How to get through the rest of the Royals’ 2018 season…

“Do you consider yourself a masochist?”

My senior English teacher asked me that during a seminar-style class period where we had to discuss the topic of “relationships”. I went to an all-boys high school, and as expected, the seminar conversations were ripe with machismo and testosterone, especially initially. Despite that obvious roadblock though, my English teacher was able to navigate through our initial thoughts and tendencies and actually produce appropriate and worthwhile conversation amongst 20+ 18-year-old boys, ready to graduate and go to college. That 60-minute class could have easily turned into a “measuring” contest (i.e. who was the best at attracting the opposite sex) or a “venting” session (i.e. people bashing their exes). Instead, it turned into mature, thoughtful dialogue about relationships as a whole, why we seek them, and how we change or are shaped from relationships in our lives, even if they do not last for long. My conversations with my classmates from that particular day still ring in my memory, though I feel sheepish reveling the exact topics from my classmates that day, especially considering this is a Kansas City Royals and Fantasy Baseball blog.

But one bit I will share is the one above. I asked my English teacher, “I know why a relationship fails, and why we didn’t work. But I always go after the same kind of person. Why do I do that?”

And that’s when he dropped it on me: “Well…Do you consider yourself a masochist?”

I don’t think I had an answer then. I really don’t have an answer now. 13 years later since that class, I still wonder if I am actually a masochist when it comes to relationships, seeking ones that are doomed to fail out of some perverse subconscious enjoyment. I will say I am in a good relationship now, the best I’ve ever been, so maybe I’m not actually a masochist, but someone who needed more time to find the right person.

So what does this have to do with Royals baseball?

Well, I brought up that quote and that story because I got to thinking… is it possible that you have to be a bit masochistic to not only be a Kansas City Royals fan but a baseball fan in general?


Baseball is an odd game in comparison to other sports. There are no set time limits. The game from pitch to pitch moves slowly. The season runs a 162 games long, an insane amount of contests when you compare it to other major American sports. The game is mired in number, statistics, and analysis to the point where one almost has to have a love of math to enjoy the game nowadays. Opportunities vary for players on the field. In some games, the hits come in bunches, and a player is making play after play. In some games, he goes o-fer and doesn’t touch the baseball.

And opportunities for teams? It may be even worse. Only five teams from each division make the playoffs, only 33% (less than the nearly half per division as it is in the NBA), and two of those teams from each division have to play in a “one-game playoff” just to advance to the next round, where it is only a five-game series. In the NBA playoffs, each round consists of seven games, usually resulting in the best overall team winning each round (with some exceptions every now and then of course). But in baseball, there are only two seven-game series’: the Championship Series (Pennant) and the World Series. Often times, it’s not the best regular season team that wins the World Series…it’s just the best team in October. That can be infuriating for a fan who watched his team be successful over 162 games, only to see that success erased in as little as 1 to 3 games.

Some say that the baseball season is akin to “running a marathon, not a sprint”. I agree, but with some conditions: It is like running a marathon, but you have to carry cinder blocks on your shoulders while doing it.

And for the Royals and their fans this season, it’s been like running a marathon with cinder blocks that have 100-pound steel weights attached to them. In other words, this season has been an awful, painful, dragging slog to get through.

After a 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees in game one of a four-game series, the Royals are 31-71, 40 games under .500. With the July 31st Trade Deadline less than a week away, Royals fans are preparing for certain players to be wearing another team’s uniform in a matter of days. And speaking of fans, the tension with the club is at an all-time high, especially after Fangraphs writer, Dan Szymborski went on a Twitter tirade bashing General Manager Dayton Moore for not capitalizing on the Royals’ success in 2014 and 2015, and allowing the team to fall back to where it was prior to his arrival (i.e. one of the worst clubs in baseball) to the detriment of Royals fans.

As you can see from above, one can understand where I’m coming from when I say that it may be “masochistic” to be a Kansas City Royals fan. And there are still 60 games left to go this year.

How the hell am I, or any Royals fan for that matter, going to get through it all?


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It would be easy and understandable to throw in the towel on the Royals this season. And for the most part, a lot of people already have. Why follow a team that’s going nowhere this season? Why not spend time, money, and attention on other sports teams, activities, hobbies? If the Royals cause this much frustration, why stick with it, like a bad relationship doomed for failure?

I’m not saying you have to be masochistic to enjoy the Royals. As a matter of fact, I think there’s a lot to still enjoy with the Royals, even during this season.

I just don’t want Royals fans to grow pessimistic and jaded.

It’s amazing how easy it is to fall into those categories as a Royals fan. It’s easy to bash on Moore and blame him for all the Royals problems. It’s easy to bash manager Ned Yost and his lineup and bullpen decisions. It’s easy to bash the players and talk about how much they suck, or that they should be jettisoned from the sport immediately. It’s easy to bash on baseball and say the game is dying and that nobody cares about it anymore, especially in comparison to basketball and football.

But while it’s easy to do those things (and get into the habit of Randy Marsh finger pointing), it’s important to try to avoid it as much as possible (I get it…venting is needed from time to time). Instead, it’s important to remember the joy of 2014 and 2015. The positivity. The playoff games. The excitement. Blue adorning the city everywhere you traveled within the KC Metro. Those were good times. Good times for baseball fans. Good times for the Royals and Kansas City, overall. The parade at Union Station still is one of my best memories as a sports fan, period.

It’s important to remember because it helps give fans hope that it can happen again.  Just look at the difference between 2014 and 2015. Once the Royals got to the playoffs a second time, it seemed to be destiny that they were going to win it all. The Royals and the fans knew what it took to win, and they weren’t going to let it slip away a second time, as they proved by beating the New York Mets in the World Series in 2015.

So it’s important to hold on to hope. It’s important to not tune out on the Royals for the rest of 2018. And here are five things to remember that will help you get through the remaining 60 games of what some may say is a “lost season”


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1. Remember…2015 was only three seasons ago

Some may look at that statement and say “And look how bad we are after winning the World Series three years ago!” I get that, but you have to keep things in context, especially in comparison with other MLB teams. The Cleveland Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, good for the longest World Series draught currently. The Brewers, Padres, Nationals, and Mariners, have never won a World Series in their club’s history (49 years for Milwaukee, San Diego, and Washington; 41 for Seattle). The Royals, on the other hand, have two World Series titles: 1985 and 2015.

Yes, it sucks that the Royals are not competitive, and are in the process of rebuilding. It sucks that the Royals may not experience that playoff magic for at least a few more seasons. But compared to other clubs in baseball, at least we have those recent memories of success to comfort us in these down times.

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2. Remember the kids (in the farm system)

Much like a divorced couple or a relationship on the rocks, it’s important to remember the kids in all of this. Not your own kids (though if you have kids, certainly don’t neglect them), but the Royals prospects. There is a lot of talent coming up through the system who may be the next generation of Royals stars. Seuly Matias hit his Minor-League leading 28th and 29th home runs on Thursday night. Khalil Lee is starting to show promise in Northwest Arkansas. Recent first-round draft pick Brady Singer is the 67th rated prospect according to MLB.com. There are good things going on with Royals’ affiliates, which could mean good things on the horizon for the Royals organization as a whole in the next 2-3 years.

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3. Remember that there’s still some talent on the roster for the future.

Though he had a rough start Wednesday, Danny Duffy is finally turning it around as a starter this season in the Royals rotation. Whit Merrifield consistently proves to be one of the Royal’s strongest overall players, a great story considering he was overlooked for so long while toiling in the minors. Adalberto Mondesi is finally getting an opportunity to play every day, and he is finally developing into the infield mainstay many envisioned him to be when he first broke into the Majors as a 19-year-old. The roster has some players who can not only play this year, but could provide a nice foundation for the future for this Royals club as well. Yes, the farm system isn’t deep, and there are a lot of players on this roster that probably won’t be around when Spring Training hits next year. But the cupboard isn’t bare, and there are some players on this roster worth investing in as a fan for next season and beyond.

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4. Remember that even though there are struggles, the veterans aren’t mailing it in.

It would be easy to see Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and even to an extent Alcides Escobar, just throw in the towel on the season. After all, they were the main cogs during those 2014-2015 runs, and the roster around them is a far cry from those glory days. They could be out in the media, demanding trades, wanting to be on a winning team, hoping to snag one last ring in their prime. Instead, they have come to the ballpark and played hard as professionals. Even watching the game in person Wednesday, the veterans I listed above approached the game as if it were 2015, and they were in line for a playoff spot, not the first overall pick in the 2019 draft. That kind of professionalism and effort is not something we see all the time in baseball, and even Royals fans can attest to that. I mean, did you remember the 2005 Royals coming to the park every day like this squad here? And doing so even though all those veterans I listed above have gone through down seasons in 2018?

Yes, maybe they’re not doing well. Maybe a couple of them should’ve left a year or two ago. But they bring it each and every game, and that at the very least deserves some respect in the grand scheme of things.

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5. Remember…going to Kauffman Stadium is fun.

I talked about my experience at Kauffman Stadium in my last post. Going to a game at Kauffman is a great time. It doesn’t matter if you’re with a bunch of friends, tailgating a couple of hours before a game or going solo with a scorecard. There’s something about the stadium and the ballpark experience that make a day or night at the K special. It’s easy to forget that with all the losing going on. But don’t. Go to a game. Go to a game with friends. Go to a game by yourself. But just go. The specials are starting to happen in even greater frequency now, and tickets will only get cheaper as we head into August.

So don’t just settle for watching a game on television. Don’t settle for just listening to it on the radio on the way back to work as you’re stuck on I-35 traffic. Don’t just settle for following it on your MLB At-Bat app. Go to the K. Get a ticket. Sit in the cheap seats. Watch the Royals hit the field and hear the crack of the bat and the snap of the catcher’s mitt and the roars of the crowd.

A day at the ballpark in person captures you in ways that other mediums simply can’t.


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2018 will be a season that will either live in infamy (as the worst Royals team of all time) or will quickly be forgotten in Royals lore. I’m betting more on the latter. After all, nobody talks about the 2005 team (the current worst team in Royals history) with the exception of Royals fans comparing it to this year’s team. After 2018, people will only talk about the squad that season, future teams, or the 2015 team that won it all, and that will be a good thing. Think about Milwaukee. What years are they talking about other than the current season or the ones in the future? What years can they talk about when they had a parade in the heart of their city?

I’m not trying to sugar coat this Royals season or excuse this year’s poor performance by any means. It’s been a lousy year, plain and simple. There are players in this organization that need to go and management needs to make some changes in the organization (scouting, development or even the front office) if the club ever wants to be competitive again. 2018 has been a slap to the face of Royals fans this year. 2015 showed how all-in this city could be with the Royals and baseball. They deserved a better team than a bunch of band-aid free agent signings and short-sighted trades that ended up hindering the club for years to come.

But despite all that frustration…keep following the Royals. Keep going to Kauffman Stadium. Keep the faith in this club for the future. Don’t give up or ignore them for Chiefs football just yet.

Because that commitment will pay off. When the Royals turn it around…whenever that is…it will make the experience that much sweeter.

Maybe I’m not such a masochist after all…

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‘Will they ever be Royal?’ (July 21st): Matias wows at Futures; Lee homers; and Starling injured (again)

I hope to post a weekly series called “Will they ever be Royal?” from here on out. The series name is a play on the famous Lorde song that got considerable play in Kansas City during the 2013 season, when they suddenly got competitive again, and set in motion their 2014 and 2015 World Series runs. Basically, these are quick bits on some important stories going on in the Royals system, especially concerning prospects.

These posts won’t be as long as my usual posts, and a lot of them will refer you to links where you can read more about the points I bring up. There are a lot of great sites that provide more in-depth prospects coverage, with “Royals Farm Report” being a prime one (follow their blog and them on Twitter; the writers really run the best Royals prospects site out there), so I want to defer to others when it is necessary. That being said, I will highlight key stories going on in the farm system which I think hardcore Royals fans should know about it. (Non-Hardcore fans probably have stopped caring about the Royals a month ago and are glued to Chiefs coverage.)

So here are some bits on what’s going on in the Royals farm system.


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Seuly Matias turns heads at Futures game

No Royals prospect has been more polarizing than 19-year-old outfielder Seuly Matias, who currently has 27 home runs with the Lexington Legends (he just hit his 27th yesterday), which leads not only the South Atlantic League but the Minors overall (I have written about Matias before on the Roto Royal). Matias has a smooth big swing with oodles of power, but prospect experts have been mixed on his projection. Baseball Prospectus lists him as the top Royals prospect in the system and ranked him 75th overall in their pre-season Top 100. Baseball America ranked him as the 3rd best prospect in the Royals system (behind 1B Nick Pratto and OF Khalil Lee) and graded him a 60 EXTREME (meaning that his future is highly questionable; he could be a superstar or bust). At such a young age, and with such big strikeout numbers (he’s striking out in 36.8 percent of his plate appearances with Lexington this year), it really is difficult to see how Matias will project.

However, Matias showed well in the Futures Game last Sunday, with his prime achievement being a majestic oppo-field home run off of Justus Sheffield, one of the top pitching prospects in the Royals system.

Take a look at the home run, via Twitter:

And if that wasn’t enough, this is what former Red Sox DH and World team manager David Ortiz said about Matias after his 2-for-3 performance in the Futures Game:

That’s some strong praise indeed. Matias has gone under the radar a bit this season because the Royals system is not highly ranked, and he still is a few years away from really having an impact at the Major League level. However, after a great All-Star weekend, the magnifying glass is on the young Dominican outfielder. It will be interesting to see how the kid will not only handle the increase of attention from Royals fans and the media but also opposing pitchers in the second half of the Minor League season.


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Khalil Lee hits first home run in Double-A

The No. 2 prospect in the Royals system according to Baseball America, and the No. 4 prospect according to Fangraphs, Khalil Lee is an outfield prospect who has a big arm, and relies on his speed. According to Fangraphs, his arm rated as a 60 on the 20-80 scale, and his speed currently rated as a 55. Lee has demonstrated a knack to be aggressive on the basepaths, as he stole 20 bases last season in Lexington and has 16 so far between Wilmington (A+) and Northwest Arkansas (AA). Unfortunately, while Lee has the speed, he still has to develop his instinct on the bases as he was caught 18 times in Lexington last season. That being said, he has been much more proficient in 2018, as he has only been caught three total times this year, a significant improvement in success rate from a year ago.

Alex Duvall wrote a great piece on Lee for The Royals Farm Report four days ago, and had this to say about Lee:

Khalil Lee’s elite on-base abilities combined with his speed separate him from plenty of folks at similar levels. He walks like a power hitter and runs like a leadoff hitter. Pretty good combination for a leadoff hitter. Lee has been leading off a lot for the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a position I’d like to see him stay in long-term. He is going to be so much fun to watch when he gets to Kansas City.

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Lee since being called up to Northwest Arkansas just three days after his 20th birthday. After posting a .270 average and .808 OPS to go along with four home runs and 14 stolen bases in 301 plate appearances in the Carolina League with Wilmington, Lee is only posting a .224 average and .638 OPS to go along with 1 home run and 2 stolen bases in 80 plate appearances in the Texas League.

However, on July 18th on the road against Springfield, Lee launched his first Double-A home run, which proved to be an absolute bomb as evidenced below:

Much like Matias, opinions differ on Lee’s projections going forward, as he is a strong athlete, but still has to work on a lot of aspects of his game, especially when it comes to making contact. He had a 32.1 percent strikeout rate in Lexington last year, and though his rate has declined, it still has been pretty high as evidenced by 24.9 percent and 23.8 percent K rates in Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, respectively. However, Patrick Brennan, founder of Royals Farm Report, posted this on Twitter in reference to a 2080 Baseball article that ranked the Top 125 Prospects of the Midseason.

Lee is making good progress in the Royals system, as he is 2.4 years younger than the average player in Double-A. So there isn’t tremendous pressure on him to “produce” right away (development is the main focus for him now). Thus, it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop not just this season in Northwest Arkansas, but this Fall and beyond.


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Bubba Starling out at least six weeks

Things haven’t turned out as expected for Bubba Starling, the 5th overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft. Despite signing one of the largest signing bonuses in Royals history at the time, the local Gardner, Kansas high school three-sport star has failed to live up to the considerable hype he received when he decided to pursue professional baseball instead of football at Nebraska. Originally ranked as the 24th best prospect in baseball going into 2012 by Baseball America, Starling has only posted a .235 average and .693 OPS in 617 games and 2,483 career plate appearances over seven seasons. Though he certainly has the size at six-feet, four inches, and 215 pounds, the tools never really developed for Starling over the course of his Minor League career.

However, despite his lackluster performance, Starling still is on the Royals’ 40-man roster (as of July 21st) and there was hope that with the Royals tanking and going nowhere, Starling would debut this year with the big league club at some point. However, Rustin Dodd of the Athletic posted this on Twitter on July 19th:

Apparently, Starling suffered the injury while falling out of bed, an injury that will rank up there with Clint Barmes falling down the stairs while carrying deer meat. The setback is just another one of many for Starling this year, as he has only played in 11 games in Omaha this season due to various injuries. With him being shelved for another six weeks, it seems less and less likely that we’ll see Starling up with the Royals club this season…or perhaps ever at all.

Starling will turn 26 in August, and it seems certain that he just doesn’t have the skills or ability to be a Major League player (Age 26 is the prospect peak, meaning they are what they are as a player at this age). I’m sure Starling is a great person, and maybe he could return to football and have a Brandon Weeden-esque quarterback career or something. But after this latest setback, and with the Royals most likely going to add more pieces to their system by the trade deadline, it may be best for both sides if Starling finally steps away from baseball once and for all.

 

Who is Seuly Matias? (And is he legit?)

There hasn’t been much to cheer or be hopeful about this season for the Royals. They currently are trying to avoid the worst record in baseball, they can’t score runs for the life of them, and their farm system is currently in rebuilding mode (hence the Kelvin Herrera trade). Yes, the Royals are a small market franchise, and winning a World Series title three seasons ago should be enough to satiate the local fanbase for a least another few years. But in this day and age of “what have you done for me lately?” in sports, the Royals need to bring something to the table to help salvage not only this season somewhat, but also in the years to come as they go begin rebuilding their system both at the minor and major league level.

Seuly Matias may be that player that can get Royals fans (and potential fantasy owners) pumped again (or at least a little bit pumped).

Now, by no means is Matias the kind of blue-chip prospect that Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon or even Mike Moustakas was less than a decade ago. However, he is a heralded prospect who without a doubt is the crown jewel of the Royals system currently. According to Baseball Prospectus, he was ranked as the #75th Best Prospect going into 2018, and in Fangraphs’ updated Top 131 prospect list (as of June 11th), Matias ranks 88th overall (he’s the only prospect listed from Kansas City).

Matias has burst onto the national scene as of late for one reason: dingers. Matias, who currently plays for the Lexington Legends (the Royals’ Single-A affiliate), leads not only the South Atlantic League but the minor leagues overall, with 24 home runs through June 26th.  In the video below (courtesy of Royals Review’s weekly post on the minor leagues), the Legends coaching staff is pretty impressed with Matias’ display of not just power, but hitting ability for his age (he’s only 19 years old).

Matias is playing his first full season outside of Rookie ball this year and is a long way away from breaking into the Major Leagues. That being said, while he can’t even buy a drink in a bar yet,  he seems like he possesses the purest power out of anyone in the Royals system from top to bottom. Furthermore, at 6’3, 200 pounds, Matias has the frame and strength to be a solid power-hitting outfielder as he transitions through the Royals system over the next few seasons.

However, though the power may be “Trout-esque”, his other skills are far from that comparison. As you will see in the scouting video below from a series against the Rome Braves (Atlanta’s Sally affiliate), his plate discipline needs a lot of work. He is over-aggressive and he swings at a lot of pitches out of the zone, which either results in a lot of swings and misses or bad contact that results in easy outs. That poor plate approach is evident this year in his low batting average (.238 average) as well as high strikeout rate (37.1 percent) and low BB/K ratio (0.21). To make matters worse, these trends were also common during his tenure in the Rookie Leagues the past couple of seasons, as his strikeout rates hovered around the 30 percent mark at each level, and he has never hit higher than .250 in his short career thus far.

At his age, while these numbers are a bit alarming, they’re not damning. When it comes to evaluating prospects, it’s always important to see if a player has one Major League-level “skill” and Matias has that in his power as well as arm, which also was rated a 70 on a 20-80 scale, according to Fangraphs. To have two highly-rated skills from Matias is promising, and if he can become even a “mediocre” hitter for average that can hit annually in the .240 to .260 range, he could be a valuable producer for the Royals lineup in the future, especially if he can transition that 30-40 home run power to the Major League level. Of course, that’s always easier said than done. Plenty of prospects have displayed Matias’ skill set before in the minors (especially lower levels), only to flame out as they face better pitching up the Minor League ladder. So, it’ll be interesting to see if Matias’ approach will improve as he matures as a player.

For fantasy players looking to get a head start on future keepers, Matias may be a valuable pickup…but probably not for another two-three years, minimum. He’s still only 19 years old, and the Sally is still too low a level for potential fantasy owners to make a solid judgment and projection on his future ability at the Major League level. Furthermore, Matias’ home run power hasn’t exploded until this year so it may be prudent to see if he can produce something similar in either High-A or Double-A first.

Matias has a long ways to go. But for a Royals system that’s dearth of top-end prospects, and for fantasy owners who are looking for a breakout player who could provide them pop for years to come, Matias certainly is an enticing and exciting prospect.

But let’s take his success with a grain of salt. He’s still just a teenager in Single-A, and he has a long way to go before he makes it to the show.