A Look at the 2020 Kansas City Royals w/ Projected Roster

Today is July 23rd. In other years, we would be past the halfway point in the season. However, the year is 2020 and we have the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, so that means that today is Opening Day. The 2020 MLB season will be the shortest since 1878 with just 60 games being played. A 60-game season means increased unpredictability, and if you want the Royals to begin playing good baseball this season, that is great news.

Even if the season were just normal, the 2020 Royals would still have some fun aspects to watch. They have the reigning AL home run king Jorge Soler, the reigning back-to-back MLB hits leader Whit Merrifield, the odds-on-favorite (+200 on Bovada) for MLB stolen bases leader Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier coming off a 125 OPS+ season and highly-rated young talents such as Bobby Witt Jr., Brady Singer and Brad Keller.

Jorge Soler is coming off an unbelievable breakout season, where he hit 48 home runs when just one other Royal even broke 20. As a result, Soler also led the Royals in OPS+ (138), RBI (117), wRC+ (136), ISO (.304) and fWAR (3.6). Despite this unbelievable 2019 season, Soler enters his age-28 season without an All-Star appearance, despite the fact he had 23 of those home runs by the All-Star break. Unfortunately, that won’t change this season, as the MLB announced on July 3rd that there will be no 2020 MLB All-Star Game. All-Star nomination or not, let’s just hope Soler continues to rake this season.

Whit Merrifield continues his impressive streak, as he had his second consecutive season as the AL hits leader with 192 hits in 2018 and 206 hits in 2019. Merrifield also had career highs in K% (17.1%), Slugging (.463), runs (105) and Hard Hit % (38.4%). This helped get Merrifield his first career All-Star nomination, being the lone Royal to make it. Interestingly, Merrifield became less aggressive in the steals department last year, as he went from leading the MLB in stolen bases in 2018 (45) to no where near that in 2019 (20). As he dives deeper into his 30’s, that should be more appropriate for the remainder of Merrifield’s career.

Speaking of stolen bases, Adalberto Mondesi is the favorite in Vegas to be the stolen bases leader in 2020 after he had 43 stolen bases in 2019, more than double Merrifield for the team lead. Mondesi is more than just stolen bases though, as he led the Royals in BABIP (.357) and was the only Royal with a 1+ oWAR (1.5) and 1+ dWAR (1.4) on Baseball Reference. While there is some concern that his BABIP could be dumb luck that could change course soon, he also had a .335 BABIP in 2018, his only other season with 150+ plate appearances, so this could also be a sign for long-term success for Mondesi.

Hunter Dozier had to be the biggest surprise of the 2019 season. He went from a -0.8 fWAR in 2018 to a 3.0 fWAR in 2019, which finished second on the Royals behind Soler. He also finished second on the Royals in ISO (.243), home runs (26), wRC+ (124), Slugging (.522), OPS+ (125) and RBIs (84). With Dozier turning 29 in August, it looks like these years will be when Dozier is at his most productive, and hopefully, it doesn’t go to waste.

As exciting as all of these players are, the one who excites me the most would have to be Bobby Witt Jr. The second overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Witt has been the top storyline on the Royals in the leadup to the start of the season, receiving public praise from first-year manager Mike Matheny and Opening Day starting pitcher Danny Duffy. Witt just turned 20 in June and is already ranked as the Royals’ top prospect and the 10th best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. With no minor league season and the unbelievable praise from Matheny and Duffy, I see no reason to not give Witt a prime role on the team in 2020. In the intrasquad games, Witt has been playing at 3rd base, rather than his natural shortstop position controlled by Mondesi, and that may be the best way to go about it. Unfortunately, due to his age (and only his age), I don’t think he will make the roster. I hope I am wrong, as I believe Witt would be one of our best players on day one, but that’s just how it is.

Moving from the younger guys, let’s give an older guy some attention: Alex Gordon. 2019 seemed to show a rejuvenated Gordon in some ways, as he was the best on the Royals in both BB% (8.1%) and K% (15.8%) and he had his best wRC+ (96), wOBA (.319) and OPS+ (96) since the 2015 title team. Gordon also won his seventh Gold Glove, making him one of 19 outfielders in the history of the Gold Glove award to win it seven or more times. With Gordon now hitting age-36, his time is ticking, but if he can repeat his 2019 season, he can still be involved in one more run.

Salvador Perez will make his return to the Royals after missing the entire 2019 season from a freak accident last February that tore a ligament in his right elbow and forced him to have Tommy John Surgery. Perez had another scare heading into this season after the Royals announced on July 4th that Perez had tested positive for COVID-19, but he is now reportedly good to go and has been playing in the team’s inter-squad games before the season begins. With six All-Star appearances, five Gold Glove awards, two Silver Slugger awards and a 2015 World Series MVP in his trophy case, it will be nice to see Perez back on the field and hopefully adding to that trophy case. With a Gold Glove in 2020, Perez would become the sixth catcher ever to win six Gold Glove awards, joining Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Bench, Yadier Molina and two former Royals, Bob Boone and Jim Sundberg.

The rotation will still be one of the weaker parts of the team, with Danny Duffy starting on Opening Day and other likely starters being Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Mike Montgomery and, my main focus, 2018 first-round pick Brady Singer. If Singer is as good as advertised and Keller, who is still only 24, takes that next step forward, the group could be fun to watch, but until we see that happen, you might have to just wait for the top prospects (Jackson Kowar, Asa Lacy, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic) in a year or two.

Projected 26-Man Roster

Pitchers

  • Scott Barlow
  • Danny Duffy
  • Greg Holland
  • Jakob Junis
  • Brad Keller
  • Ian Kennedy
  • Jorge Lopez
  • Kevin McCarthy
  • Mike Montgomery
  • Trevor Rosenthal
  • Brady Singer
  • Josh Staumont
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Stephen Woods Jr.

Catchers

  • Cam Gallagher
  • Salvador Perez

Infielders

  • Maikel Franco
  • Nicky Lopez
  • Ryan McBroom
  • Adalberto Mondesi
  • Ryan McBroom

Outfielders

  • Franchy Cordero
  • Bubba Starling
  • Alex Gordon
  • Whit Merrifield
  • Jorge Soler

Record Prediction: 28-32

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