Baseball is a game of change and transition. Gone are the days when you could pencil in similar lineups for the KC Royals or your other favorite teams from year-to-year.
Such is the case with this season’s Royals. Through free agency, releases, retirements and trades, many players who appeared with the 2021 Royals are no longer with the club, including recently-traded first baseman Carlos Santana.
Some are with other major league clubs; some are in the minor leagues with other organizations.
Wade Davis retired. Greg Holland signed with the Rangers, but they let him go in April. Ervin Santana became a free agent after last season and doesn’t appear to be pitching anywhere in affiliated ball.
A recent Kings of Kauffman look at former KC players working for other big league clubs this year included two who were with Kansas City last season. Let’s look at three more.
A former KC Royals hurler had success in San Francisco before an injury.
After 10 years in the Kansas City organization and parts of five seasons in the majors, righthander Jakob Junis became a free agent and left after last season. Although he won nine games in each of his first three KC seasons, Junis went winless and had a 6.39 ERA in eight appearances in 2020, and was just 2-4, 5.26 in 2021.
Junis signed with San Francisco in March and debuted with his new club in April. He appeared in two relief outings covering 10 scoreless innings, striking out 10 and walking only one.
That boosted Junis into the Giants’ rotation where, in seven starts, he allowed two runs or less six times. He’s 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA and has a 4.0 SO/W. After leaving his June 11 start, Junis landed on the Injured List with a hamstring injury, and remains there at this writing. But the change of scenery has produced positive results for the veteran pitcher.
Change helped KC Royals DH Jorge Soler in 2021, but 2022 hasn’t been as kind.
When Kansas City traded designated hitter Jorge Soler to Atlanta at the trade deadline in 2021, he had a .192 average and 13 home runs.
But change seemed to do him immediate good as he returned to his power hitting past—he clubbed 14 homers and hit .269 to help the Braves to the World Series, where they captured the title and he won the Series MVP award.
After signing a free agent deal with the Marlins in the offseason, Soler has regressed somewhat. Through Sunday’s games, he’s hitting .217 with 13 home runs and 82 strikeouts in 289 plate appearances. Soler has appeared more in the outfield than in the past and has no errors; his -1 DRS is his best for any season in which he’s played more than 10 games in the outfield since he posted a 0 DRS as a rookie in 2014.
Another of the 2021 KC Royals who left the club is playing in the minors.
At least one of the 2021 Royals no longer with the organization is in the minor leagues.
Kansas City sold Kelvin Gutierrez to Baltimore last July and, in 47 games with the Orioles after the move, he hit .248 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBIs.
Gutierrez began 2022 with the O’s and started at third Opening Day. Four strikeouts and a walk in his first seven plate appearances were part of an 0-for-6 start to Gutierrez’s season, and he got his first two hits of the season, scored a run and drove in two April 17 against the Yankees.
But between his two-run double in the eighth inning of that game and an RBI single in the second inning April 28, Gutierrez went 0-for-12. And while he’s 4-for-10 with a double and three RBIs against the Yankees this season, his 0-for-18 against the rest of the league resulted in his demotion to Triple-A.
Sometimes a change of scenery helps a player and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s precisely the case with some former Royals this year.