Kansas City Royals, MLB

Royals may be close to a breakthrough in their rebuild

The Kansas City Royals quickly went downhill after their 2015 World Series Championship. They may be contenders again before too long.

The Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 1985. They then had to wait another 29 years before a return trip to the playoffs, falling 90 feet short of a championship in 2014 before winning it all in 2015. Things quickly went downhill after that, many key players departed via trade or free agency. Now, they’ve suffered back-to-back seasons of over 100 losses.

For the immediate future, there’s not much hope for the Royals to contend in 2020, whatever the MLB season looks like. Hopefully, for their fans, they won’t have to wait almost three decades again before getting back to the postseason. And right now, there is reason to believe they could be contenders again soon.

The reason: the remarkable turnaround of the Royals’ farm system. As recently as two years ago, Bleacher Nation ranked the Royals’ farm system as the weakest of the 30 MLB teams. However, they now have a top-ten system thanks largely to a strong injection of pitching talent from the 2018 draft:

  • Brady Singer (first round, 18th overall), whom many thought would crack the Royals’ starting rotation this year
  • Jackson Kowar (first round, pick for losing Lorenzo Cain), projected to reach majors in 2021
  • Daniel Lynch (first round, pick for losing Eric Hosmer), projected to reach majors in 2021
  • Kris Bubic (competitive balance first round pick), projected to reach majors in 2021
  • Austin Cox (fifth round pick), projected to reach majors in 2022
  • Jonathan Bowlan (second round pick), projected to reach majors in 2022

Of course, nothing is a guarantee when developing pitching talent. Yet imagine this big wave of arms reaching the majors over the next three seasons. Then there’s shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., the second overall pick in 2019. Though he isn’t projected to reach the majors until 2022, the consensus is that he’s going to be a star.

Because of all this, there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic about the Royals’ future. Hopefully, we will have minor league baseball this season, and if we do, it will be a key year for developing all these young arms. We should know a lot more a year from now.

In the meantime, there may not be many pieces on the major league roster that will be around for the next good Royals team. Adalberto Mondesi is a nice piece near the top of the order, while Brad Keller showed some promise on the mound last year.

Interestingly, the team decided to hang onto Whit Merrifield this offseason, and they probably could have gotten a nice haul in return for him. Instead, the late-blooming 31-year-old remains on the roster, and his trade value will likely decrease over time. Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier both broke through last year, but it’s hard to say whether either can replicate their 2019 success.

If and when the MLB season gets underway, it will be interesting to see what they do with these players. Of course, they’ll need more position player talent to build a winner. Yet when the pitching all arrives and they feel they’re ready, the Royals can add a couple of pieces from outside the organization, as they did when they signed Kendrys Morales prior to 2015 and traded for Johnny Cueto during the 2015 season.

No, the Royals are not going to win in 2020, or even in 2021. Yet if all goes well, they could have a team built around a solid pitching staff in the near future.

Next: The Red Sox have a lot of work to do before contending to win the AL East again

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