It's been too long since the KC Royals began a season with any hope of contending in the American League Central. Everyone expected them to make a third straight trip to the postseason in 2016 (they didn't), and some of that expectation carried over to 2017, but too many mistakes and bad decisions ended up robbing the club of another taste of the playoffs and triggered an ugly stretch of six straight losing seasons.
Unfortunately, the story will be the same when the Royals open spring training Feb. 15: contention for this club is aspirational, out of reach for 2023 and perhaps even 2024. This team is too young and too green, its pitching won't rise to postseason caliber this year, and there's work to be done at the plate.
But that doesn't mean this season, which gets underway March 30 at home against Minnesota, won't be interesting. General manager J.J. Picollo, making offseason moves for the first time without Dayton Moore, has signed several new pitchers and traded veterans Michael A, Taylor and Adalberto Mondesi for more. Well worth watching will be how those additions, and any other deals Picollo might complete before Opening Day, impact the club.
What Kansas City does this year is anybody's guess. Here, though, are three early predictions.
The KC Royals won't repeat their last place American League Central finish.
This prediction puts us out on the proverbial limb. The Royals lost 97 games and finished dead last in the Central for the first time since 2018 last season; they haven't enjoyed a winning campaign since 2015, and won't have one this year.
But they won't end up in the cellar again this year. No hard, scientific evidence supports this notion: call it a hunch, a feeling, even intuition. The Royals won't win the Central, of course, and Detroit, the club most likely to fight Kansas City for fourth place, is better on paper than the Royals. Somehow, though, KC will improve just enough to finish somewhere other than fifth.