2020 Fantasy Baseball: Kansas City Royals Team Preview

Full fantasy baseball stat projections for Royals hitters and pitchers. What to expect from Jorge Soler, Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and more.
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Kansas City Royals

The Royals made the playoffs three times over the previous 36 seasons. Each season they made it to the postseason, they appeared in the World Series. Over their 51-year history, Kansas City made the postseason nine times with two World Series titles (1985 and 2015). Since their last title, they’ve missed the playoffs in each of the past four years while picking up only 58 and 59 wins over the past two seasons.

Kansas City ranked 26th in runs (691), 28th in home runs (162), and 26th in RBI (655) while batting .247. The Royals have issues as well on the pitching side (5.20 ERA – 27th) while delivering 37 saves.

In the offseason, they signed Maikel Franco to take over at third base and IF Matt Reynolds for bench depth. Kansas City acquired SP Chance Adams in a minor league deal with the Yankees.

The road to the playoffs may not be that far off based on the talent of their starting pitchers in the minors. The Royals have a couple of pieces to their offense with underlying power. A 70-win season would be a lot to ask for in 2020.

Despite setting career highs in games (162), at-bats (681), and hits (206), Merrifield took a massive step back in steals (20 – 45 in 2018) with some regression in his approach at the plate (strikeout rate – 17.1 and walk rate – 6.1). Even so, he still scored the most runs (105) of his career while improving on his 2018 stats in home runs (16) and RBI (74).

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1. 2B Whit Merrifeld

Merrifield had growth in power versus left-handed pitching (.280 with eight HRs and 28 RBI over 193 at-bats). After an excellent start before the All-Star break (.306 with 11 HRs, 44 RBI, and 13 SBs over 382 at-bats), his production dropped over the second half of the year (.298 with five HRs, 30 RBI, and seven SBs over 299 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (8.7) doesn’t project high in power, and he owns a weak hard-hit rate (28.9). His final stats ranked 23rd in SIscore rankings compared to 11th in 2018.

This season, Merrifield has an ADP of 49 as the 35th hitter off the board. Volume of at-bats has been his friend in 2018 and 2019. His skill set points to a 15/30 type of player with help in batting average in runs.

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2. SS Aldaberto Mondesi

Over the first two months of the season, Mondesi was on pace for an impact year. He hit .288 with 35 runs, six home runs, 42 RBI, and 20 steals over 226 at-bats. His path projected over 550 at-bats would come to 85 runs, 15 home runs, 102 RBI, and 49 steals. After a quiet 18 days in June (.203 with no HRs, two RBI, and seven SBs over 64 at-bats), he landed on the injured list for two weeks with a groin injury. Mondesi returned for 11 more games in July before suffering a left shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. Even so, he did play in 20 games in September (.250 with two HRs, ten RBI, and 12 SBs over 80 at-bats).

His strikeout rate (29.8) is much too high, with a weak walk rate (4.3). Mondesi overachieved in RBI rate (21) while repeating his 2018 value in his contact batting average (.384 and .385). He has a low fly-ball rate (33.9) while his HR/FB rate (9.3) came in well below his short success in 2018 (19.7).

The Royals expect him to be ready for opening day, but shoulder injuries tend to restrict a rebound in power. Mondesi has an ADP of 38 in the early draft season. A possible difference-maker in speed with value in runs. His batting average still has plenty of risk until he cleans up his approach. Trending toward an 80/15/65/60 player, but a fantasy owner needs to build in some batting average cover with the rest of their offensive roster.

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3. 3B Hunter Dozier

The Royals slipped Dozier into the starting lineup on opening day. It took him until the 10th game of the season to draw attention from fantasy owners. His season started with three hits over 27 at-bats with one home run and three RBI. Over his next 25 games, he hit .411 with 18 runs, eight home runs, and 18 RBI.

Dozier landed on the injured list in late May with a side issue. He held value after the All-Star break (.276 with 13 HRs and 39 RBI over 275 at-bats). He had almost the same value against righties (.279) as he did against lefties (.281). Dozier finished with a similar CTBA (.389) as he showed in the minors from 2016 to 2018 (.397, .404, and .400). His walk rate (9.4) was decent but he still needs to improve his strikeout rate (25.3). He is a career .261 hitter in the minors with 55 HRs, 264 RBI, and 29 SBs over 1,921 at-bats.

Dozier ranked 97th in hard-hit rate (42.6) while adding loft to his swing (fly-ball rate – 43.9) with improvement in his HR/FB rate (15.6). I believe in his power, but there will be regression in his batting average. His ADP (188) paints a pricey picture even with a .260/25/80 season.

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4. OF Jorge Soler

Soler turned into a power beast (48 HRs and 117 RBI) in 2018 while staying healthy for the whole season. He set career-highs in games (162) and strikeouts (178), which led to the American League high in both areas. Before last year, Soler never received over 366 at-bats in the majors. He finished with about the same walk rate (10.8) as his previous two seasons, while his strikeout rate (26.2) remains well about the league average (21.5).

After the All-Star break, his game reached a whole new level (.299 with 25 HRs and 58 RBI over 251 at-bats) with growth in his approach (walk rate – 14.8 and strikeout rate – 23.0). Soler won the AL home run title with 21 home runs over his final 202 at-bats. He finished with a step up in his HR/FB rate (28.1 – 20.5 in his career). His CTBA (.380) matched 2018 with improvement in his AVH (2.147) and his RBI rate (17).

Soler has an ADP of 89 as the 59th hitter off the board. He finished 25th in SIscore rankings in 2018 while looking poised to have a new floor of .270 with 35 home runs and 95 RBI.

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5. C Salvador Perez

In 2018, Perez missed the first three weeks of the season with a left knee injury. He overcame his missed time by seeing more games at DH (30) to keep him in the lineup on more nights. Perez posted identical production in HRs (27) and RBI (80), but his CTBA (.299) was the lowest of his career. His AVH (1.867) was a career-high while remaining in a range to deliver 30-plus home runs with 550 at-bats. His walk rate (3.1) remains low, and he failed to match his career resume (16.0) in his strikeout rate (19.9) for the third straight year.

Perez repeated his fly ball rate (45.0) for the fourth straight season with no major jump in his HR/FB rate (14.8). Even with success in power, his runs fell into the liability column for the seventh straight season. Late in the year, he battled a left thumb injury that required surgery in late September. Over his last five full years, Perez had over 500 at-bats in four seasons, which is an edge for the catching position. Unfortunately, he’ll have more competition for at-bats at DH. Pretty much a 25/75 player with batting average and run risk despite the probability of receiving 500 at-bats. Last year, he missed the whole season with a right elbow injury that required surgery. Viable target based on his ADP (183).

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READ MORE: 2020 Kansas City Royals Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Danny Duffy

After pitching well in 2016 over his first 19 starts (2.61 ERA and .978 WHIP with 126 Ks in 120.2 innings), Duffy hasn't been the same pitcher. Over his last three seasons, he went 24-28 with a 4.35 ERA and 386 Ks over 432 innings with most of the damage coming in 2018 (4.88 ERA) due to a considerable step back in his walk rate (4.1).

After the 2017 season, he had surgery in early October to clean up his left elbow. After seven poor starts after the All-Star break in 2018 (6.55 ERA), the Royals shut him down for the rest of the season with a bum left shoulder which lingered into the 2019 season. Over his first six starts, Duffy posted a 3.12 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 34.2 innings. In his next 11 starts, his arm lost value (5.16 ERA, 58 Ks, and 12 home runs over 61 innings). On August 3rd, he gave up eight runs and allowed 10 baserunners over 4.2 innings, leading to a trip to the injured list with a hamstring issue.

His season ended with success in September (2.37 ERA and 25 Ks over 30.1 innings). His AFB (92.9) was a career-low while falling short of his value in 2016 (94.8). Duffy had success with his slider (.239 BAA), changeup (.2131 BAA), and sinker (.167 BAA). He had a rebound in his walk rate (3.2) with a fading strikeout rate (7.9). Home runs (1.4) continue to be a problem. Tons of risk with no real reward.

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SP2 Brad Keller

After struggling in 2016 at High A (4.47 ERA) and in 2017 at AA (4.68 ERA), Keller made the jump to the majors in 2018. Over his first 12 games as a reliever, he posted a 2.01 ERA with 13 strikeouts over 22.1 innings. Kansas City pushed him into the starting rotation in late May, but he needed some time to work up his pitch count. Keller went 8-5 over his 19 starts over the last four months of the season with a 3.29 ERA and 80 Ks over 115 innings.

In 2019, he teased over his first 30.2 innings (2.64 ERA and 26 Ks). Over his final 23 starts, Keller had more disaster than upside (4.54 ERA while allowing two runs or fewer in 11 games). Keller walks too many batters (3.8 per nine) with a weak strikeout rate (6.6). His AFB (94.1) drifted backward slightly with no real edge (four-seam – .259 BAA and sinker – .301 BAA). He does offer a slider (.194 BAA) of value. Over five seasons in the minors, Keller went 40-32 with a 3.77 ERA and 442 strikeouts over 541.1 innings. His ground ball approach (52.0 percent) works well when he’s throwing strikes, but his command and his inability to strike out batters invites downside. At best, a slight edge in ERA with WHIP risk and weakness in strikeouts.

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CL/RP Ian Kennedy

Kennedy pitched poorly in 2017 and 2018 (8-22 with a 5.06 ERA and 236 Ks over 273.2 innings) while struggling with home runs (54). After failing to make the Royals’ starting rotation out of Spring Training, he had an up and down first 21 games (4.37 ERA) in the bullpen while having sporadic save chances (2-for-4). Kansas City handed him the closing role for good on May 30th. Over the next two months, Kennedy posted a 2.08 ERA, 27 strikeouts, and 18 saves over 21.2 innings. Other than two bad outings (six runs and seven baserunners over two innings), he ended the season with a 3.79 ERA over 19 innings while converting 10 of his last 11 save chances.

Even with success, Kennedy did have risk against right-handed batters (.298). He changed his approach toward batters, which led to a career-high ground ball rate (44.4). His AFB (94.9) jumped by a couple of miles per hour while batters struggled to hit his four-seamer (.208 BAA). Unfortunately, Kennedy lost the feel for his cutter (.469 BAA) and his curveball (.308 BAA). Even with a favorable ADP (197), he does have job loss risk based on his weaker arsenal and failure in 2017 and 2018. With a career-best strikeout rate (10.4), Kennedy may keep the job all year. Possible 3.50 ERA, 75 strikeouts, and 35 saves.

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Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Kansas City Royals Team Outlook

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