Kansas City Royals 2021 Season Preview

Kansas City Royals 2021 Season Preview

by April 1, 2021 0 comments

In the shortened 2020 season, the Royals finished with a 26-34 record.

Throughout the season, Kansas City played .500 baseball (25-25) outside of the Chicago White Sox, finishing 1-9 against Chicago. Now, let’s look ahead to the 2021 season.

The Royals made multiple additions this offseason, signing Mike Minor and Carlos Santana to two-year deals. However, the most notable acquisition was trading for left fielder Andrew Benintendi from the Boston Red Sox. Along with Benintendi, KC added Michael A. Taylor and Jarrod Dyson.

The most notable loss was all-time Royals legend Alex Gordon, who retired after the 2020 season.

C/IF Projections

C: Salvador Perez

1B: Carlos Santana

2B: Whit Merrifield

3B: Hunter Dozier

SS: Adalberto Mondesi

Perez is coming off a terrific 2020 campaign, hitting .333 with 11 home runs and 32 runs batted in during the short season. He recently signed the largest contract in Royals franchise history, inking a four-year, $82 million extension. The 2015 World Series MVP won the AL Comeback Player of the Year award and is a crucial piece to the success of the team.

At first base, the Royals signed Santana this offseason and he brings an immediate upgrade to the position. Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom have not been able to establish themselves as the everyday first baseman and Santana brings a boost to the lineup with his 240 career home runs.

Merrifield will return to the every day second base role. The Royals optioned Nicky Lopez earlier this week as his struggles at the plate have continued to haunt him. Merrifield has been one of the most consistent hitters on the team with a career .295 average and has led the Majors in hits in two of the past three seasons.

Dozier also returns to the infield after playing in right field last season. With the departure of Maikel Franco, the “BullDozier” will man the hot corner in 2021. He recently signed a four year extension and looks to return to his 2019 form, when he hit 26 home runs and drove in 84 runs while tying for the league lead in triples (10).

Mondesi is back at shortstop. He broke out in September last season, hitting .356 with six homers and 20 RBIs. In Spring Training this year, he has a .949 OPS. He will look to replicate his hot finish to the 2020 season this year.

On Wednesday, news came out that Mondesi will start out the season on the 10-day Injured List with a right oblique strain. The Royals have recalled the previously-optioned Lopez, and he will be the Opening Day starter at shortstop.

The Royals added Hanser Alberto to their infield depth and he will be a rotational piece throughout the season as he plays both positions up the middle and third base. He also hits left-handed pitching very well with a .350 career average against lefties.

OF/DH Projections

LF: Andrew Benintendi

CF: Michael A. Taylor

RF: Kyle Isbel

DH: Jorge Soler

The Royals made a splash in trading for Benintendi during the offseason. Kansas City had a major task in replacing Gordon and they resolved it by adding a very good defender and left-handed hitter. The former first-round draft pick will look to bounce back after a season-ending rib injury last year.

Taylor was signed to a one-year contract after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals. In his career, he has a 3.6 WAR. Dyson was brought back after playing a big role in the 2015 World Series Championship team. He and Taylor will platoon throughout the season in center.

The Royals’ top outfield prospect Isbel is slated to be the Opening Day starter in right field. He impressed throughout Spring Training with a .333 average and .968 OPS. His dominant performance this spring earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster and played a role in Lopez originally being optioned. Royals manager Mike Matheny announced that Isbel will the starting right fielder on Opening Day.

Soler will be at DH this season. He led the American League in home runs in 2019 with 48 and drove in 117 runs. Soler looks to return to 2019 form after only hitting .228 with eight homers in 43 games last year. When his bat is hot, he is one of the league’s most dominant designated hitters.

Starting Rotation Projections

Brad Keller, Mike Minor, Brady Singer, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, and Kris Bubic

To start this season, the Royals will likely have only four starters. Junis will be featured in the bullpen at the start and will play a swingman role throughout the season. He also added a cutter to his arsenal and it has looked good throughout the spring. Bubic was optioned to Triple-A a few weeks ago and will likely be brought up to the Major League roster when the Royals will need a fifth starter, which will start around April 16. Throughout this season, Kansas City could roll with a six-man rotation.

Keller gets his second straight Opening Day start. Last season, he posted a career-best 2.47 ERA with a 5-3 record. Newly-signed lefty Minor returns to Kansas City for a second stint after playing a vital role in the bullpen in 2016. He posted a 2.55 ERA that year and he returns as a starter this year. In 2019 with the Texas Rangers, he went 14-10 with a 3.59 ERA and 200 strikeouts.

Singer proved to be a future star last year when he debuted, posting a 4.09 ERA in 64.1 innings. In Spring Training, he had all of his pitches working with his slider get lots of swings and misses and his changeup has improved since last year. In the Royals’ final game of the spring, Singer threw five scoreless innings, striking out five hitters and allowing only two hits.

Duffy is entering the final year of his contract. He threw 56.1 innings last year and struck out 57 batters with a 4.95 ERA. He will look to lower his ERA as he enters the season as the No. 4 starter in the rotation.

Bullpen Projections

Greg Holland, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Wade Davis, Jesse Hahn, Kyle Zimmer, and Ervin Santana

Holland returned to the Royals last year and finished with a 1.91 ERA. He re-signed on a one-year deal and is going to be the closer for the team this season after a great campaign in 2020.

Barlow and Staumont each shined last year. Barlow pitched in 32 games and had a 4.20 ERA, becoming one of the late-innings arms during the season. As for Staumont, his 100-plus MPH fastball made him known around the league. He finished last year with a 2.45 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 25.1 innings pitched. They will be the two anchors in late innings before the ball is handed off to Holland for the save.

Davis returns to Kansas City this offseason on a minor league deal. After a strong spring performance with a 1.29 ERA in seven appearances, he was selected for the Opening Day Roster.

Hahn provided quality innings in the bullpen last year. In 17.2 innings, he had a 0.52 ERA and allowed just 12 batters to reach base.

Zimmer and Santana will round out the bullpen. Zimmer found his role after an up and down start to his career, posting a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings last year. Santana did not pitch in the 2020 season after posting a 9.45 ERA in 2019 with the White Sox.

Santana did pitch for the Royals in 2013, when he posted a career-best 3.24 ERA. He will be used in long-relief situations.

Players to Watch For

Andrew Benintendi
Adalberto Mondesi

Benintendi only played in 14 games last season. The team traded away a top prospect in Khalil Lee for him and need to see Benintendi bounce back from his injury. With a new environment and being healthy, he is in a prime position to break out. A .285 average with 20 home runs, 73 RBIs, and 35 doubles is feasible.

Mondesi ended last season on fire at the plate and it has extended into Spring Training. The defense has always been there as he possesses the range and glove to be an elite-level defender.

This year is Mondesi’s opportunity to take his hitting to the next level and with a lot of talented hitters around him, some pressure has been alleviated and he can go out and hit.

Prediction

The Royals’ roster has gained some major upgrades. The offense added a power bat in Santana and a young, talented left fielder who is a great defender with a solid swing, as well. The core returning from last year with Perez, Merrifield, Dozier, and Soler can light it up offensively when they get going. The bullpen will be above average and the starting rotation improved with Minor returning.

One can see the Royals finishing third in the AL Central as they have improved their roster and the Cleveland Indians getting worse. Cleveland traded away their franchise star and didn’t get nearly enough in return. The pitching staff for the Indians will continue to be terrific, but the offense took a major hit and will suffer without Lindor and Santana.

Kansas City is ready to win and has made moves that put them in a position to. Owner John Sherman and General Manager Dayton Moore want a winning team on the diamond each night, and they have a team that is ready to fulfill that.

With the additions and moves made this offseason along with a strong farm system and top prospects quickly rising, the Royals are trending up.

Record:  81-81, 3rd place AL Central

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