Do the KC Royals need more star power to win in 2024?

Is a lack of glamour going to cost the team or will flexibility create depth?
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 season was disappointing for the KC Royals. Beyond just a losing season, the team finished with the second-worst record in the majors at 56-106. And while their offseason acquisitions have provided a renewed sense of belief, the club added primarily stabilizing veterans instead of exclusively big household names. Assuming these new additions won't be of MVP caliber, how will the Royals compete in 2024?

KC Royals hitters aren't all flashy, but they can still be good

The Royals brought in several fascinating players this winter, but the most enduring decision was extending Bobby Witt Jr.'s contract. He's the primary attraction after hitting 30 home runs and stealing 49 bases last season.

But beyond Witt, the Royals lacked the firepower on offense that the best teams often feature: Salvador Perez with 23 home runs was the only other Royal to reach 20 on the season as Kansas City finished tied with Colorado for the the majors' fourth-lowest home run total.

This season, however, should bring more power from more Royals. While MJ Melendez (16 homers last year), Michael Massey (15), and Nelson Velázquez (14), can all hit balls over the fence, in 2024 the most significant sources of slug might be Hunter Renfroe and a healthy Vinnie Pasquantino, but a team that was near the bottom of the big leagues last year could substantially improve its offense if more hitters end up with more than 15 home runs.

There will be some challenging moments during the requisite struggle for more power, especially among younger players. Among the nine Royals with the most 2023 plate appearances, seven had a wRC+ below 100; it's painstakingly difficult to win games that way, and six of those seven are age 26 or younger.

One other essential offensive factor is the Royals' collective ability to take an extra 90 feet on the bases. They ranked third in the majors last season in steals, with much of that key thievery coming from Dairon Blanco (24 stolen bases) and Drew Waters (16), both of whom played less than 100 games. Kansas City needs that kind of meaningful impact from their role players.

What about the Royals' pitching?

Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo might have some of the most influence on the outcome of this season, but they aren't exactly hurling 99 mph heaters like some of the game's biggest stars. It's more about competency, stability, and keeping the team competitive. Last year the team's innings pitched leaders were Jordan Lyles, Brady Singer, Zack Greinke, and Alec Marsh, but they all had ERAs over 5.00.

The acquisitions of Wacha and Lugo might not be as meaningful on a 100-win team, but their addition leaves Kansas City with a much more viable outlook entering the new season, some new bullpen reinforcements should provide some late-game confidence, to close out games. And as a bonus, Wacha and Lugo are entertaining to watch even without otherworldly strikeout numbers.

How about Kansas City's versatility?

The progress of younger Royals, along with several competent veterans, will be paramount in helping the team thrive. A prominent theme of Kings of Kauffman's recent roster projections is defensive versatility; will the Royals be able to craft opportunities and advantages this year with that flexibility? There's enough intriguing talent already at the major league level, along with prospects like Nick Loftin and Tyler Gentry, that the team could assemble an entire lineup of solid, promising options.

These Royals have the chance to be exciting

Kansas City is still a few steps away from becoming a playoff staple, but the 2024 season will offer a view of what it takes to compete without a star-heavy roster, and finally give the Royals the chance to break out of an era that left the team flirting with the worst record in baseball. They might not have many All-Stars, but with just a few foundational pieces and improving depth, the Royals could have an incredibly entertaining and exciting season.

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