Royals 2020 Season In Review
The Kansas City Royals concluded the regular season with a 26-34 record. That was good enough for fourth place in the American League Central. In contrast, the Minnesota Twins won the division with Kansas City ten games back of first place.
Among the rest of the division, the Royals finished with a 9-11 record overall. In those games, the team scored 91 runs while allowing a total of 84. Kansas City’s most significant impact in the division was felt against the Detroit Tigers with a 6-4 record.
While it was another rebuilding year for the Royals, the organization as a whole is on the rise. According to mid-season ranking’s by MLB.com, Kansas City had the tenth best farm system in baseball. That was up from their preseason ranking which put them 17th overall.
With all of that being said, here’s a look at some of the bright and bleak spots for the Royals from the 2020 season.
A Look Back at the Royals Pitching Staff
One of the shining parts of the Royals farm system is their pitching depth. The organization has a lot of college arms and have five pitchers among their Top 10 prospects. Collectively, the Royals pitching staff finished the regular season with a 4.30 ERA over 517 innings of work. That put Kansas City 12th overall.
More specifically, the Royals starting rotation combined for a 4.70 ERA. Royals starters held opposing batters to a .260 batting average over that span and recorded a K/9 rate of 7.90. That K/9 rate was the second lowest in baseball ahead of only the Colorado Rockies.
In contrast, the bullpen did a bit better concluding the regular season with a 3.84 ERA over 241 and one-third innings of work. Royals relievers recorded a total of 275 strikeouts.
Here were some of the bright spots on the Royals pitching staff.
25-year old right-hander Brad Keller was the Royals most effective starting pitcher in 2020. He finished the season with a 2.47 ERA over nine starts. In that span, he posted a 3.43 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) along with a 1.024 WHIP. Looking ahead to the future, the Royals view Keller as a pivotal member of their starting rotation. Next season, Keller will likely be the team’s number three starter, but there’s a potential he could be the number two depending on how some of the top pitching prospects in the organization develop.
Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal: The Comeback Relievers
In 2020, the Royals started to see versions of their World Series Championship team from 2015. That’s especially true when you look back at the year that Greg Holland put together.
During his age-34 season, Holland put up a 1.91 ERA over 28 appearances. If you look solely at full seasons over his big league tenure, that was the lowest ERA the right-hander had since 2014. That was the same year he was named an All-Star, finished ninth overall in American League Cy Young Award voting, and even finished in the Top 20 in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Holland held opposing left-handed hitters to a .179/.220/.232 slash line over 60 plate appearances. In addition, he was very clutch during save situations posting a 0.00 ERA in those situations. Holland is now a free agent, but a reunion with the Royals cannot be ruled out.
Beyond Greg Holland, Trevor Rosenthal was equally as effective. After signing a one-year deal with the team last offseason, Rosenthal had a 3.24 ERA over 13 and two-third innings of work or 14 games. In that span, he faced a total of 56 batters and had 21 strikeouts.
In fact, his performance was so impactful that contending teams saw that value and decided to make a trade for his services. At the August 31st Trade Deadline, Rosenthal went out west and finished the year with the San Diego Padres where he posted a 0.00 ERA over ten innings.
Jesse Hahn Reestablishes His Identity
If the bounce back seasons from the aforementioned Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal weren’t enough, Jesse Hahn had a great impact this year, as well. The former big-league starter was used as a hybrid pitcher for the Royals recording three starts over 18 appearances. Furthermore, he finished the season with three saves.
If the season was a full 162-game schedule, who knows what type of impact Hahn could have had. Over the 60-games, he posted a 0.52 ERA and held opposing batters to a .071 batting average. He has one-year remaining on his current deal with the Royals and if he can repeat what he did this year, then that will only benefit Kansas City come 2021.
Review of the Royals Offense
The Royals didn’t necessarily have a potent offense during the 2020 season. Rather, the team posted a collective slash line of .244/.309/.402 over 1,988 plate appearances. Over that sample, Royals hitters combined for a total of 248 runs which tied them with the division rival Cleveland Indians. Additionally, the lineup finished middle-of-the-pack in strikeouts with a total of 527.
Core Four Hitters
The heart of the Royals lineup was made up of second baseman Whit Merrifield, third baseman Maikel Franco, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, and second baseman Nicky Lopez. Among that group, Merrifield led the team with a .282 batting average and 70 hits over the full 60 games. Furthermore, Franco led the team with 38 RBI over 223 at bats.
Franco was another flier pickup for the Royals prior to the start of the season. After being released by the Philadelphia Phillies, Kansas City took a chance and wanted to add some impact to their lineup. In a sense, the signing paid off as Franco finished the year with a .778 OPS and eight home runs. However, he did record 38 strikeouts over that period.
In regards to Adalberto Mondesi, the 25-year old had a .294 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage in 233 plate appearances. The area where Mondesi once again shined was on the base paths. He led all of baseball with 24 stolen bases. Since 2018, he has recorded at least 20 stolen bases every year with the 2019 season being his highest (43).
Nicky Lopez, who was drafted by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, played in his second big league season this year. While Lopez is still viewed highly in the organization, he did finish this year with a disappointing .201 batting average. However, the one area where Lopez does rate highly is in the field with his glove. This year, he combined for a Range Factor per 9 Innings (RF/9) of 4.44 which was higher than the league average of 4.01.
Injury Marred Year for Salvador Perez
After missing the entire 2019 regular season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 2020 season was once again an injury marred season for catcher Salvador Perez. In his age-30 season, Perez only played in a total of 37 games. The reason being was because he was put on the injured list in late August with left eye central serous choioretinopathy.
Despite missing that time, Perez led the team with 11 home runs. He had a cumulative slash line of .333/.353/.633. More specifically, the Royals catcher finished the month of September with a 1.197 OPS along with 23 hits, six doubles, seven home runs, 20 RBI, one walk, and 21 strikeouts. That is a very good sign for a Royals team that is expecting more contributions from Perez come 2021 in the form of veteran leadership both on and off the field as well as at the plate.
Alex Gordon Wraps Up His Career
Easily the most memorable moment of the 2020 season for Kansas City Royals fans and baseball fans alike revolved around Alex Gordon. After the conclusion of the Royals season, the 36-year old announced that he was going to retire from baseball. Rewind back to the end of the 2019 regular season and that’s when Gordon became a free agent.
The Royals did the classy thing and brought him back on a one-year deal so that they could honor his contributions properly. After all, the team drafted Alex Gordon during the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft and played his entire 14-year big league career with the organization.
During his prime, Gordon was known as an elite defender. He was one of the key reasons why Kansas City won a World Series Championship in 2015. Over his career, Gordon had a cumulative fielding percentage of .980. In addition, he was recognized with a total of eight Gold Glove Awards over that span. One of those actually came this week when MLB announced it’s latest round of winners.
Regardless, Gordon is always going to be viewed as a member of the Royals organization. He was an icon for the citizens of Kansas City for a long period of time. Additionally, the contributions he made on and off the field will always be remembered.
Final Thoughts on the Royals
Although the 2020 season was another year where the Royals finished outside of the playoff picture, the future is shaping up to be very bright. Kansas City has built a sustainable farm system for the future. As those prospects make their way to the major league level, their contributions should be felt in a big way.
For now, Kansas City needs to focus on adding the right complimentary pieces to their current roster to take that next step forward in 2021. With the right contributions from some of the aforementioned players, that should happen.
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