Kansas City Royals 2016 Midseason Report

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The defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals haven’t exactly been the model of consistency. They will take a 45-43 record into the All-Star break. Last year they were 52-34 at this juncture, cruising to the American League Central title and eventually winning it all. The Royals are tied for third place with the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central and trail the first-place Cleveland Indians by seven games. In the wild-card standings, they are 4.5 games out. Let’s take a look at what stood out through the halfway point of the season.

Royals 2016 Midseason Report

Biggest Surprise

The 2016 season has brought a lot of surprises to Kansas City Royals. Some not so good. The injuries this year have been relentless. However, in spite of the injuries, a few positives have risen. One that stands out the most is Whit Merrifield. Whit was a three-year starter at the University of South Carolina before being drafted by Kansas City in 2010. With some incredible work done by the front office, he never became a player that could have potentially been stolen from the Royals. Until May of 2016, Merrifield has been one of the best kept secrets within the organization.

On May 18, he got the chance to start game two of a double-header against the Boston Red Sox. Merrifield started in left field and went 1-for-3 against the Red Sox ace, David Price. He went on to hit .356/.356/.467 for the month of May. He also set the Royals rookie record for most consecutive games with a hit, beating Johnny Damon’s rookie season record. Merrifield has collected two or more hits in 15 of 37 games, just over 40 percent of the games he has played in this year. Though he found a home at second base with Omar Infante being designated for assignment, Merrifield’s versatility makes it easier to give Alex Gordon time off as well.

Biggest Disappointment

It’s apparent that the starting pitching has been the Achilles heel for the Royals. The starting rotation has a 28-37 record with a 4.99 ERA. Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez has not lived up to the nickname “Steady Eddie” with a 4.89 ERA. That’s still better than Yordano Ventura‘s 5.15 ERA with a 6-7 record. Chris Young, who has 13 starts, was sympathetically removed from the rotation with a 2-8 record and 6.79 ERA, while allowing an indefensible 26 home runs in 61 innings.

The Royals will need to bolster their rotation if they have any plans of making it back to the postseason. They had hopes of Kris Medlen and Mike Minor contributing this year, but both have had multiple setbacks on rehab assignments in the minors.

Midseason MVP

Salvador Perez topped the American League ballot box for all players in the All-Star Game. Not only is he a true leader on the field, but he also serves as somewhat of a spiritual leader. From the clutch late-hits, to a “Salvy Splash”, he embodies the true nature of the Royals clubhouse: Work hard, and have fun doing it! Perez has a .283 batting average, 14 home runs, 41 RBIs and a Gold Glove behind the plate. This will be his fourth consecutive All-Star Game. He also excels in prime-time, a .348 average in a dozen World Series games. Everything about his positive spirit makes it impossible not to like this guy.

What to Watch for in the Second Half

Last July, general manager Dayton Moore acquired RHP Johnny Cueto and utility player Ben Zobrist in trades. Without those two, the Royals likely would not have won the 2015 World Series. Moore is looking to make a deal to beef up the starting pitching. They’ve had talks with the Athletics about Rich Hill. Other names on the Royals’ radar include Ervin Santana and Jake Odorizzi. While no pitchers of the same class as Cueto and Price appear to be on the market, there are plenty of satisfactory arms available that might help the Royals get back to the postseason.

Right handed pitcher Alec Mills could be added to the rotation if the Royals do not end up acquiring a veteran via trade. Mills is 2-0 in four starts since being promoted to Triple-A Omaha. He has a 2.67 ERA in 16 starts this season between the Storm Chasers and Double-A Northwest Arkansas with 86 strikeouts in 91 innings.

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