearances and, other than a subpar April 11 appearance against Cleveland when he allowed two runs in less than an inning, has allowed opponents to score just once, and that was the lone run he was charged with in Saturday’s bullpen debacle.
Then there’s rookie Collin Snider, who’s won twice, carries an eight-game 1.35 ERA into tonight’s game with the White Sox, and is establishing himself as a valuable reliever for high-leverage moments.
Snider is well worth watching as the season progresses.
Just wait—Bobby Witt Jr. should soon start hitting for the KC Royals.
MLB Pipeline still lists him as Kansas City’s No. 1 prospect, but look for that source to soon drop Bobby Witt Jr. from its prospect rankings.
And although is disappointing .185 average sits below the Mendoza Line, disappearing from the prospect ratings won’t be because he can’t cut it in the majors. Instead, improved performance will do it.
As Kings of Kauffman’s Preston Farr explained so well earlier today, there’s no reason to worry about Witt. He’ll start hitting, and when he does fans will struggle to keep their eyes off him.
Despite their early struggles, two KC Royals prospects are on the way.
After taking Monday off, the Omaha Storm Chasers, Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate, open a home series with Toledo today. Featured, as they have been since their promotions to Omaha from Double-A Northwest Arkansas last summer, will be MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto, both of whom had resurgent seasons in 2021 and left Kansas City fans clamoring for the Royals to bring them to Kauffman Stadium.
Melendez and Pratto are close on Witt’s heels in MLB Pipeline’s KC prospect rankings: Melendez is second, Pratto third, which is alone cause for excitement.
Unfortunately, both are mired in surprising early slumps. Entering today’s game, Melendez has two home runs and is hitting .164 and slugging .311; while Pratto has three homers and 13 RBIs in 16 games, he’s hitting only .222 and has an alarming 24 strikeouts in 71 plate appearances.
Don’t expect those concerning numbers to last for either player, both of whom should soon snap out of their slumps. Look for them to make it to Kansas City sometime this year—the Royals are bound to move incumbent first baseman Carlos Santana, which will open the position to Pratto if he’s hitting, and the club will try hard to find Melendez, a superb catcher caught behind Salvador Perez, somewhere to play.
And the prospect of Pratto and Melendez arriving is something to get excited about. (Fans can also look forward to Vinnie Pasquantino getting a shot, but he’s likely to follow Pratto and Melendez, not precede them).
It’s early, so there are still things for Kansas City fans to get excited about.