Eye of the Enemy: Scouting the Kansas City Royals, the next Cubs’ opponent
59-103, 5th in AL Central, 42 games back of Minnesota Twins.
3-7, 5th in AL Central
Monday: Danny Duffy (LHP, 0-1, 5.79 ERA) vs. Alec Mills
Tuesday: Brady Singer (0-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. Kyle Hendricks
Note: The Royals haven’t released probables for the two-game set in Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday, but Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood would be in line to start for the Cubs.
The most notable addition for the Royals this season probably won’t ever suit up or be part of a championship-level front office. In July, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes became part owner of the team, leading to plenty of buzz around the Royals.
The next biggest addition came at the helm of their club, as Mike Matheny took the reins as manager from Ned Yost in the offseason. Cub fans will remember Matheny as the former manager of the Cardinals, who went 591-474 in 7 seasons in St. Louis, capturing the NL Pennant in 2013.
The rebuilding Royals added former Phillies infielder Maikel Franco, who struggled in 2019 and is looking to bounce back in 2020, on a one-year deal. They added a pair of reliever arms on minor league deals, including Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland, in hopes of bounce back years for the pair. Holland was part of the dominant 2015 Royals bullpen that won the World Series along with Kelvin Herrera and former Cub Wade Davis. Rosenthal struggled in 2019, pitching to a 13.50 ERA in 22 games with the Nationals and Tigers.
Much of the excitement this season in Kansas City surrounded infielders Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi. Mondesi exited Sunday’s game against the White Sox for “precautionary” reasons after he fouled a pitch off his lower leg in Sunday’s loss. Mondesi is considered day-to-day ahead of the back-to-back series against the Cubs.
Mike Montgomery, who picked up the save in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series for the Cubs, was placed on the 10-day injured list by the Royals on July 28 with a strained lat.
Merrifield (.811 OPS, MLB-best 206 hits in 2019) and Mondesi (.715 OPS, 43 steals in 2019) are no-doubt crucial to the Royals lineup, but former Cub Jorge Soler is the true power bat in the Royals lineup. Soler clubbed an AL-best 48 homers in 2019, the first Royal in franchise history to hit more than 40 home runs in a season.
Rookie Brady Singer made his debut with the Royals this season and has pitched to a respectable 3.60 in 2 starts. The Royals 2018 1st round pick has allowed 4 runs in 10 innings of working with a 1.20 WHIP. Veteran Danny Duffy leads the Royals pitching corps, as he holds a 3.99 ERA in his 10-year career, all with the Royals. Trevor Rosenthal has looked to have found some of his old self early on in the season, pitching 4 shutout innings with 3 strikeouts and permitting just 2 baserunners.
The Royals have some strong, young pieces in Singer, Merrifield, Mondesi and Soler, but not much after that. There’s a lot of question marks across the diamond for the Royals, who are just 5 years removed from winning a World Series. There remain pieces of that team – Duffy (31) Salvador Pérez (30) and Alex Gordon (36) are still starting for the Royals – but they aren’t getting any younger. Lorenzo Cain, Johnny Cueto, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are long gone.
The Royals like their core, but they seem far from competing in a crowded AL Central. Merrifield’s name had been mentioned in possible trades, but the Royals haven’t gone all in on a rebuild nor have they made acquisitions to suggest they’re chasing the postseason. In a shortened 2020 season, could that core get hot and lead them to sneak into a playoff position? If not, the Royals might have to look at selling off pieces in order to build up another championship core.