Well, that was a hell of a Minor League Baseball season we all just witnessed. We also got a full Major League Baseball season again and, even though the Royals were back to being the Royals, it was still nice to get a full 162 in this summer. Now that the Royals have wrapped up both their big league and minor league seasons, we can get on to Kansas City’s favorite time of year in the Patrick Mahomes Era: football season.
Before we totally turn you loose this fall to completely forget about the Royals until JJ Picollo and company inevitably make some objectively neutral move that they try to sell us on as the move that’s going to take them to the promised land, I wanted to run down a few quick thoughts with you about the Royals season. This will be about both the big league club and minor league clubs. As always, these are just the opinions of me and me only, and I would like to thank you all very much for reading!
Thoughts on the 2021 Season and 2021 Offseason
- Cal Eldred needs to go. In any walk of life, if you aren’t actively working as part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. I don’t know how you can argue that Cal Eldred was a working part of the solution for this group of young pitchers this season. Brad Keller was awful for the first half of the year. Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar were shells of themselves. Carlos Hernandez looked pretty good but a guy with stuff that big should be striking out way more than 6.19 batters per 9 IP. I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever heard anyone say anything good about Cal Eldred the pitching coach. He sounds like a great guy, and that’s honestly important, but the Royals have invested way too much draft capital in these young arms to leave them in the hands of a good guy. They need a good pitching coach, and I just don’t know how you can make a case that Cal Eldred is a good pitching coach.
- Ryan O’Hearn needs to go with him. You have actual first base prospects now! Good ones! It’s time to see what they can bring to the table. God bless the Royals for how they treat their players. Truly. It’s honorable at worst. But this is a production business and you haven’t gotten any kind of production out of Ryan O’Hearn in three seasons. Let him go try to find some success with someone else. Or move the fence in RF in about 10 feet. It’s time to stop giving objectively bad hitters everyday PA.
- How about Nicky Lopez, eh? Talk about a guy that got his chance and ran with it. Nicky absolutely refused to swing at non-strikes for the first month and a half of the season, and then rode his ++ hit tool to a .300 batting average and .365 OBP in what is far and away his best big league season to date. I’m a little worried about a couple things with Lopez as it relates to 2022. One, he walked in just 7.4% of his PA from May 14th on. Two, he had a .363 BABIP in that time that make it highly unlikely he can repeat this level of success *in the same way* next season. Maybe his BB% goes back up next year if his BABIP comes down to earth. I think Nicky is capable of managing an OBP around .350 in some capacity. I just worry that the Royals will count on him to be the same player and I don’t know if that’s fair to expect of Nicky. That’s really important because…
- This team lacks any kind of meaningful bat in their lineup outside of Salvador Perez. Andrew Benintendi, Nicky Lopez, Kyle Isbel, and Whit Merrifield are all serviceable. They all do a few things that make them valuable in a big league lineup and they can all start in a lineup that makes the playoffs. But you cannot plan on them hitting one, two, and three/four in a lineup that you want to contend for a playoff spot. Bobby Witt Jr. and company are coming in hot, and I think that trio we saw at Omaha to end the season, along with guys like Vinnie Pasquantino, are going to make a significant impact in this lineup very quickly. I just don’t think it’s fair to expect three or four rookies to be the difference in your team winning 74 and 84 games in 2022. Go out and get a veteran slugger this offseason. Go find a guy that you can pencil into your three-hole in the lineup for the next couple of seasons to take pressure off of your rookie hitters. You find that guy and this lineup could be REAL formidable REAL quick in 2022.
- Salvador Perez is going to give Cooperstown a real run here, isn’t he? He’s going to have to keep catching, and MJ Melendez looking like he’s big league ready could make that difficult, but Salvy is now just 100 HR away from hitting 300 as a catcher, which has only been done by seven catchers in MLB history. Six of those seven are Hall of Famers. If Salvy hits HR #300 by the end of the 2024 season, and also gets to 1500 total hits (he’s currently at 1161), with all of the awards he’s picked up along the way, he’s going to at least have folks thinking about his Hall of Fame conversation. Having an everyday catcher lead Major League Baseball in HR for a season is incredible. Given Salvy’s track record as a person, the Gold Gloves, the All-Star Games, the HR Derby appearance, the big moments, etc., he’s going down as the 2nd greatest Royal of all time in my book.
- The Royals roster crunch for this offseason has made headlines all over, and I even wrote about it here at RFR a while back. You can check that out here. The Royals already added Jon Heasley and Dylan Coleman to the 40-man roster, so they’re down to just three “locks” in Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, and Jonathan Bowlan. Josh Dye, Austin Cox, Maikel Garcia, and Yefri Del Rosario will also need strong consideration and the Royals 40-man roster doesn’t currently have room for all of those guys. Will there be a trade? A surprise cut? We’ll see. Should make for an interesting offseason.
- Please don’t judge Jackson Kowar based on what we saw in the big leagues in 2021. Kowar had one of the best seasons by a 24-year old starting pitcher at AAA that we’ve seen in a while for Omaha this season. He really looked like he’d turned a corner with his fastball, and I actually kind of like the new slider he’s throwing. He still struck out 8.6 batters per 9 IP at the big league level in 2021, more than Carlos Hernandez and Daniel Lynch, he just totally lost command of, well, everything. He looked NOTHING like what we saw in Omaha. I don’t know what Cal Eldred and company did to him, but that wasn’t Jackson Kowar we saw on the mound. Hopefully he takes the offseason to reset himself and come back strong in 2022, but you definitely shouldn’t be giving up on him after just 30 big league innings.
You’ll see more of our thoughts coming out on the website, Twitter, and the RFR Podcast soon enough. Just wanted to get some of these out there before the offseason gets under way. I was going to recap some of my preseason predictions but must of those were so bad they aren’t worth recapping. The only ones I really hit on were Michael A. Taylor’s renaissance and extension, and the number of wins the team had (said 73-75). So, instead, here are my postseason predictions:
- AL Wild Card: Red Sox
- NL Wild Card: Dodgers
- ALDS: Rays and White Sox
- NLDS: Giants and Braves
- ALCS: Rays
- NLCS: Giants
- World Series: Rays
- MVP: Wander Franco
It’s Tampa Time, baby.