As the Kansas City Royals' 2021 season is drawing to a close, there have certainly been some good and bad times to look back on. As is every year in baseball, there have been some high highs and extremely low lows. With that said, let’s dive into a few of those highs and lows that took place throughout the course of the 2021 season.
There is no other answer, it’s Salvador Perez. The All-Star catcher was having a decent season heading into the halfway point of the season. He was invited to join the Home Run Derby as part of the All-Star Game festivities and put on a show, going neck and neck with eventual HR Derby champion Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.
As silly as this may seem, I think that Home Run Derby competition gave Perez even more confidence heading into the second half of the season. Perez has been on a tear from the end of July through mid-September.
He's already set the mark for most home runs by a primary catcher (minimum 75% games played behind the plate) with 46. He has been battling Toronto Blue Jays young star Valdimir Guerrero Jr. and Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani for the league lead in home runs. He has led all of baseball in RBIs throughout most of the month of September and currently still is leading the league in that category.
On Wednesday night, Perez tied the Royals single-season home run record, which is currently set at 48 along with former Royal Jorge Soler. Perez also locked up the No. 3 spot on the all-time list for most RBIs in a season by a Royal. He’s not likely to catch Hal McRae’s 133 or Mike Sweeney’s 144, but finishing the season with 120-plus puts him all alone in third place among the Royal greats.
Simply put, the legend of Salvador Perez continues to grow in Kansas City. He’s been the greatest part of the Royals' 2021 season. There’s no doubt that he will be in the Royals Hall of Fame one day. If he continues to play up to his potential over the next half-decade, there is a solid chance he ends up in Cooperstown as well.
The good from the season is intertwined with the bad. When the season began, there were high hopes for the team. It started with the Royals beginning the season on a hot streak and even standing atop the American League Central at the beginning of May.
One reason the Royals got off to a hot start was the inspired play from Nicky Lopez, who took over as the starting shortstop for the club shortly after opening the season with the Omaha Storm Chasers in Triple-A.
Lopez would be one of the few Royals to continue to have an excellent season, even throughout some of the low points. His WAR of 4.0 is fantastic. He isn’t crushing the ball out of the park but has 144 hits, a .301 batting average, a .360-plus OBP and an OPS that surpasses .740.
Lopez has been impressive in the field as well and has truly become a fixture in this Royals lineup. He should be a big part of the team’s plans as they look into the future.
As mentioned in the section above, if it wasn’t for the bad, we may not have been given the chance to see Lopez bloom into the player he has become. It was another injury-riddled season from Adalberto Mondesi, who couldn’t go a full week into the campaign without landing on the IL.
There were high hopes for Mondesi going into the season. He has one of the highest ceilings of any player in Major League Baseball but he has never been able to stay on the field for a full season (excluding 2020's abbreviated year). Despite the flashes of brilliance in spurts throughout his career when he has been healthy, he couldn’t be relied on when the Royals could have used his bat in the top half of the order during their midseason slumps.
Once again, Mondesi showed signs of being an elite talent when on the field, but there just weren't enough games played for it to matter a ton. Here’s to hoping for a full, healthy season from him in 2022.
The two separate losing streaks of 10-plus games in May and June sunk the team from any sort of excitement the fan base had after a good start to the season. There was no coming back from the first losing streak, one that put them below .500. After that, the Royals could never recover.
Adding insult to injury was the second losing streak that took place in the midst of trying to get the organization's young pitching core acclimated to the big leagues. It was a combination of rookie pitchers and bad hitting all compiled together in the same few weeks and it made for an ugly start to the summer in Kansas City. Thankfully, the team has played decent baseball in the second half of the season as the young pitching staff has worked through some growing pains. For the Royals' sake, hopefully they can continue moving forward heading into the 2022 season.