The Kansas City Royals have changed their leader. Gone are the days of Ned Yost, and in comes Mike Matheny. Matheny went to the World Series with the Cardinals years ago, and will look to bring leadership to a young Kansas City team.
The Royals finished the 2020 season with a 26-34 record, and from Sept. 8 until the end of the season, the team’s record was 12-6. They ended on a high note, and they’ll look to build on that momentum. KC was on pace for a 70-win season, and with a few new additions from this offseason, that number is slated to rise.This will be their first season without Royals legend Alex Gordon, as he retired after the 2020 season.
The arrival of Andrew Benintendi gives Royals fans reasons for optimism. The former Boston Red Sox was a stud during his first four years at Fenway. He’ll immediately be the team’s best left-handed batter. This was the Royals’ first surprise move of the offseason when they signed Cleveland legend Carlos Santana. Santana has a chance to lead a young team looking to fill the leadership void left by Gordon. Mike Minor will return for a second run with the Royals on a team-friendly deal. The signings of Santana and Minor are similar deals, with the Royals buying low on a couple of experienced veterans in the short term.
Most notably for the Royals, 2020 was Gordon’s final year. He’s a rare breed of exceptional player that spends his entire major-league career with one team. At his peak from 2011-2014, he was consistently a menace to teams, including Cleveland, once he found his home in the outfield. Gordon’s presence will be missed, both on and off the field.
The starting rotation is where the Royals are going to have to figure out some things.They were a surprisingly effective pitching staff last year, but there are still question marks within the rotation. Brad Keller opens as the ace. Keller had a strong rookie season in 2018, and he bounced back from a rough 2019 by posting a 5-3 record with a 2.47 ERA last season.
Minor returns for a second stint in KC. He’ll be a starter this time around, though. Danny Duffy has some of the best stuff in the majors, but he’s been unable to replicate his successful 2016 campaign. Duffy is entering his 11th season with the Royals, and he posted a 4-4 record last season.
Brady Singer and Jakob Junis will round out the rotation and their wildcards themselves. Both are young and could form a formidable trio with Keller if they all take the next step.Singer was solid in his rookie season, going 4-5 with 63 strikeouts. If Junis can discover his rookie season form, they’d have something special. Junis went 9-3 during his first campaign, but he’s tailed off a bit since, posting 9-12 and 9-14 records before going winless through eight starts in 2020. A rumored move to the bullpen may be the answer.
Kansas City’s lineup will look a bit different. Santana’s arrival will both aid and alter its alignment. Santana will slot in at the first base, which means Hunter Dozier will move back to third base.Benintendi will be the team’s everyday left fielder. Whit Merrifield will be a full-time outfielder, and he’s been one of KC’s most consistent hitters in his five seasons with the team. Michael A. Taylor will play center field, while Nicky Lopez played second base, and he’s one of the best defenders in baseball at the position last season.
Gordon’s departure will be felt, but longtime Royals catcher Salvador Perez is still in the picture. Perez will take the reigns as captain, and he’s coming off batting a career-high .333.
Three Key Pieces
The moment Benintendi was acquired, he became their most important player. He has the potential to be the next great Kansas City Royal. As the staff’s ace, Keller will be one of the keys to success. KC needs him to take that next step after posting an impressive 2.47 ERA. Perez is now the longest-tenured Royal, and he’s been one of the most consistent backstops in the majors over the past decade, both at the plate and behind it.
The Royals may struggle to break the 80-win plateau with so many questions around their rotation. Kansas City may be able to play the role of spoiler, as they end the year with three-game home stints with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. According to BetUs.com, the Royals aren’t one of the favorites to win the World Series, as their current Moneyline sits at +11000.