Royals ready to turn heads in 60-game sprint

July 22nd, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Like many other teams not originally considered contenders in a normal season, the Royals believe they now can make some noise in a 60-game sprint.

The Royals have bolstered their lineup with the addition of free-agent third baseman and the return of All-Star catcher from Tommy John surgery and shortstop from left shoulder surgery.

Kansas City can now boast a batting order one through nine that shows no obvious holes.

The big question, though, is starting pitching. The Royals came into camp with only four proven starters -- , , and . Keller is just getting back from a stint on the injured list for COVID-19, and Junis went on the IL on Monday.

That leaves the door open for youngsters Brady Singer and perhaps Foster Griffin to step into the rotation.

What needs to go right?
The bullpen could be much better with the additions of Trevor Rosenthal and possibly non-roster invitee Greg Holland. It’ll have to be better, considering the uncertainty surrounding the rotation in the early going. The back end of the 'pen -- with Rosenthal, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Holland and Randy Rosario setting up closer Ian Kennedy -- should be a strength.

The lineup will need to produce plenty of offense to compensate for a rotation that may be introducing two rookies to start the season. Middle relievers Jorge López and Glenn Sparkman, who struggled in Summer Camp, need to be effective because the starters may go only five innings or so to begin the season.

Big question
The rotation. Duffy will be the Opening Day starter on Friday, and the Royals’ No. 2 prospect Brady Singer is scheduled to make his MLB debut on Saturday. But there are plenty of “ifs” after that.

Keller just recently came off the IL and is slowly building up his pitch count. He could possibly be available to start during the four-game series in Detroit that follows the Cleveland series.

But the Royals will have to get bold and creative with the other two spots, especially because their first off-day isn’t until Aug. 10. That means Singer will be seeing his first big league action, and Griffin could as well.

Prospect to watch
The Royals have a lot of faith in Singer, their first-round Draft pick in 2018. He was still in camp in March when MLB shut down due to the pandemic, and he impressed manager Mike Matheny and the staff in Summer Camp as well. Singer’s best outing probably came Friday night when he threw four scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and no walks in an intrasquad game. Singer’s sinker-slider repertoire is simple and effective, and he has added a changeup as a swing-and-miss pitch, too.

Related

On the schedule
The Royals will play the Twins, right now the class of the American League Central, 10 times during a 17-day stretch in August. If the Royals are to show improvement from back-to-back seasons of more than 100 losses, that stretch against Minnesota likely will show what they’re made of.

Team MVP will be ...
Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. Now that he’s 100 percent healed from left shoulder surgery, Mondesi can show off his elite skill set. He has power from both sides of the plate, he is a premier basestealer and he is a stellar defender. He is the whole package.

Team Cy Young will be ...
Left-hander Danny Duffy. Considering the uncertainty of the rotation, the Royals need Duffy to step up and claim ownership of the ace role. He certainly has the ability. He is healthy, confident and ready to go at max effort for 12-14 starts in a shortened season.

Bold prediction
After a somewhat slow start because of injuries to the rotation, the Royals eventually will take off in August, spurred on by a solid lineup and a bullpen bolstered by flame throwers Staumont and Rosenthal. The Royals will stay in the playoff hunt all the way to the end of September.