The 2021 Kansas City Royals are in the back end of their rebuild process. The Royals have made some great additions to their roster during their rebuild. Some are flourishing already, and some are on the rise still. This includes the acquisition of their new manager (second year) Mike Matheny. Most people do not expect the Royals to be contenders this year, or even beat the .500 mark. However, there are several scenarios in which Kansas City can compete. In this season preview we will go through each position group and look at some of those scenarios. Then, we will close with the 2021 season outlook.
2021 Kansas City Royals Starting Rotation
The rotation is the area that needs the most attention. Brad Keller sits atop the rotation after his breakout season in 2020. Last year he threw 54 2/3 innings of 2.47 ERA and 1.024 WHIP baseball with 35 strikeouts. It will be interesting to see how he does this year. He had kind of a slow spring, with an ERA of 5.00 and WHIP of 2.100. However, it is a good sign that Keller has 12 strikeouts in only 13 1/3 innings. Keller will be joined by Mike Minor, Brady Singer, and Danny Duffy.
Minor is the pitcher with the most experience of the group. In 2019 he was an All-Star and top-10 in Cy Young voting (8) with 200 strikeouts, a 3.59 ERA, and pitched 208 1/3 innings. Last year was not as good, but if he can return to some sort of semblance of his 2019 form, then the Royals rotation takes a huge step forward. Duffy has the second most experience in the rotation. He has been a middle-of-the-road pitcher so far in his career, but has made some progress lately. Last year he increased his strikeouts, which were above his innings-pitched for the first time since 2016. His ERA rose a little, but signs from spring show that he could be in line to take a step forward too.
Singer is the rookie of the bunch. Last year, he made his MLB debut and pitched 64 1/3 innings. He struck out 61 with a respectable 4.06 ERA and 1.166 WHIP. Singer is on fire in his 17 innings this spring. He has a miniscule ERA of 2.65 with 20 strikeouts and a WHIP of one. This rotation has the potential to win games. There are a lot of things that need to go right for each pitcher, and it may not be extremely probable, but it is possible.
The 2021 Kansas City Royals reliever corps is pretty good. They have two veteran high-leverage guys that have a combined 351 saves between them in Greg Holland and Wade Davis. Davis had a rough time in Colorado, as most pitchers do, but he was lights-out for Kansas City and the Chicago Cubs, so moving from the most hitter-friendly park to an extreme pitchers park will likely help a lot. That duo will be joined by Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, and Jakob Junis.
Hahn and Junis have had an excellent spring. If they can continue doing what they are doing and Davis can get back into his prior form, then this can be a nice, dependable bullpen. Their success will be directly related to the success of the starting rotation. The Starters’ ability to get deep into games is the key, along with continuing their spring success.
The outfield is going to be patrolled by Andrew Benintendi in left, Michael A. Taylor in center, and Kyle Isbel in right. This will be the first year that this outfield plays together. However, they are veterans that have been successful in the past. Benintendi was runner up ROY in 2017 and was a World Champion with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. His stats dropped some in 2019, which concerns people, and his stats were disgusting last year, but it was only over 39 at-bats, so you can take that with that with the proverbial grain of salt. It is very possible that the change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Benintendi, and he returns to his old self. That seems to be the trend with the Royals this year.
Taylor is a lot more predictable. The main question is whether he will steal bases this year. He has stolen only six bases in the last two years combined, though he did not quite reach 100 at-bats in either year. Taylor also had a down year at the plate last year, batting only .196, but he has had a promising spring — batting .333 with two homers, three doubles, a triple, and an OPS of 1.053. So it will be interesting to see how he does in the season. Kyle Isbel is a rookie who has had a pretty good spring himself—slashing .333/.420/.548 in 50 PA. Opening Day will be his MLB debut, so he will be exciting to watch as well.
Salvador Perez has just signed a nice extension that will keep him in Kansas City for a while. Perez is one of the best backstops in the league. He is a six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove catcher, and three-time Silver Slugger. At first base will be Carlos Santana, who was an All-Star and Silver Slugger in 2019. While he had a rough time at the plate last year, batting only .199, he still walked more than he struck out. He will likely rebound to his usual form this year in a full season. Whit Merrifield will continue as the second baseman. He was also an All-Star in 2019 when he slashed .302/.348/.463 and traded his stolen bases (10) for triples (10) and home runs (16). Both his stolen bases and homers were up last year, so you can likely expect good things out of him again in 2021.
Adalberto Mondesi has been one of the prospects that has been hyped heavily but has not really reached breakout status yet. Though his batting average was down last year, his stolen bases, doubles, walks, and home runs were way up. In only 59 games, he stole 24 bases, hit 11 doubles, hit six homers, and walked 11 times. This spring he slashed .303/.343/.606 with half of his hits going for extra bases (two homers, two doubles, one triple). Is this the breakout season everyone has been waiting for? We will see. Hunter Dozier will be the third baseman this year, and Jorge Soler is the DH. Both of these guys had great springs, each hitting five homers. Dozier hit five doubles and batted .289, while Soler batted .286 with six doubles. These two guys will provide the power for the Royals this year, along with Perez and Santana.
2021 Kansas City Royals Season Outlook
The 2021 Kansas City Royals are a rebuilding team and likely will not be a contender this year. However, this team has the ability to win a good amount of games. They unfortunately need a lot of stars to line up in order for it to happen. Of course, not many expected them to compete in 2014 when they won 89 games, the Wild Card, and eventually went to the World Series before finally losing to the San Francisco Giants in seven games. So, one might not want to count the Royals out completely. They have potential. It should be exciting to see how it plays out, and how many of these stars line up for the Royals this year. Let’s go!
Mike Matheny, Brad Keller, Mike Minor, Brady Singer, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, Jakob Junis, Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor, Kyle Isbel, Salvador Perez, Carlos Santana, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler