There’s been a lot of talk of the next wave of talent both recently and in the past. Baseball America wrote a few articles about lessons learned from rebuilds and from the 2015 Royals specifically. I looked at multiple opinions of other people and I try to put some thought process into what needs to be done for the Royals to get back to the top of the baseball world.
A Strong Defense. This Royals regime has always believed in a strong core up the middle. It’s why we have so many great young catchers in the system. It’s why we sign so many shortstops on the international market. It’s why we draft speed and defense first guys in the outfield. If we can get a bunch of them, some will end up hitting like we need. Usually we find it’s easier for defensive guys to develop their bat than bat-first guys to develop their defense. Have you ever seen teams do something like put Rhys Hoskins or Adam Dunn in LF trying to develop their defense because there is literally no where they can play? I watched Padres prospect Josh Naylor trying to learn LF last year during pregame early in the season and then move to the outfield later in the year. The are trying to find a way to get his bat into the lineup because he can hit, but they don’t have a good position for him. Now it becomes a “where can I hide this guy and not get hurt?” type of situation.
The Royals are hoping some of their defensive players will turn into guys who can hit as well. We aren’t talking about guys who couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper sack, we’re talking about players who deserve the chance to attempt to develop their bats. That may be happening for some of their prospects. A guy like Nicky Lopez who had some good contact skills but was known as a defense first player coming out of Creighton has turned into a contact guy with decent on base skills. Some of these guys never quite come around which is the risk you are taking. Humberto Arteaga is an example. The guy can play SS well but in 3500 minor league at bats he has a .250/.285/.318 slash line.
Contact. The World Series champion Royals did a great job at utilizing their speed and not striking out. If you look at the 2018 World Series, the Red Sox won not just because they put the ball in play more than the Dodgers, but it was a big factor. The strikeout reliant Dodgers pitching staff didn’t get as many strikeouts as they typically did and that put them at a disadvantage as they wore down.
This is one area I do have some concern looking at the Royals top prospect list. The Royals have some young guys who strike out too much. Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, and Khalil Lee all struck out too much last season. Even guys like Brewer Hicklen and Blake Perkins have too many Ks. I think the Royals put an emphasis on contact during this off season for their minor league guys. The aforementioned Nicky Lopez has made a career of walking more than he has struck out. There is always risk and reward with the approach a hitter has with two strikes. Some guys don’t want to give up a chance at power when they make contact and the others give up power to have contact with two strikes. More contact usually results in more balls in play which in turn forces a defense to be better throughout the course of a game, series, and season. You can create for yourself an advantage over a period of time by putting more balls in play than your opponent.
Vision. To reach a goal as lofty as another World Series title, you have to have a plan. You don’t luck into that. And that plan must be multifaceted. I know Dayton Moore has a vision for the team and the rest of the front office believes and has bought into it because we’ve heard them talk about it in the past. We know they are working on it currently to make it better and find the right pieces to plug into place. It’s easy to follow a plan when you have that plan laid out.
There are people who believe the plan is wrong or short term, but I believe this is the same plan the Royals used when they built a World Championship team in 2015. If you go back and look and listen to interviews, they told us everything they were planning on doing to rebuild. Draft better, develop better, create a wave of prospects through the process, trust the process until completion, keep guys together to compete and win championships in the minors, emphasize speed, contact, and defense, and use prospects and money to fill in the missing pieces. Never forget that pitching is the currency of baseball. The 2018 Draft addressed that concern. It looks like we are right in the middle of the plan.
If we just trust, stay loyal, and continue to be fans, we will be rewarded soon.