With the off season comes the hope of a new season. A chance to not be insignificant when you look at the AL Central standings in September of the next season. But the off season should also bring reflection. A realistic look at what was done well, okay, and what was trash.
You can go back and look at my 2019 Royal Resolutions article here. I’ll sum up my resolutions and evaluate the organization based on my New Year’s Resolutions.
- I asked the Royals to let the young guys play. We all know how that went at the beginning of the season so I won’t mention names like Duda, Owings, Hamilton… I’ll just stop there. I wasn’t going to mention those names anyway.
Specifically, I asked the Royals to let Mondesi and O’Hearn play without fear of the bench. Mondesi got that freedom but only managed 102 games, albeit the highest of his young career. Injuries slowed him down and we all hope he can continue to become a star and injuries don’t hold him back anymore. O’Hearn went to Omaha on June 13. They gave him some games early and he struggled. But not everyone is Juan Soto when they get called up. There is a learning curve almost all players go through.
Frank Schwindel did everything he was asked to make the team and 15 MLB at bats later he was a minor league free agent. Now, at the end of the year, after the cast off veteran experiments were over, the Royals did commit to playing young guys. Of course, guys like Brett Phillips got only 65 MLB at bats while Billy Hamilton ran around out there for months.
When you are a rebuilding team, you let the young guys play. The veteran castoffs didn’t do us any good except lose developmental time for the young guys.
I’m just done with this section.
- I asked the Royals to strikeout less and put the ball in play more. The Royals responded with a cool 95 more strikeouts in 2019 than they had in 2018. 1405 strikeouts in 5496 ABs. More than 25% of at bats ended with a batter walking back to the dugout.
- Let the pitchers develop was my third request. The Royals did a great job with this on the minor league circuit. I don’t think anyone was rushed and there were times our readers and us were asking when someone is finally going to get promoted? I think the Royals did a great job on this.
A second part to this was letting the MLB bullpen develop and work things out. I don’t think that went as well. I mean, in September, Richard Lovelady was in Arizona at instructs rather than finding a spot on the expanded roster. Why wouldn’t you allow a future piece of the pen to get MLB experience and gain some valuable learning curve time?
We did get 2.1 innings from Alex Gordon this year.
- I hoped the Royals would keep the positional wave together. They did. They stuck with those guys even when they couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Maybe we need to adjust some approaches in the minors and hire some hitting coaches that get results.
- McWilliams and Ellis did not last on the roster. Christ Ellis got 1.0 MLB inning. 1.1 fewer than Alex Gordon got this year. McWilliams looked really good in AA for the Rays with a 2.05 ERA and less than a hit per inning in 87.2 of them but really struggled with the new baseball in AAA. But who didn’t? The Rule 5 was a dud. Perhaps this year’s will be better.
- I asked the Royals to spend all their international bonus money. They seemed to be very active signing a lot of guys. There were several big splashes including Erick Pena and his $3.8 million bonus. That left less than $2 million for everyone else so I’m fairly confident the team spent most of that money.
- I had hoped the Royals would keep Singer, Kowar, Lynch, and Bubic together. That didn’t happen but it ended up being okay. Lynch missed a lot of time due to injury and Bubic was awesome leading the minors in strikeouts. Singer and Kowar moved up to NWA and started to adjust well to the Texas League. As a NWA season ticket holder, I want those four to start the season together with Daniel Tillo at NWA this year.
- I was hoping the Royals would find their third baseman of the future this year. We still don’t know. But, Anthony Rendon is a free agent and has character traits the Royals like so….
- I listed some names from the 2018 team that were acquired from other teams as castoffs. I asked the Royals not to waste time on other peoples castoffs this season. It was better this year. We used Mejia, Lopez, Starling, Dini, Arteaga, etc to fill holes this year. Of course I’m talking about after we let Hamilton, Duda, Owings, and Peralta go.
- I hoped the Royals would compete in the minor league playoffs with at least four teams. They did that. Four teams won championships. Wilmington, Lexington, Idaho Falls, and the DSL Royals 1 all won their respective league. The Burlington Royals lost in the final game of the APPY championship giving up the lead in the 7th inning. Of all our teams, only Omaha, Northwest Arkansas, and the DSL Royals 2 were not in a playoff hunt.
As an organization, the Royals minors leagues went 443-450. A winning percentage under .500. However, four championships from nine of your teams is an impressive year. Burlington was less than 10 outs from winning a championship and only three teams were not in a playoff hunt. I would consider this minor league season a big success for the Royals that should provide a big future to build on.
All in all, the minor league season was a ringing success. The major league season was not.
The mid- and lower levels of the minor leagues produced four champions, a runner-up, an Arizona team that was 33-23, and a secondary DSL team that was the only non-competitive team. Things look really good at A and A+. There will be guys on the Rookie ball teams who don’t move to Lexington meaning they’ll repeat and keep talented players at the level. With a championship and runner-up at the rookie ball level, there is no reason not to believe we can’t compete at the level again.
The upper levels of the minor leagues were not a success. Omaha and NWA did not compete. Things should be different in the upcoming season at NWA because the Wilmington championship team moves one rung up the ladder. The Lexington talent moves to Wilmington and the Idaho Falls and Burlington talent mixes in a competition to make Lexington’s roster. Things should be improving at AA and AAA.
The Royals get Salvador Perez back this year and he will be the team leader. Around Salvy is Whit, Soler, Dozier, and Mondesi. I’ll say it again. This is a solid core group. One through five in the order are going to be tough to get out. The key is getting players around them that will make them better. I’m not concerned with the offense or defense going forward. But I am concerned with our pitching. Reinforcements are on the way for the rotation. There is still good reason to be optimistic for 2021. Eldred will probably be the MLB pitching coach for Matheny and that scares me. We did not see enough growth in our pitching last year.