Summer just officially began this past week on June 21. For those unaware of the technical term, it’s called summer solstice and it is the day that gives us the most daylight of the entire year. It isn't like talking about solstices isn’t interesting, but that’s not why anyone is here.
It’s not even July yet, and it already feels like the dog days of summer for the Kansas City Royals. That’s the round-about point I was trying to get to while trying to avoid a deep dive into a weather rant, though it has been hot and humid for the majority of the past three weeks in Kansas City which makes going out to The K even less desirable for many.
The team has not been playing their best baseball the last few weeks and that doesn’t help either. They will continue to have their ups and downs all season but other than winning a series against the Boston Red Sox, it has been more down than up recently.
While the season was supposed to be about blending youth with experience, things have not gone as well as many would have hoped with the young starting pitchers. Two of them, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar, were called up only to look absolutely terrible and were sent down after just a few starts. Brady Singer has looked good at times but has a 4.77 ERA and recently dealt with some shoulder tightness. Brad Keller’s ERA is even worse, sitting at 6.34 on the season.
This is when you’d hope to lean on veteran leadership to pull through the downtimes. Danny Duffy started the season on fire, looking the best he had in his whole career out of the gate. However, an injury had him sidelined for over a month until his return just a few days ago. Mike Minor has been decent but not spectacular.
The bullpen started the season brilliantly, but a combination of injuries and being overworked has set them back.
We’ve talked about the brilliance of Adalberto Mondesi, but he’s only been on the field for 10 games this season. Andrew Benintendi started out slow but turned it on and was looking as good as he ever had in his young career before landing on the IL. Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier were supposed to be steady bats near the heart of the order but they are both currently well below the Mendoza line with their batting averages.
So who can you trust on this Royals team? There aren’t a lot of guys to lean on, but there are a few who can lead the team back to .500.
Salvador Perez is your numero uno. The heart of this team. Salvy leads the team in batting average, home runs, and RBI. He is on pace to be the starting catcher for the American League in the All-Star game and there is a growing movement of people who want to see him in the home run derby. Currently, he has received the third most votes of any player in Major League Baseball. He’s such a fun player to watch and cheer for and I’m glad the Royals extended him so he should end his career as a Kansas City lifer.
Whit Merrifield’s story shouldn’t be news to anyone, but you love to see all of the success he’s had since joining the Royals in 2016. He’s a career 15 WAR and is one of the key cogs of this team that you can count on. There will always be rumors that he could be traded as long as he continues to play at this level, but the Royals can use his experience, versatility, and leadership to keep the team’s ship steady.
Carlos Santana will always give a professional at-bat. He won’t pop off the page with a great batting average but his OBP is always solid. He has a bop in the bat and gives the team a chance to hit a dinger anytime he is at the plate. He’s a guy you can trust.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been Nicky Lopez. After a rough spring training, Lopez was destined to start the season in Omaha. Mondesi’s injury gave him a chance to start the season in Kansas City and he took advantage of the opportunity to be the team’s everyday shortstop. He’s played at a high level for a majority of the season and if someone told you he’d have a .260 batting average and .350 OBP, you’d take that every day of the week. Hopefully, Lopez’s steady hand will continue and that he’s carved a role out for himself on this team going forward.
On the pitching side, there’s not a lot of guys you can look at and trust at this point. The veterans you were hoping could come in and have a good season out of the bullpen have not been helping. It’s hard to let go of future Royals hall of farmers Greg Holland and Wade Davis but right now those guys can’t be trusted.
There’s only about a handful of pitchers to be trusted right now. Scott Barlow is at the top of the list and he’s had an amazing season. Despite being on and off the IL, Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont are two guys that have shown they can be steady and have a feature role out of the pen. Newcomer Jake Brentz has been the surprise of the pen this season, with a 2.60 ERA in just over 35 games played this season. I think we’ll be able to add Duffy to this list again in the next week or two when he’s built his pitch count back up.
There are some guys we may see later in the season like Bobby Witt or Nick Pratto, it’s always fun having solid prospects pounding the ceiling trying to get their shot to show what they can do at the next level. Maybe Kowar and Lynch will be able to settle down and get another shot as the summer rolls along.
Despite the up and down results of the season thus far, there have been some positives takeaways as the calendar is about to flip to July. Hopefully the guys you can trust continue to be trustworthy and other teammates who haven’t done so well to this point in the season will be able to have more success in the second half of the season. That’s the key to making the Royals a .500 team and playing fun baseball again. You’d love to see it.