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7 predictions if everything goes right for Royals

@FlannyMLB
February 15, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is under way and there is a whole lot of youth in the Royals’ camp, including pitching prospects Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic. Watching them compete in their first big league camp will be one of the highlights this spring.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is under way and there is a whole lot of youth in the Royals’ camp, including pitching prospects Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic.

Watching them compete in their first big league camp will be one of the highlights this spring.

But there are plenty of other stories to watch this spring and throughout the summer. Here are seven early “if-everything-goes-right” predictions of what we might see from the Royals in 2020:

1. Mondesi breaks through
Adalberto Mondesi, coming off shoulder surgery, will make it through 2020 healthy and finally show the baseball world his entire skill set. Mondesi, only 24 years old, tied for the Major League lead in triples last season with 10 and stole a team-high 43 bases despite playing in only 102 games because of shoulder injuries.

This year, Mondesi’s offensive numbers go through the charts: He will lead the league in triples with 16 and in stolen bases with 62. He’ll hit 22 home runs and post an OPS over .870.

Oh, and Mondesi will get considerable mention for a Gold Glove as his Outs Above Average will rate among the top shortstops.

2. O'Hearn claims the 1B job
Much like how Mike Moustakas reinvented his offensive approach in 2015 by going to the opposite field to beat the shift, Ryan O'Hearn will drive the ball the opposite way consistently and prove that manager Mike Matheny, suddenly a huge supporter, was right about him.

O’Hearn will hit 26 home runs and be such an offensive force that he will be moved to the middle of the lineup mid-season. He will also use his fiery competitiveness to become a vocal leader in the clubhouse as the Royals transition toward becoming a contender again in the coming seasons.

3. Kennedy gets traded
Ian Kennedy, who saved 30 games in his first season as a closer in 2019, gets even better in that role in 2020. He will go 20-for-21 in saves heading into late July and is dealt to a contender -- he is in the final year of his five-year, $70 million contract. Jorge Lopez, who suddenly excels in a bullpen role this season, takes over as the Royals’ closer and goes 12-for-14 in save opportunities in the final two months.

Kennedy, by the way, keeps his home in the Kansas City area and re-signs with the Royals on a club-friendly deal for 2021.

4. Duffy regains his form
Danny Duffy, who has battled injuries the past few seasons, makes it through all of 2020 without a trip to the injured list. His new diet -- he lost about 10 pounds this offseason simply by making healthier eating choices -- makes the difference and he turns in his best season since 2016 (12-3, 3.51 ERA) with a 3.24 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in 2020.

5. Singer, Kowar and Heath make MLB debuts
Pitching prospects Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar start the season in the Minors but dominate so much they are promoted to the big leagues in June. Both are first tried as “openers” before one claims a job in the rotation when starter Mike Montgomery is dealt (back to the Cubs) at the Trade Deadline.

Speedy outfielder Nick Heath also gets called up in August and becomes a valuable weapon off Matheny’s bench.

6. Dozier becomes a household name
Hunter Dozier hit 26 homers with 10 triples and 29 doubles in 2019 and raised a lot of eyebrows throughout baseball. In 2020, Dozier will prove those numbers were no fluke.

Dozier will crack the 30-homer barrier in 2020 and will also steal 20 bases (and he will credit Rusty Kuntz for that). It will be the type of breakthrough season that persuades the Royals to offer Dozier a long-term deal.

7. Royals win 78 games
The Royals go into 2020 not especially close to contending, but they will surprise national observers this season by hanging around .500. The Royals are still targeting 2021 or 2022 as the season they get back to near the American League Central top. But 2020 will be an important first step in making the young players believe it is possible.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.