Kansas City Royals


As one of the smallest of small-market teams, the Royals know the formula—build with youth through trades and the draft, sell their assets before free agency turns them unaffordable, rinse, repeat.
General manager Dayton Moore used that M.O. to get the Royals to consecutive World Series in 2014 and '15. A lot of others would kill for that, regardless of money constraints.
What’s New
Following their normal pattern, the Royals made a couple of relatively inexpensive additions in the offseason to a nucleus of young players that finished the 58-win 2018 season on an uptick.

Free agent Billy Hamilton signed a one-year, $5.25 million free agent deal to play defense and steal bases, two staples of manager Ned Yost’s style. Versatile infielder/outfielder Chris Owings signed a one-year, $3 million deal, back-end reliever Brad Boxberger signed a $2.2 million dollar deal and right-hander Homer Bailey signed a minor league deal.
Hamilton is not Lorenzo Cain at the plate, but he can defend center field like Cain, and he has 264 stolen bases in his five full major league seasons, all with Cincinnati. He had 34 last year.
The Royals jettisoned Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda at the trade deadline last year and did not re-sign free agents Alcides Escobar and Jason Hammel.
They also rewarded second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield with a four-year, $16.5 million contract extension in January, exactly the kind of smart, team-friendly deal they need keep them competitive.
What Could Change
The Royals have committed about $102 million in payroll, leaving them about about $20 million under their 2018 payroll, but they appear content to open the season with the same group that led them to 20-14 finish over the final six weeks, during which they split 10 games with division champion Cleveland.
Rookies Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier will get more opportunities after combining for 23 homers and 64 RBIs in 511 at-bats when they were inserted into the corner infield spots vacated by Duda and Moustakas.
Same with infielder Adalberto Mondesi, who came into his own after years of promise with 14 homers and 32 stolen base in 75 games a year ago. He will take over for Escobar as the starting shortstop.
The Royals could look to shore up a bullpen that settled on journeyman Wily Peralta as the closer in the second half of last year. Boxberger spent five months as the Diamondbacks’ closer before losing the job down the stretch last season.
What’s Coming
The Royals may be closer than you think, especially given their division.
Young starters Jakob Junis and former Rule 5 draft pick Brad Keller made strides last season, and if veterans Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy pull their weight, the Royals could make noise me in an AL Central that was by far the worst division in baseball in 2018. The four teams behind Cleveland were a combined 124 games under .500.
Mondesi and Merrifield, who could hit first and third, provide power and speed at the top of the order. Merrifield led the AL with 192 hits and 45 stolen bases while slashing .304/.367/.438 a year ago.
Catcher Salvador Perez has four straight 20-homer seasons, hitting a career-high 27 in each of the last two years, and DH Jorge Soler was off to the best start of his career before missing the final four months of the season with a fractured metatarsal. Hamilton will steal bases.
The Royals do not have an established right fielder, however, and O’Hearn and Dozier are unproven, but if the “ifs” are answered, a swift rise from the cellar is not out of the question. 
Best-Case Scenario: If the Royals can pare half a run off their 4.94 ERA, which was 29th in the majors last year, and the young position players settle in, they could contend in a division that provides ample opportunity.
Worst-Case Scenario: If the final six weeks of 2018 were a mirage and the young players do not take the next step, the Royals could find themselves again in the division basement.


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