I don’t really care about the Super Bowl too much this year. I’m a Giants fan so I’m just biding my time until they’re back in it in 2022. MARK MY WORDS! So instead I’ll do the next best thing — I’ll cover the Kansas City baseball team. Now I’m not going to be writing about Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi or Jorge Soler. Those are the 3 obvious names on this team and you can find articles about them on Razzball by people much smarter than myself. Just like when I get to the Angels — what am I supposed to write about Mike Trout? “He’s the best player in the game — draft him!” Duh — you should be so lucky. No, instead I’m going to focus some other lesser-known guys on this team who should be on your radar.
2019 Recap: 59-103 (4th in AL Central)
2020 FanDuel Win Total Prediction: 65.5
2019 Team’s Best Hitter: Jorge Soler (575 AB, 83 runs, 38 HRs, 100 RBI, 3 SB, .265 AVG)
2019 Team’s Best Pitcher: Ian Kennedy (63.1 IP, 30 SV, 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 73 K)
2020 Top 20 Prospects: https://razzball.com/top-2020-prospects-kansas-city-royals/
- Hunter Dozier (ADP: 169): People are so over Brian Dozier that they might’ve slept on Hunter a little. That and the Royals were pretty irrelevant last year. But a 75/26/84/2/.279 line is nothing to doze off to. I think juiced ball or not — this power is repeatable. He had a top 30 hard contact rate and paired that with a top-20 fly ball rate. His 16.7-degree launch angle was also top-35. One interesting area where Dozier can make some improvements is with his plate discipline. On pitches in the strike zone, he made contact on 90.4% — good for 30th in the league. On pitches outside the strike zone, he made contact on only 50.1% — 6th worst in the league. A small adjustment on his pitch selectivity could provide a little more growth in his ratios. Dozier will also be fully entrenched in the cleanup spot in the lineup where he performed best last year. When he batted 3rd he had a .247 AVG and a .826 OPS — but batting 4th he hit .303 and .920. And with Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Jorge Soler hitting in front of him and a .273 AVG with runners in scoring position — there is a chance at 85+ RBI as well.
- Nicky Lopez (ADP: 503.5): In the land where everyone hits 30 home runs, the man who can steal 25 bases is king. “But Kerry! He only stole 1 base in the big leagues last year!” Yea, well he’s had double-digit stolen bases in each of the 3 years prior to 2019. “But Kerry! You can’t steal bases if you’re not getting on base! A .240 AVG/.276 OBP ain’t cutting it!” Yea well in 1,268 minor league ABs he had a .296 AVG and a .379 OBP. “But Kerry! Home runs?” Don’t even think about it. His 62.2% groundball rate was the second-worst among hitters with 400 ABs. However, he has the 10th fastest home plate to 1B time so there’s some potential for all of these ground balls to turn into infield singles especially with his 8th best in the league 87.1% contact rate. Here’s what I could see happening with Lopez — his 4.5% BB% raising to the 10+% that he showed in the last 3 seasons in the minors, his contact rate remaining in the high-80’s, low-90’s and him using his considerable speed a bit more. A .270 AVG, 20+ SB middle infielder isn’t bad with a 503 ADP.
- Ryan O’Hearn (ADP: 597.5): A guy with a .195 AVG in 370 plate appearances is a sleeper? Heck yea — what is a sleeper? Someone who’s draft position is low for any number of reasons (injury, poor performance, age, etc.) but will earn back way more value from where you draft them. There is nowhere to go but up from a .195 AVG with a current ADP close to 600. Let’s look at the facts, jack. The .195 AVG was partially the product of a .230 BABIP. That’s the 4th lowest among batters with at least 350 plate appearances. Steamer has him projected for a .285 BABIP and a .235 batting average — still not great, but a bit more palatable. Now let’s talk about those splits — .170 AVG vs L, .201 AVG vs R. Both gross — but O’Hearn really couldn’t touch lefties at all. So what then happened in AAA in 2018? He hit .271 in 85 ABs vs L and .220 in 268 v R. He has shown some potential to hit lefties — if he improves v lefties there is a bit more potential lift coming to his average as well. (Luckily, 16 of the 20 starting pitchers in his division are right-handed!) However, due to his 2019 splits he’s likely to platoon with Bubba Starling who doesn’t hit for much power and doesn’t steal many bases — so the job is there for O’Hearn to run away with. Here’s the one good sign about O’Hearn — when he does make contact it’s quite solid. He had a respectable 42.4% hard contact rate vs only a 14.3% soft contact rate. Unfortunately, he had a 46.3% groundball rate so that hard contact was only frustrating to opposing team’s ground crews and not their pitchers. This one might be a stretch — but with a little more lift in his swing and improvements versus left-handed pitchers, we could see a 20+ HR, .245+ AVG hitter. In shallow and mixed leagues — waiver fodder. However, in deep leagues and AL-only leagues? Really not bad, especially if it’s an OBP league — O’Hearn has hovered around a 10% walk rate across his entire career.
- Brad Keller (ADP: 252): That’s it. That’s the list. I mean Keller isn’t going to be your #1, #2, #3 or #4 starting pitcher. But #5? No. #6. What’s holding him back? That 6.64 K/9, unfortunately. He is a pitch-to-contact hurler who had the 10th best groundball rate (50%) last year. This has helped him allow the 3rd fewest HRs — worse only than Mike Soroka and Charlie Morton, but right above Hyun-Jin Ryu, Sonny Gray, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Really not bad company at all. What can Keller do to take the next step? Abandon his sinker, utilize his slider more. Last year he threw his fastball about 42% of the time, his slider 31% of the time, and his sinker about 25% of the time. Here’s the problem — batters were hitting .292 off his sinker. His slider: only .194. That’s just simple mathematics.
- Ian Kennedy (ADP 212.7): When one of my friends who doesn’t seem to have a direction in life finally finds something he’s passionate and excited about doing for work I always say that “Yes! He’s found his thing!” Well I think Ian Kennedy has found his thing! As a starter, Kennedy’s had a pretty ho-hum career: 94-101 record, 4.12 ERA, 8.2 K/9. Not bad, not good — league average. He woke up and somehow found himself in the Royals closer role and actually wasn’t too bad at it! He was one of only 11 relievers with at least 30 saves and topped 10 K/9 for the first time in his career due to zipping his fastball velocity up to almost 95 MPH. At age 35, you hope his arm can support this extra effort. If he can — there’s 25-30 save potential from Kennedy again.