Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Royals


The way I would sum up the Royals' 2022 season would be with rookies. Similar to the Royals' 2011 season, the loss of some big team heroes paved the way for a lot of young people roaming around and finding themselves. A bit ironic as Hosmer, Moustakas, Escobar and Cain are all swimming in free agency, but the baseball clock keeps ticking, and now a host of new people are thriving in Kansas City. Yes, a lot of the veterans let the team down, as Perez and Mondesi were injured for swaths of the year, Merrifield left in a trade, and some of the returning veterans were meh at best. But you can see the new era of Royals baseball on the horizon, thanks to people like Bobby Witt, Vinnie Pasquantino and Brady Singer. 

Hunter Dozier was one of the aforementioned remaining veterans still here. Dozier was third in game appearances and second in strikeouts. Dozier hit .236 with 41 RBIs and 12 home runs, which, while not bad, pales in comparison to his prime. The Royals have a few more years of Dozier, so he'd better get to some prime years eventually.
2023 Prediction: Maybe he has a surprise amazing first half and the Royals try to trade him.

Nicky Lopez, of all people, was second in game appearances for the Royals. Team of Salvador Perez, Michael Taylor, Andrew Benintendi, Adalberto Mondesi...yeah, Nicky Lopez was in more 2022 games than all of them. And yet I really can't name many things Lopez DID this year for the Royals. Guy hit .227 with 99 hits, took a step backwards in the field. I wish I had more to say about him.
2023 Prediction: On one hand, I want him to have a better season, on the other he might be trade bait in the next year or so.

Kris Bubic had a very formative second half in 2021, which is why it was so upsetting that his first half was so miserable this year. Bubic went 3-13 with a 5.58 ERA, giving up 80 earned runs in 28 starts, which is more than people who started more than him. He is 24 and still coming into his own, but this was a step backwards for the Royals prospect.
2023 Prediction: The Royals might have room for him in the rotation, but if he doesn't have a nice spring he'll have to work out of the bullpen next year, which I think is likely.

Now onto the rookies. Jonathan Heasley appeared briefly last year, but took several starts towards the middle bit of 2022, and did alright for himself. Later starts ballooned his ERA, and he ended up with a 4-10 record and a 5.28 ERA. 
2023 Prediction: I'm not sure if he's a high priority for this team. If anyone's gonna get cut or dealt, it might be him, but not if he has some key starts at some point next year.

In the absence of Salvador Perez, the Royals started rookie catcher M.J. Melendez, a catching prospect so promising that the team even dealt catching options like Nick Heath and Cam Gallagher. Melendez is a truly terrific power hitter, and managed 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. Unfortunately, Melendez hit .217 and struck out 131 times, seconded only to Bobby Witt. Even worse for the Royals, Melendez is a truly atrocious catcher, and is better as an offensive substitution than a defensive sub.
2023 Prediction: The goal for Melendez would be hopefully to get reps at DH, maybe if Pasquantino gets reps at 1st. But if Perez gets injured again, the man may need to catch. Hopefully he does better.

One of the big prospects the Royals have had to foster, besides Bobby Witt and...several people in this post, is Nick Pratto. Pratto was a 2017 1st rounder who had a monster year in the minors last year. It just seemed like he was having a lesser year in 2022 overall, as even before the promotion to the majors he was only hitting .228 in Omaha. In 49 games with the Royals, all coming after the pivotal Jays series where half the active roster was unvaccinated, Pratto hit .184 with 20 RBIs and 7 homers. He's still struggling to adjust, and may just need a fuller year.
2023 Prediction: With Pasquantino back, and Dozier still in the fold, the outfield corners are gonna be crowded, and I think Pratto won't make the team initially, but will work his way back up and have a HUGE second half for the Royals.

Another Toronto call-up was Nate Eaton, who was drafted low in the 2018 draft but still made it up by performing above the standard. Eaton may be one of the most pivotal second-half Royals rookies because he took to the majors the most confidently, hitting .264 with 12 RBIs and 11 steals in 44 games. 
2023 Prediction: Eaton honestly has a decent shot at being the starting 3rd baseman next year. Dozier might have a utility role, and he'll be competing against Lopez and...he might honestly have the edge.

Meanwhile, in the middle infield, Michael Massey kept his name in the ring throughout the second half and might be a cool infield piece going forward. In 52 games, Massey hit .243 with 17 RBIs, and he had decent numbers at 2nd.
2023 Prediction: Might have a utility role mostly next year, but I see him eventually getting big-game starts.

And finally we have Drew Waters, a former Braves farmhand who was dealt midyear for...some unknown reason. I assumed he was the PTBNL in the Soler deal, I don't think that's it, something happened, who knows, bottom line Waters was great for the Royals, hitting .240 with 5 homers and 18 RBIs. 
2023 Prediction: I don't know if Waters makes the opening day roster, but I think he'll be a staple of the team by August.

Tomorrow, a few reasons why the big Tigers team everyone was excited about flopped.

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