Kansas City Royals
At 30 games under .500, Kansas City is having the worst season the Royals franchise has ever had, on pace to "best" their previous low-water mark of 65-97, last posted in 2001. For the month of June, the team has batted an anemic .190/.253/.302, worst in the Majors, averaging just 2.2 runs scored per game. Please, Kansas City ballaclub, do come in. Welcome to the ballpark soon to be formerly known as Safeco Field.
No one expected these Royals to contend this year, but an historically bad season is a little much for KC fans to stomach. Only three years removed for a World Championship, the Royals are well into a full rebuild, and having already traded center fielder John Jay and closer Kelvin Herrera, there are more players GM Dayton Moore will try to move; with the season already down the tubes, anyone with value could be dealt for prospects except perhaps fan-favorite catcher Salvador Pérez. Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Jason Hammel, Lucas Duda ... anyone on the roster, really, could become an ex-Royal at any time.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of Royals doing well and who might stick around a while. One is 29-year-old infielder-outfielder Whit Merrifield. The 2017 AL leader in stolen bases, Merrifield is ostensibly a second baseman but has been used as a super-utility player, having logged innings at every position except shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. He's fast, he's versatile, he gets on base, he's inexpensive, and is just the kind of player Kansas City wants to have. He's also the one guy on the roster that would net a big return in a trade. We'll see if he's somewhere else come August, but for this weekend, he's at Safeco with the Royals. Also on the squad is outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, who was impressive as a rookie last year and then got himself suspended, à la Robbie Canó, before the season began and will be making his season debut in this series. Greet him with all the respect due a PED cheater.
As for pitching, KC generally doesn't have it, but when they do get a good effort from a starter, they tend to win. Among their five (count 'em, five) wins in June was a 1-0 defeat of the Astros, of all people, and a 2-0 triumph in a makeup game against the Angels. In their few wins, the Royals have a collective ERA of 1.15 and have held opposing batters to a .191 average. On the whole, though, they have an AL-worst team ERA of 5.19 and have surrendered a league-leading 116 home runs.
Players to Watch
Salvador Pérez: One of the best catchers playing today, Pérez is as durable as they come, last year was the first time since he became a regular in 2013 that he played in fewer than 130 games. Good as he is behind the dish, though, Pérez has just a .298 career on-base percentage.
Danny Duffy: The ostensible "ace" of the Royals' rotation, Duffy is having his worst campaign since his rookie year of 2011. He has been better of late, though, posting a 2-1 record and 3.30 ERA in June, including two scoreless starts: seven innings against the Athletics, and six against the Astros. Both were shutout wins by KC.
Jorge Bonifacio: Suspended 80 games after testing positive for PED use—specifically Boldenone, an anabolic steroid derived from testosterone and used on horses—Bonifacio is making his season debut in game 81 of the season. Last year he hit .255/.320/.432 as a rookie, clubbing 17 home runs in 384 at-bats. Whether he hit them on his own or with help from horse steroids, we don't know.
Ned Yost: Because of a durable cell phone, the Royals didn't have to hire a new manager this year. Yost was working on his farm near Atlanta last November when he fell 20+ feet from a tree and broke his pelvis and several ribs, losing a great deal of blood in the process. Though in a state of shock, he retained enough wits about him to fish out his undamaged phone and call for help and was airlifted to a hospital in time to save his life. After months of recovery and rehab, Yost is back in the dugout and hoping to mold this new group of Royals into another pennant-winner. Whether he'll have that chance is TBD, as this is the last year of Yost's contract and he thus far hasn't made any news about whether he'll re-up for another tour or if the organization wants him back.
Perhaps because of the Royals' spectacularly poor offense this year, Yost is among those calling for a ban on defensive infield shifts. "It’s hard to hit singles. It’s hard to bunch together runs. You’ve got to hit homers or doubles now," Yost said. "I don’t know they would ever do it but if they came to me and say would you like to outlaw the shifts, I would say yes." Of course, if Yost wants his players to hit more singles when defenses shift on them, he could try teaching them to hit to the opposite field or lay down a bunt rather than call for unnecessary rule changes to benefit less capable players.
Abraham Almonte: You know you're having a bad year when more often than not your center fielder is Abraham Almonte. The career-.238 hitter has had the most playing time at the position since John Jay was traded to Arizona earlier in the season, but hasn't done much to earn it. Save for a brief six-game stretch in April in which he went 9-for-20, Almonte has struggled mightily to reach the Mendoza Line. At the end of his six-game hit streak, he had a healthy .275 average. Three days later it was .224 and has been hovering in the .180s since the middle of June.
Mariner fans remember Almonte from 2013-2014, when he played unimpressively in 52 games for Seattle. '13 remains his best statistical season, though he only had 82 plate appearances, with a .264/.313/.403 line. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in July of '14 for infielder Chris Denorfia, who was equally unimpressive.
|Kansas City Royals||(1969 - present)|
|World Champions:||1985, 2015|
|League Champions:||1980, 2014|
|Division Titles:||1976, 1977, 1978, 1981 (split-season), 1984|