Posted on March 19, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Just one year removed from a World Series championship, the Kansas City Royals find themselves at a crossroads heading into the 2017 season. They are hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2016 season, but several of their core players are set to become free agents next winter, and so Kansas City’s window to compete may be closing. Can the Royals make one last run at a title in 2017 or will their rebuilding process start early?
Kansas City’s rotation is going to look a lot different this season than it did in 2016. The late Yordano Ventura will be sorely missed, while Edinson Volquez signed with the Marlins, so the Royals will be without two of their rotation stalwarts. It’s now up to Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy to lead the Kansas City rotation. Duffy appears ready to become the team’s ace, while Kennedy is coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
Fortunately, the Royals did a great job of acquiring pitchers during the winter to fill out their rotation. The additions of Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, and Nathan Karns should help the Royals to fill out their starting rotation, while the presence of Jason Vargas, Chris Young, and others will help give Kansas City the depth to make it through the season.
The turnover has already started in Kansas City’s bullpen. Wade Davis was traded to the Cubs one year before reaching free agency, while Luke Hochevar was not retained. Kelvin Herrera is now in line to be the team’s closer after collecting 12 saves last year. Joakim Soria also gives the Royals an experienced setup man, although he’s coming off the worst season of his career in 2016.
Outside of Herrera and Soria, the Royals will rely on several young pitchers to help fill out their bullpen. Kansas City is high on Matt Strahm and a few of the other arms likely to end up in the bullpen this season, but it could take some time for the group to come together, and so the Royals may have trouble replicating the kind of dominant bullpen they’ve had in recent years.
Offensively, the Royals were one of the worst teams in the American League last season. Some of the blame can be put on injuries, but the Royals are going to need their offense to be much improved from last season if they expect to compete for a postseason spot in 2017.
Mike Moustakas returning to the middle of the lineup after an injury-plagued season in 2016 should give the Royals a boost. However, the Royals will also need Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon to bounce back after subpar seasons in 2016. Salvador Perez also figures to play an important role after an impressive offensive season last year.
The Royals will also have to deal with the loss of Kendrys Morales, who signed with the Blue Jays. However, the Royals have managed to add Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler to provide reinforcements. Soler has never quite lived up to his potential, although a change of scenery could help. Meanwhile, Moss provides positional flexibility and an additional power source in Kansas City’s lineup.
Overall, the Royals have more than enough talent and depth to be a strong offensive team in 2017. However, there are a few question marks coming off of last season, and manager Ned Yost will have to figure out how to put the pieces together in a lineup that will score runs consistently.
After a disappointing 81-81 record last season in 2016, there is pressure on the Royals to rebound this season before they lose some of their core players in free agency. Fortunately, the players seem to be aware that the window is closing, and so there should be some sense of urgency.
Expect the Royals to finish 85-77 in 2017. Kansas City’s lineup should be able to show improvement from last season, but there are questions about the team’s pitching staff, specifically the bullpen. Without a top-notch pitching staff, the Royals will struggle to keep up with the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, although they should have to stay in contention for a wild card spot.