With our Royals Roster Previews complete, it’s time to put it all together and preview how the season could shape up for Kansas City. The 2021 iteration of the boys in blue saw them finish with a 74-88 record. They’ve now finished six consecutive seasons under .500 and have not made the postseason since 2015 when the team, of course, won the World Series. The Royals’ average attendance in home games last season was just 1.15 million fans, the lowest mark for the franchise since 1972.
Of course, Covid-19 played a part in the attendance woes, but putting a contending product on the field will go a long way in bringing fans back to Kauffman Stadium this season. The average hitter was 29 years old last season and the team figures to get younger this season with many young prospects on the horizon.
Here is our Royals 2022 Season Preview:
INF Hanser Alberto – Outrighted to minors, elected free agency. Signed a one-year contract with LAD.
RP Scott Blewett – Outrighted to minors, elected free agency. Remains a free agent.
1B Ryan McBroom – Released. Signed a one-year contract with the Hiroshima Carp in the NPB (Japan).
SP/RP Ervin Santana – Free Agent. Remains a free agent.
RP Greg Holland – Free Agent. Signed a one-year contract with TEX.
RP Wade Davis – Free Agent. Elected retirement.
RP Jesse Hahn – Free Agent. Remains a free agent.
SP Jakob Junis – Outrighted to minors, elected free agency. Signed a one-year contract with SF.
RP Kyle Zimmer – Released. Signed a one-year contract with CIN.
SP Mike Minor – Traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with cash considerations for RP Amir Garrett.
INF Ivan Castillo – Signed to a minor league contract
CF JaCoby Jones – Signed to a minor league contract
RP Taylor Clarke – Signed to a minor league contract
RHP Colten Brewer – Signed to a minor league contract
RP Daniel Mengden – Signed to a minor league contract
SP Brad Peacock – Signed to a minor league contract
SP Zack Greinke – Signed to a one-year $13 million major league contract
RP Amir Garrett – Traded from CIN for Mike Minor and Cash Considerations
Projected 28-Man Roster
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Cam Gallagher
First Base: Carlos Santana, Hunter Dozier
Second Base: Nicky Lopez
Third Base: Bobby Witt Jr., Emmanuel Rivera
Shortstop: Adalberto Mondesi
Right Field: Whit Merrifield, Edward Olivares
Center Field: Michael A Taylor, Kyle Isbel
Left Field: Andrew Benintendi
Starting Pitchers: Zack Greinke, Brad Keller, Kris Bubic, Carlos Hernandez, Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer
Bullpen: Amir Garrett, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Dylan Coleman, Jake Brentz, Jon Heasley, Joel Payamps, Ramiel Tapia, Collin Snider
MLB Rosters are set at 28 through May 1. Following May 1, they’re set to reduce back to 26 players. As a result, I expect the Royals to bring two additional pitchers (15) until rosters reduce and they’re forced to carry no more than 13 once again. The Royals don’t have any depth behind Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi on the opening day roster, but of course, Nicky Lopez can always transition back to shortstop. The team’s outfield depth would allow Merrifield to transition back to Second Base if necessary as well.
Projected Lineup (and Slash Projection)
- RF Whit Merrifield: .284/.330/.420, wRC+ 95
- 3B Bobby Witt Jr: .265/.340/.440, wRC+ 110
- LF Andrew Benintendi: .290/.350/.480, wRC+ 120
- C Salvador Perez: .260/.310/.520, wRC+ 115
- 1B Carlos Santana: .220/.330/.370, wRC+ 85
- DH Hunter Dozier: .245/.325/.440, wRC+ 80
- SS Adalberto Mondesi: .276/.345/.480, wRC+ 115
- CF Michael A Taylor: .255/.300/.390, wRC+ 89
- 2B Nicky Lopez: .290/.355/.380, wRC+ 105
The Royals figure to return some hitters that performed poorly in 2021. Hunter Dozier, Carlos Santana, and Michael Taylor get their chance to rebound and have a better season in 2022. Michael Taylor is my opening day center fielder for the Royals, but I expect the Royals to implement more of a platoon in center-field this season with Kyle Isbel on the opening day roster.
The top and bottom of the lineup feature very strong pieces, as I’m predicting a strong and full season from 5-tool shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. The Royals will hope to find stronger production from the heart of their order, specifically from the DH and 1B positions. If Carlos Santana and Hunter Dozier can’t produce stronger results at the plate, Kansas City could look to call up reinforcements from the minor leagues.
Projected Rotation (and Stat Projections)
- Zack Greinke: 10-7, 4.05 ERA, 127 SO, 43 BB
- Brad Keller: 8-8, 4.35 ERA, 119 SO, 64 BB
- Kris Bubic: 12-4, 3.80 ERA, 134 SO, 75 BB
- Carlos Hernandez: 8-5, 4.10 ERA, 95 SO, 49 BB
- Daniel Lynch: 10-2, 3.20 ERA, 112 SO, 39 BB
Noticeably absent from my rotation projection is Brady Singer. I think Singer has great potential as a pitcher in this league, but until he proves he can pitch a third offering at a consistent rate, it’s difficult to imagine him being anything better than a swing starter or long relief option. The Royals have announced their first four starters of the season and it also doesn’t include Singer. Brady will have an uphill battle to make the rotation when battling against Daniel Lynch who boasts a much stronger mix of pitches.
Daniel Lynch is perhaps the most eye-popping stat projection of the bunch here. I expect Lynch to make huge strides this season, along with the rest of the young pitchers in Kansas City. The Royals’ season-long success will depend heavily on the development of their young arms and Lynch is the head of that group. He boasts a strong mix of pitches and has already seen success in the major leagues. Last August, Lynch’s largest single-month sample size in the major leagues to date, he posted a 2.39 ERA over 5 starts with 27 strikeouts and 15 walks. His ERA over 14 innings the previous month, in July, was even better at 1.93.
I project Daniel Lynch to become the ace of this staff by the season’s end.
Prospects To Watch
1. MJ Melendez – Catcher (Royals No. 2, MLB No. 51)
Melendez led the entire major leagues last season with 41 home runs. He’s been reassigned to the minor leagues to start the season, where he will play for Triple-A Omaha. With Salvador Perez locked into the starting Catcher role, thanks to his five-year extension a year ago, Melendez doesn’t have a clear path to the Major Leagues. The Royals may look to trade veteran backup, Cam Gallagher, to open the door for Melendez to make the big leagues this season. A duo of Melendez and Perez could allow the Royals to use both players at Catcher and DH throughout the season and keep their backstops fresh and productive.
2. Nick Pratto – First Base (Royals No. 3, MLB No. 62)
Pratto rounds out the trio atop the list of outstanding Royals hitters in the minors last season (with Melendez and Witt Jr.). He hit .265/.385/.602 last season between AA and AAA. Pratto is currently blocked by the veterans on the major league roster. Carlos Santana and Hunter Dozier figure to lock down the bulk of the first base innings until a tough decision is made by the Kansas City front office. Both players are signed to substantial contracts. As a result, it’s possible the team gives the entire first half of the season to Santana and Dozier in hopes of trading one at the trade deadline. I expect Pratto to spend much of the season’s first half in Triple-A Omaha.
3. Jon Heasley – Starting Pitcher (Royals No. 10)
Jon Heasley made a very strong case to make the team out of Spring Training. In fact, at the time of writing this, there’s a very strong chance he still might. I’m projecting the Royals will send him to Triple-A Omaha to ensure he gets regular innings and a chance to continue refining his approach. Pitching is the currency of baseball and the Royals will need innings from the minor leagues to both hedge against injury and protect their young arms over the course of a long season. Heasley already found his way to the major leagues last season. In 105.1 innings at AA Northwest Arkansas, Heasley posted a 3.33 ERA with 120 strikeouts and just 34 walks.
4. Vinnie Pasquantino – First Base (Royals No. 5)
Vinnie “Italian Nightmare” Pasquantino has the same uphill battle to major league playing time that fellow prospect Nick Pratto faces. The difference is, Pratto is ahead of him on the call-up list. Pasquantino plays fine defense at first base but not Gold Glove-caliber like the Royals have in Pratto. This means his path to the major leagues is likely as a primary DH, a role already filled part of the time by Salvador Perez (and someday MJ Melendez). He hit 64 extra-base hits last season, walked 64 times, and struck out just 64 times. He has perhaps the best hit tool in the entire organization. Kansas City will be forced to find a place for him sometime soon.
5. Alec Marsh – Starting Pitcher (Royals No. 13)
MLB.com ranks Marsh as the Royals’ 13th best prospect. I had the righty top five in my list. Marsh boasts an outstanding mix of five pitches. Three of those, his fastball (55-grade), slider (55-grade), and changeup (50-grade), are above-average offerings. Marsh can get up to 96 the last time we saw his fastball. His sinker, most notably, has late movement which makes it lethal against opposing hitters. The only reason Marsh didn’t make his way to the major leagues last season is his health. He just hasn’t pitched enough innings. His SO9 totals have been off the charts: 12.3 since joining the Royals minor league system. That has come in just 58.2 innings of work since 2019. Marsh needs time in the minors but has the stuff to make a quick jump to the major leagues should the need arise.
I project the Royals to be improved over last season’s sub-.500 performance. The lineup is already better right now with the addition of Bobby Witt Jr. The potential mid-season additions of Pratto, Pasquantino, and Melendez could make it even better. If the Royals’ off-season regiment with Adalberto Mondesi proves successful, they essentially have another major addition with him in the lineup. He only played 35 games last season, meaning even if the Royals only get 100, that’s still 70 more games with additional premium production than they had in 2021.
Even projecting slight declines from Salvador Perez and Nicky Lopez, the Royals still stand to gain elsewhere. Andrew Benintendi was one of the best hitters in all of baseball in the month’s final season of 2021. If he can build on that performance, he stands to become perhaps the best all-around hitter in the entire Royals’ lineup. The Royals didn’t make any flashy offensive additions but instead are banking on improved production from Mondesi and Benintendi, alongside new prospect additions throughout the season.
All of these items together should allow the Royals to see the improved offensive output they need in 2022. Last season, they mustered just 4.2 runs per game. That runs per game mark was the seventh-lowest in all of baseball. At a minimum, the Royals should be able to push across 4.5 runs per game in 2022. The mark would’ve been league average last season. They have the upside for even more.
The Royals’ defensive talent is among the very best teams in all of baseball. Andrew Benintendi and Michael A Taylor came away with Gold Gloves last season. There is no reason to believe they can’t do the same in 2022. In the infield, the Royals could very well come away with 3 or 4 additional gold glove performances. Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez have already proven more than capable of that level of defensive play at the major league level. We’ve seen nothing short of that from Bobby Witt Jr, both at third and short. Once he receives the call-up, prospect Nick Pratto is perhaps the second-best defensive first baseman in all of baseball, behind only Evan White of the Mariners.
With this strong defense behind them, the Royals’ pitching crop stands to gain the most this season. The Royals allowed the 10th most runs per game last season, at 4.86. With another year under their belt, it’s realistic to expect the Royals to see improvement from their stable of young arms. Kris Bubic added a slider this offseason which gives him a four-pitch mix entering 2022. The slider has looked exceptional in spring and should help him see even better results. Daniel Lynch and Carlos Hernandez were already outstanding last season, with both producing a sub-4.00 ERA last season from July through August.
Veterans Zack Greinke and Brad Keller at the front of the rotation should provide a baseline for the Royals that they didn’t have last season. Mike Minor wasn’t outstanding and Brad Keller struggled greatly. Keller’s struggles went away in the season’s second half and he should be able to build on that bounceback entering this season.
The staff the Royals have compiled should be able to produce an improved run per game metric in 2022. At a minimum, I expect them to hover around the league average of 4.53 runs allowed per game. If the Royals can do this, it will be a huge win for a young pitching staff on the rise.
Projected Win-Loss Record
A good baseline for the Royals so far has one common theme: League Average. The Royals were in the bottom 10 teams in the entire MLB when ranked by both runs scored per game and runs allowed per game. The team isn’t going to win many games at that pace, as we saw already in 2021. Two teams to reference for Kansas City from last season are the Padres and Phillies. Both teams finished right around league average in both runs scored per game and in runs allowed per game.
The Phillies finished 82-80 last season in the NL East. They finished second in their division, 6.5 GB of the eventual World Series Champion Braves. They were also 8 games back of the NL Wild Card. The Padres finished 79-83, 28 GB of the 107-win San Francisco Giants in the NL West. They also finished 11 games back of the NL Wild Card.
Success for the Royals this season would be similar results. They’re still likely a year away from truly competing. I don’t expect a playoff appearance in 2022, but the upside is certainly there for a late-season push. If the Royals can get themselves back to around league average in both runs per game metrics, they can expect to finish around 82 wins with a strong foundation to compete in 2023 and beyond. Somewhere close to where the 2013 Royals finished up their season.