Inbox: What's the LF outlook without Gordon?

October 18th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Having won 12 of 18 to finish the 2020 regular season, the Royals feel they are pushing closer to contending again, bolstered by a youthful core that likely will get better.

But the Royals have many questions facing them this offseason that will shape their immediate future, from possible contract extensions to having potentially 11 arbitration cases.

Let’s get to your questions for the first Royals Inbox of the offseason:

We know Cordero is on the radar for left field. Who else is in the mix?
-- @lorettasueross

Yes, it sure seems from conversations with manager Mike Matheny and general manager Dayton Moore that will get the first shot in left field to replace . But, to me, the whole outfield situation will be perhaps the most curious area to watch in Spring Training. All we know for sure is that will be out there, most likely patrolling either right field or center field. Matheny has talked up Merrifield’s jumps in right field. They like , though he, like Cordero, needs some Rusty Kuntz defensive schooling. Truthfully, I expect a lot of open competition for spots. With having gone from third base to right field to now first base in less than a year, the Royals could be in the market for a cost-efficient free-agent outfielder, too, much like they scored with at third base. will get a long look. is in the picture, as are prospects and . The Royals proved this season they are not afraid to promote youngsters.

Does Witt have a shot to make the Opening Day roster?
-- @hanan_kent

The one organizational consensus about , the team’s No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, is that he could hold his own at the big league level right now. He’s that good, and we saw that at Summer Camp. The Royals have control of Franco at third base through 2021, and is their shortstop. So keep an eye on where Witt gets his reps in Surprise, Ariz., next spring. If Witt starts getting a look in the outfield, especially center field … hmmm.

Who is the first baseman of the future?
-- @tlscott57

Matheny told me several times over the season that there was a time in the past he undervalued defense at first base. And he quickly followed that up by saying he isn’t making that mistake anymore. The Royals’ infield defense improved with Dozier at first base, and it seems likely he’ll spend his offseason honing his skills there. Long term? The Royals believe , their No. 12 prospect, has Eric Hosmer-type skills defensively and that his bat continues to improve.

The Royals have some intriguing young arms. Whom does the front office see as more than back-of-the-rotation/bullpen pieces?
-- @lxherman

Rival scouts feel , and are all potential No. 1s. already is showing that. Carlos Hernández has that kind of stuff, too. might not have an overpowering fastball, but his great changeup and overall pitchability puts him in that conversation, a Tom Glavine type. Right-hander , the club’s No. 9 prospect, is an intimidating presence on the mound at 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds. He has a heavy mid-90s fastball.

Who were the three most impressive people on the team this past season? Can be players or coaches.
-- @LeeOwnes

1. : What he did (11 home runs, 32 RBIs, .986 OPS) was amazing after missing a year because of Tommy John surgery, missing the start of Summer Camp with COVID-19 and then missing time with an eye issue.

2. Maikel Franco: He hit eight home runs and led the team in doubles (16) and RBIs (38). He played hurt for half the season. And he was extremely well-liked in the clubhouse. He was a huge free-agent score for the Royals at $2.95 million.

3. Mike Matheny: I truly believe he got the absolute most out of this team. Without such a shortened and lopsided schedule against playoff-bound teams, the Royals might have wound up a .500 team -- a huge step up from back-to-back 100-loss seasons. He promised he would chase every win, and he really did.

How long of a leash does Lopez have at second base?
-- @faxchecked

The offensive numbers weren’t good (.552 OPS), and knows he simply has to improve in that area. But he is so exceptional defensively -- no second baseman had more Outs Above Average at plus-6 than Lopez -- that his leash will be long. He should win a Gold Glove, and if you don’t think defense matters, especially up the middle, to Moore and Matheny, you’re not paying close attention.

New bullpen, maybe sign some superstar hitters? How did we get an amazing team from 2013-15?
-- @bkeuning23

The Royals got there through the Draft; key trades that brought them , , and ; and shrewd, low-risk free-agent signings such as , , , and others. That’s the small-market formula.

The Shields trade completely changed the Royals’ culture, as the organization embraced expectations for the first time in many years. It took a team potentially ready to win and turned it into an actual winner. Do you think there’s a bold trade that could do the same now?
-- @mloe68

Absolutely that is possible. Perhaps even likely at some point, at least way more likely than a huge free-agent signing.

Will the Royals move Junis to the bullpen next season?
-- @Jake_Enz

Building a shutdown bullpen requires a lot of trusted, reliable weapons. The Royals feel could be one of those trusted weapons.

When do we re-sign Perez? Or do we?
-- @KurtisRussell

The Royals have seen what they look like as a team with Perez and what they look like without Perez. It’s not even close. Perez, signed through 2021, also loves it here. Whether it’s at catcher, first base or designated hitter, Perez almost surely will be here after '21.

Timeline for rebuild?
-- @RudolphAdams6

The rebuild is over. The Royals want to win now.