KANSAS CITY -- What will the 2019 Royals look like? Perhaps a little like the Royals from 2013-15, if all goes well.
After going along with the industry trend the past few years of searching for pure power to manufacture runs, Kansas City will return to its former identity of speed and elite defense to try and win ballgames in 2019.
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Speed characterized the Royals of recent years, when Lorenzo Cain patrolled center field and players like Jarrod Dyson, Terrance Gore and Paulo Orlando constantly put pressure opponents on the bases.
The Royals already had two such speedsters in the mix with Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield, who was the Major Leagues' leader in stolen bases last season, with 45. They have added speedster Billy Hamilton and re-signed Gore, who is expected to be a late-inning, pinch-running weapon this season.
General manager Dayton Moore has said repeatedly this offseason that for Kansas City to be successful, it must be elite in certain facets of the game, rather than just being average in most. Elite speed and elite defense will be the ticket to success again, he said.
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"You want a balance," Moore said. "You have to be able to hit the ball out of the park at certain times, to either get you back in the game or pad a lead late. Power is always important. But in our ballpark with our style of play, I don't think we can live on that. We need a balanced team. You need to score in multiple ways at Kauffman Stadium if you're going to win a championship, as we did in 2015.
"I think that's how our teams have been built in the past. Now, can Jorge Soler hit it out of the park? Yes. Can [Salvador Perez]? Yes. Can Adalberto Mondesi? Yes. But we have to be elite at certain aspects of the game. And we feel we can be elite at defense and at speed."
The Royals and Moore believe they have speed beyond the burners such as Hamilton, Mondesi, Merrifield and Gore. The organization believes Hunter Dozier, who should get the majority of reps at third base, can steal 15-20 bases. And outfielder Brett Phillips, acquired in the Mike Moustakas trade from Milwaukee last July, could be another 20-steal guy if he makes the team.
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In all, the Royals will be a motion team that will take extra bases, hit and run, bunt and steal aggressively. That style suits manager Ned Yost just fine.
"I absolutely think speed is undervalued," Yost said. "The game has changed to the point, for me, that it's a little bit boring. You can debate about the shift or not to shift. Personally, I don't like the shift. It takes away the singles. Singles are diminishing in our game. Guys are more focused on raring back and swinging as hard as they can to hit home runs -- that results in higher strikeouts and, of course, more home runs.
"But I like strategy in the game. I like singles. I don't care if you bunt or walk, just get on base. I like runners in motion. I like stealing. I like bunting. I like hitting and running.
"I think on-base percentage is a huge stat for me. Other people look at OPS and just power. I think we need to get on base. I think we need to have a proficient two-strike approach. We got Billy Hamilton and Mondesi and Whit and Gore -- if we can bunt for hits and get on base, it puts more pressure on the defense."
Yost also believes that speed element will show up for his defense.
"I think we're going to be a very extremely sound defensive team that can cover everything at Kauffman Stadium with tremendous range," Yost said. "We have a Gold Glove catcher, a Gold Glove left fielder, we got Billy Hamilton, Whit, Mondesi. I think we'll be elite at both speed and defense.
"Speed and defense. That's who we were and that's who we will be again."