2021 MLB Team Preview: Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals have made some notable acquisitions which could give them a chance to move upward in the American League Central. Yet, they still face some fundamental limitations. What is possible for this team in 2021? The short answer is that more is achievable for Kansas City now than in the past two to three seasons. That at least offers the possibility of progress, which is all this franchise can ask for.

What Happened Last Year

The Royals were buried in the bottom tier of the American League. The memories of the 2014 American League championship and the 2015 World Series title are increasingly distant in Kansas City, a place where football is now king thanks to the emergence of the Chiefs as a regular Super Bowl team under quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Royals languished throughout last season, but the one good part of the season is that instead of being a long six-month journey through 162 games of misery, it was only a two-month slog which ended at 60 games. The Royals didn’t have to suffer nearly as much. In 2021, this team has a fresh start and legitimate reason to think it can make substantial improvements.

Offseason Changes

The Royals made a splash in the offseason when they signed Carlos Santana to become the anchor of their batting order. Santana is a well-traveled veteran who has played for the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies. Now in Kansas City, he brings a consistent and powerful bat to a lineup which needed a thumper. Santana will bat cleanup and provide a presence which should help young shortstop Adalberto Mondesi (son of former major league Raul Mondesi) to see a lot more hittable pitches in the third spot of the batting order. Santana significantly upgrades the Royals’ hitting profile, giving them a legitimate shot at passing the Cleveland Indians for third place in the American League Central. That is not out of the question, given the Indians’ offseason losses (Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer).

The Royals also signed outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who had played for the Boston Red Sox on their 2018 World Series championship team but then regressed the past two years. Benintendi tried to build more muscle and power, in order to become more of a home-run hitter, but his role on the 2018 team was to get on base and play strong outfield defense. His attempt to build muscle made him a less consistent hitter who didn’t collect nearly as many base hits. His larger body also made him a slower and less agile defensive player. The plan was wrong. Benintendi was traded by the Red Sox, who didn’t appreciate his change of plan. Now in Kansas City, Benintendi has reportedly lost the muscle weight he had gained. He could be a really good find for the Royals if he returns to his 2018 standard of play.

2021 Outlook

The Royals have some proven veterans in their lineup – Whit Merrifield, Santana, Salvador Perez, Jorge Soler – but they still have multiple weak spots in their batting order. The bottom third of the order – Hunter Dozier, Michael Taylor, Kyle Isbel – will get eaten up this season. The pitching staff has Brad Keller as its projected ace. That is alarmingly thin. The Royals could push the Indians for third in the division, but their pitching just won’t be good enough in the American League.

Pick: 4th In American League Central

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