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30 in 30

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The Kansas City Royals

The Royals may wear crowns, but they are certainly not royalty these days.

Slugger Throwing Hot Dogs by Minda Haas Kuhlmann is licensed under CC 2.0

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The Kansas City Royals

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

2018 Record: 58-104

2018 Finish: 5th in the American League Central, 14th in the American League

Surprises in 2018

It’s not a truly a surprise, but we should all take a moment and acknowledge the phenom that is Whit Merrifield. Seriously. Who does this guy think he is?

Leading the league in hits and stolen bases, Merrifield’s encore to an amazing 2017 picked up right where he left off. Raising his average to .308, and completing the slash with .367 On-Base Percentage and slugging .438, Whit was once again #LITMerrifield. What a solid, solid piece to build around for the next ten years.

Brad Keller is another star in the making for the Royals. Starting 20 games for Kansas City, Keller went 9-6, with a 3.08 ERA, the lowest ERA of any pitcher to start a game for the Royals. Sure his 1.304 WHIP seems high, but for a 22-year-old who outpitched Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis and Ian Kennedy, the future seems bright. Look for Keller to become a mainstay at Kauffman Stadium. This kid is for real.

Disappointments in 2018

If anyone has seen Danny Duffy, can you please let the Kansas City Royals know? They’re worried about him. It would appear that he didn’t show up in 2017, and REALLY didn’t show up in 2018.

Duffy is an interesting case. After having a very, very good showing in 2016, Duffy was selected to represent the USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Since the Olympic did away with baseball after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Baseball lacked competition on the international stage. Where else can Japan’s best square off against Mexico or Venzuela? The World Baseball Classic, that’s where.

The problem is, that much like the NHL and the Winter Olympics, teams don’t want their players getting hurt, because… duh, it effects the rest of their season. Drew Smyly, for example, got hurt in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and began the MLB season on the DL before opting for Tommy John surgery.

Not great.

Danny Duffy, on the other hand, made it through the World Baseball Classic with ease. Duffy was dominant helping the US get into the semi-finals by dominating an absolutely stacked Dominican Republic team.

Duffy wouldn’t find that dominance on the mound after that game, and 2018 was an even worse downturn than 2017. With his ERA jumping from 3.81 to 4.88, and his WHIP ballooning from 1.257 to 1.490, Duffy’s ship ran aground.

With $46 million over three years remaining on his contract, this could be a slow march to free agency for Duffy and the Royals. Let’s hope he can turn it around, and get trade by the deadline.

Ian Kennedy got paid to under perform. Not really a surprise or disappointment, just wanted to remind you all of that fact.

Looking Ahead to 2019

Look, I’m going to be saying this a lot over the next few months, but the American League Central is up for grabs in 2019. Seriously, the Cleveland Indians were a mess and essentially stumbled their way into October. They were the only team in the AL Central above .500, that’s rock bottom for a division.

The other two AL divisions are tripping over themselves to win 125 games, where all an AL Central team has to do is not be a minor league club. Simple as that.

The main shift for the Royals needs to be a focus on small ball over power. The Royals gave up 205 longballs in 2018, only five more than the Central Champion Indians. They need to stop doing that.

Solid analysis. You’re welcome.

When you think of the 2014 and 2015 Royals, you don’t think of their power, you think of their ability to move the line. When the Royals won the World Series in 2015, they didn’t do it by blasting dongs. No, they did it by suffocating their opponents with singles, doubles, perfectly placed bloop hits, stolen bases, solid base running, etc.

The Royals are better when they are a small ball team. They need to return to that. Guys like Lucas Duda and Jorge Soler aren’t going to help you. If you want to succeed on a basic level, the Royals need to return to their small ball roots.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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