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Know Thine Enemy: Kansas City Royals

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The second installment previewing our AL Central Competitors

Minnesota Twinsv Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

This is the second in a four-part series checking up on the Twins’ AL Central competition. You can find part one, about the Detroit Tigers, here.

Kansas City Royals

2019 Record: 59-103

2019 Outcome: 4th Place, AL Central

Last year, the best thing you could say about the Kansas City Royals was this:

“Hey, at least they’re not the Tigers!” (Sorry Gardy)

In all seriousness, the Royals had been slowly declining ever since they reached the World Series. 2019 wasn’t exactly rock bottom (they improved by one win over 2018), but it was pretty darn close. KC spent June and July selling off their veterans (including Homer Bailey.) They did have a couple bright spots, as two 27-year-old hitters had career years for the squad. Jorge Soler led the league in home runs, with 48, in his first year of playing full-time, and utility man Hunter Dozier posted an .870 OPS. Additionally, Whit Merrifield continued his excellent stretch as one of the league’s purest hitters.

The Royals project to be pretty bad again this year. While they do have a few good hitters, and Salvador Perez (who was out all last year) will be back, KC just doesn’t have really any good pitching (with the possible exception of Brad Keller, who showed some promise in his age-23 season). Additionally, the rest of the lineup, apart from the four guys I’ve named, is quite bad at hitting.

The off-season was fairly uneventful in Kansas City. They re-signed aging outfielder Alex Gordon for a “one last ride” year. They signed third baseman Maikel Franco away from Philly, who figures to get a lot of playing time, but it would be a surprise if he was a real impact player. The only other “major” pickup this off-season was reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who had a lost year last season after being decent-to-good for the first six years of his career. He could be a boost to the bullpen if he regains his form. Unfortunately, there is not much on the way in the near future as far as highly-regarded prospects, although the system is loaded with good prospects in the lower levels of the minors.

Apart from those player transactions, the Royals did hire a new manager this off-season. Long-time skipper Ned Yost retired after the 2019 season as the winningest (and losingest) manager in team history. After the hiring search, the squad settled on former Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny. Matheny never finished below .500 in six and a half years at the helm in St. Louis, so he brings some good pedigree to the team in a fresh start for both sides.

In conclusion, the Royals may see marginal improvement in 2020, but they will be much closer to the cellar-dwelling Tigers than they will be to the third place squad. They’ve been biding their time until they can return to the top, and that will continue in 2020 (and beyond).

Check back in next week for the remaining two AL Central team previews!