3-2-1: Counting down to Royals' 2024 season

January 2nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Anne Rogers’ Royals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

KANSAS CITY -- Happy New Year! The 2024 baseball season is officially this year -- and pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in just six weeks.

The warm sun of Arizona and the sounds of baseball will be here before we know it. Let’s count some things down to get ready for it:

1. will be an All-Star.

If Witt’s second season was his breakout year, then his third seems like the time for him to settle in for sustained success. The key will be for Witt to start '24 strong -- something that’s crucial for the Royals in general. Witt had a ton of ground to make up to atone for struggling to start the year. He had a .742 OPS pre-All Star break and a .902 OPS post-break; however, if there was an All-Star Game for the second half of 2023, Witt would have likely earned a nod. His 30-homer, 49-stolen base campaign even earned him a seventh-place finish in American League MVP voting.

2. The signing of will be a difference-maker.

The Royals fortified their rotation by bringing in Wacha and Seth Lugo, and both will be key to a successful 2024. But Wacha might be the sneaky good signing of the winter. He likely won’t be throwing as many innings as Lugo or Jordan Lyles because of his injury history, but Wacha boasted a strong track record the past two seasons. With the Red Sox in 2022 and Padres in '23, Wacha posted a 3.27 ERA across 47 starts and 261 2/3 innings with a 21.4% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate.

Health was an important factor in the turnaround from injury-riddled seasons from 2019-21, but Wacha also pointed to his arsenal when asked what the biggest difference has been the last two seasons.

“If you really dive into it, I kind of mixed up my repertoire a little bit,” Wacha said at his introductory press conference. “Throwing certain pitches a little bit more. Pitching inside was always key to me early on in my career, and then for some reason, I kind of just got away from it. But just mixing up the repertoire, learning myself and who I am at this time and where I need to pitch and how I need to pitch was really key for me. Always limiting walks, that’s been helpful for me getting back to that, but mixing up that repertoire a little bit and that pitch sequencing has helped me out quite a bit.”

If we’ve learned anything about the Royals’ new pitching department, it’s that it can help improve pitchers by first looking at repertoires and sequencing. That philosophy will fit well with Wacha.

3. will return with vengeance

When Pasquantino talked with reporters at the Winter Meetings last month, his excitement to be back on the field and in the batter’s box was palpable. Here’s predicting that energy will be an immediate boost to the Royals’ clubhouse and lineup. 

Kansas City sorely missed Pasquantino’s bat and presence when he had season-ending shoulder surgery in June. Not only does he offer the unique combination of big power and patience, but he also gives Witt and Salvador Perez protection in the lineup. Even though he still has a lot to prove -- he only has 489 big league plate appearances, after all -- Pasquantino is primed to help the Royals in a big way this season.