This is the time of year when all fans can be optimistic. The hot stove is boiling, pitchers and catchers are preparing to report, and spring training is just around the corner. Hope is eternal, even for Kansas City Royals fans if they let themselves be believed just a little.
Along with the hope of a new season comes the hope of a new era in Royals baseball. The end of last season brought changes to the front office and management staff. The team will enter the season with a new head coach, Matt Quatraro, who has brought many new faces to the city with him.
The hope within this squad also lies in the young core of players, not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future. This group of players get a chance to do something special and make postseason runs and World Series appearances like the mid-2010s Royals.
There is a budding superstar, Bobby Witt Jr, who is expected to be the team’s starting shortstop. He played a mix of shortstop and third base in his rookie campaign, and it was a year in which Witt posted numbers few other rookies in MLB history had achieved. He joined the 20-20 rookie club, a club that only 13 other first-year players had joined before Witt arrived there last year. He also became just the fifth player in Royals history to record a 20-20 season. As Witt’s game continues to grow, so will his star brilliance. The Royals will continue to expect big things from him as the team progresses.
There are several other everyday players who joined the Royals starting lineup last season after Opening Day. MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey and Drew Waters could be the “core four” in addition to Witt. There have been flashes of brilliance from all of them. In particular, the power of Melendez and Pasquantino really came through.
As for the launch, there are still many unknowns from the young core. The Royals are doing their best not to have to force any of them into action and have added veteran weapons in Jordan Lyles and Ryan Yarbrough to add a stable presence to the lineup. Zack Greinke will also be returning to the squad and could be a wildcard if he stays healthy.
Brady Singer is the most high-profile starter in the pitching core and should be near the top of the rotation to start the season. Daniel Lynch flashed off and on while Brad Keller was up and down again. Kris Bubic, Jackson Kowar, Carlos Hernandez and Jonathan Heasley all have championship potential and made multiple starts for the Royals in 2022, but their roles are still unknown at this time.
The bullpen will be a flamethrowing group with the addition of Aroldis Chapman to an already powerful gun roster that includes Josh Staumont, Amir Garrett, Dylan Coleman and Scott Barlow. Add in Richard Lovelady for good measure, and this bullpen will have quite a bunch competing for various roles.
Of course, Salvador Perez’s veteran leadership escapes anyone. He helps stabilize the team on both the offensive and defensive sides of the plate. That will play a huge part in how far the team can push itself this season. With an American League Central Division wide open, the Royals could go one step further and try to earn a playoff berth.
No one is thinking about the Royals making the playoffs this year, but that’s exactly when a team can sneak up on their opponents. Last year, not many expected Cleveland to be in the picture for the AL race, and they won the division. The Royals could be that team this year.
Should the Royals win the AL Central, or simply be part of the wild card race, this would be an exciting development in town. With a proposed new downtown ballpark on the horizon, a winning season could mean everything to this franchise and the future of baseball in Kansas City.
This latest nucleus of players that has just arrived on the scene has a new window of opportunity. There is a playoff window that could bring another World Series championship to Kansas City at the same time a new stadium is being built downtown. Picture this with me: A baseball playoff series at a new ballpark in downtown Kansas City.
It’s an exciting time to be a Royals fan, with optimism in the air. There are new faces ranging from the front office, to the manager and his staff, to the new core of players. There is playoff potential here and this could be just the beginning of success with this new edition of the Kansas City Royals.