Five things to watch for in the second half of the season

I won’t waste a bunch of time recapping the first half of what we all know was an awful first half of the season for the Royals. Let’s get right into it.

#1: Any signs of life from the pitching development

The best pitching prospects on the farm this year have been mostly awful. The pitchers at the big league level have been mostly awful. Drew Parrish, Noah Cameron, and Ben Kudrna have been pretty good, and almost everyone else has under performed so far in 2022. This is not a talent issue. This is not a scouting issue. This is almost entirely a development issue. Alec Marsh has big league stuff. I don’t need to tell you anymore about Asa Lacy’s stuff. Anthony Veneziano has regressed. Noah Murdock has plateaued a bit. There are almost zero signs of life of these guys improving. It’s not their fault. The Royals almost surely will look to do this offseason what they did back in 2019 when they brought in Drew Saylor to revamp the hitting development in the system. That is, unless they can get any kind of noteworthy improvement from their pitchers in the second half of the season.

#2: How much can the Royals add to a depleted farm system before the trade deadline?

We’ve talked about this on the podcast quite a bit, but the Royals entered the season with a top-5 farm system in all of baseball and have graduated a bunch of the heavy lifters to the big leagues already. Not that it’s going to be barren or anything, but when Michael Massey and Nick Pratto get to The Show on a more permanent basis, it thins out a bit at the top. Especially with all of the pitching prospects having rough seasons.

The good news is that you have all of these young hitters for the next six or seven seasons. Adding Drew Waters and Andrew Hoffmann to your AAA and AA affiliates helps. The Royals also drafted Gavin Cross and Cayden Wallace on Sunday giving them some insurance in the lower minors. However, it would be nice to add a couple of impact prospects by trading a couple of guys from the big league in the next couple of weeks. A few questions I’ll be looking to have answered by August:
– How many guys are the Royals willing to trade?
– Will they continue looking for talent that’s big league ready, or will they be okay taking higher-end talent in A-ball?
– Will they solely target pitchers to help out this core of hitters? Or will they take big bats if they’re offered up?

The offensive core is here. It’s ready. I have absolutely no doubt this team will have an offense in the top half of the league next season. The biggest questions remaining are the pitching and what kind of reinforcements are behind this current wave of hitters.

#3: Can this team play close to .500 ball down the stretch?

The Royals are 10-9 since June 29th. They are 16-15 since June 15th. They are 19-19 since June 8th. They’ve held their own for over a month of baseball now and the reinforcements are on their way. Can they maintain this level of play after they trade Andrew Benintendi? What if they trade Whit Merrifield or Scott Barlow? Can Nick Pratto and Michael Massey step in and keep the team afloat? Can the pitching staff not be historically awful and keep the team in games on a more regular basis? If any combination of these things go right and we can look at this team in October and say they played .500 ball since June 8th, are we going to feel better about them heading into Spring Training? I would!

#4: Can Bobby Witt Jr. catch Julio Rodriguez in the AL Rookie of the Year race?

Julio Rodriguez has been the run away favorite for the award so far, and being on a good team and his performance in the HR Derby will help, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous to think that Bobby Witt Jr. could catch him with a crazy second half. I hate to reduce the second half of the season to watching one individual, but he’s a super star in the making and, who are we kidding, he’s reason enough to tune in every night. He’d have to play at an All-Pro kind of level down the stretch but I think that’s in play for the Royals young phenom.

#5: Which prospects will step up and solidify themselves as the top-5 prospects in the organization?

Nick Loftin has been great in spurts this season, but his wRC+ is still hovering around 100 for the year. Tyler Gentry has been a man among boys, but it’s only been half a season for the outfielder from Alabama. Gavin Cross and Cayden Wallace will have an opportunity to throw their names in the ring at some point. Asa Lacy and Alec Marsh are both healthy and certainly talented enough. Maikel Garcia has, much like Nick Loftin, been great at spurts and even made his big league debut already. Who else wants a shot at the title? Who else is going to step up and have us feeling great about the farm system heading into 2023? Can Drew Waters turn things around and put himself back in that position? Only time will tell.

Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)

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