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5 question facing the Royals in 2021

@FlannyMLB
December 31, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore vowed to be more “transactional” this offseason. And so far, he has lived up to that pledge, signing outfielder Michael A. Taylor, closer Greg Holland, first baseman Carlos Santana, and starting pitchers Mike Minor and Ervin Santana (Minor League deal). So where

KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore vowed to be more “transactional” this offseason. And so far, he has lived up to that pledge, signing outfielder Michael A. Taylor, closer Greg Holland, first baseman Carlos Santana, and starting pitchers Mike Minor and Ervin Santana (Minor League deal).

So where does that leave the Royals, who now clearly feel they are ready to compete again in the American League Central.

Here are five questions surrounding the Royals entering 2021:

1. Will the Royals sign anyone else?
Moore told MLB.com recently they are still interested in acquiring a left-handed bat. That likely will be a left fielder. Hunter Dozier will move to third base with the departure of Maikel Franco and the signing of Carlos Santana. Taylor will likely claim the center field job, moving Whit Merrifield to right field. Franchy Cordero will get the first shot in left field to replace Alex Gordon, but if the Royals find a veteran left-handed bat there, Moore won’t hesitate to upgrade.

2. How will the rotation look?
Brad Keller has established himself as the ace, and it’s likely Brady Singer will slide into the No. 2 spot. Manager Mike Matheny told MLB.com he views Danny Duffy as a starter, not a bullpen option. Minor and Kris Bubic would then fill out the rotation. And don’t rule out Carlos Hernández, who was impressive at the end of 2020.

3. Where does Jakob Junis fit in?
Junis has been an inconsistent starter in his career with the Royals. And the organization has long believed that Junis might be more effective as a short reliever. Matheny said Junis will be stretched out in camp, simply because the Royals need depth for the rotation. But my guess is that Junis eventually will become part of what’s becoming a shutdown bullpen, with Holland, Jesse Hahn, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, Tyler Zuber, etc.

4. What will the batting order look like?
Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi almost surely will remain in the top two spots, especially with how Mondesi soared at the end of 2020. So let’s go with this:

1. Whit Merrifield RF
2. Adalberto Mondesi SS
3. Salvador Perez C
4. Jorge Soler DH
5. Hunter Dozier 3B
6. Carlos Santana 1B
7. Franchy Cordero LF
8. Michael A. Taylor CF
9. Nicky Lopez 2B

5. Who will be part of the next wave of young pitching prospects to surface?
The consensus among Royals officials is that prospects such as Daniel Lynch (Kansas City's No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), Jackson Kowar (No. 4) and Jonathan Bowlan (No. 9) likely will make their debuts in 2021. Last year’s first-round pick, Asa Lacy (No. 2), needs to play in the Minors for a year, though the Royals say they won’t limit expectations for him. Jon Heasley (No. 26) is another name you’ll be hearing about.

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