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2019 MLB Team Preview: Kansas City Royals

A look at the Kansas City Royals with a fantasy baseball slant.

Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 5
Whit Merrifield is a true five category fantasy contributor.
Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Basic Stats:

Final Record: 58-104
RS/G: 3.94 (25th)
RA/G: 5.14 (27th)
SB: 117 (6th)
ERA: 4.95 (29th)
Saves: 33 (28th)
Strikeouts: 1157 (29th)

RS/G - Runs Scored Per Game
RA/G - Runs Allowed Per Game

The Kansas City Royals are the next team up in our 2019 MLB Team Preview Series. With a record of 58-104, the Royals had their worst season since 2005 (.346 winning percentage). Current FanGraphs projections have the Royals improving slightly to a still below .500 mark of 72-90. Fortunately, from a fantasy baseball standpoint the Royals possess a few solid contributors. From a skills perspective the following players have what it takes to be rostered in our fantasy game. Team context must also be weighed however, as the Royals overall lineup continues to look weak aside from the aforementioned key contributors. While a weak lineup does not always translate into reduced counting statistics (runs and RBIs), it certainly adds a level of risk in reaching a satisfying return on investment.

The Superstar: Whit Merrifield & Adalberto Mondesi

Fantasy Baseball owners are constantly looking for the five category offensive contributor. When that player also has multi-position eligibility we quickly push him up our draft boards. Whit Merrifield (2B/OF) is the perfect example of this player. Merrifield owns enough power and speed skills to reach the 15/40 HR/SB level in 2019. A slow first half of the season against right-handed pitchers (.629 OPS) led to only four home runs before the break. An OPS of .849 versus right-handed pitchers and eight home runs during the second half helped to save his home run total. I expect six to nine home runs per half as a reasonable expectation for Merrifield next year. Low runs and RBIs may again be an issue for Merrifield. That said, last season we saw lower totals in these categories and Merrifield still finished 15th overall on the ESPN Player Rater. In the #2EarlyMocks I selected Merrifield 34th overall (ADP 42) - the earliest selection of all nine leagues.

Yes, a second Superstar. I’ll admit, I was originally going to write up Mondesi in The Guy to Avoid post, however, that is not right. Mondesi could very well turn into a first round type of player next year. Think of 2019 as the last chance to acquire him somewhat cheaply. Just remember that there’s also a chance we’re treating Mondesi the same way we treated Jonathan Villar in 2017 following his amazing 2016 season. The only difference is that we have only half a season of Major League statistics to base our Mondesi love and projections on. That said, the projections are absolutely top-tier and if accurate, game-changing. 2019 Steamer Projections have the 23-year-old Mondesi’s fantasy line as: 597 PA | 73 R | 21 HR | 71 RBI | 42 SB | .252 - Depth Chart Projections like him slightly more based on additional plate appearances. I am hesitant simply based on the amount of swing-and-miss in Mondesi’s game, coupled with his low OBP, which I believe could fall lower without an approach change. Of course why change an approach that just produced 14 HR & 32 SB over 291 plate appearances?

SwStr% Leaders (Min. 250 PA)

# Name Team SwStr%
# Name Team SwStr%
1 Jorge Alfaro Phillies 23.8 %
2 Avisail Garcia White Sox 19.0 %
3 Joey Gallo Rangers 18.5 %
4 Tyler Austin - - - 18.4 %
5 Javier Baez Cubs 18.2 %
6 Adalberto Mondesi Royals 18.2 %
7 John Hicks Tigers 18.0 %
8 Teoscar Hernandez Blue Jays 17.8 %
9 Mike Zunino Mariners 17.5 %
10 Lewis Brinson Marlins 17.2 %
Data from FanGraphs

Adalberto Mondesi is not the only Superstar player to make this approach work - fantasy stud Javier Baez is in a similar camp. The rest of the list are flawed players that most fantasy managers avoid or downgrade. Mondesi could continue to make this approach work or even better, could have a skill growth year and put all concerns to bed for future seasons. For clarity I wanted to share my personal concerns for Mondesi in 2019. Either way, watching Mondesi in 2019 will be fascinating.

The Sleeper: Jorge Soler

I’ll admit, calling Jorge Soler a sleeper might be a bit of a stretch under the purest definition. After pouring over the Royals’ roster and considering our fantasy baseball context, Soler’s partial season in 2018 has me slightly intrigued (at least enough for inclusion in this section). Soler was off to a hot start last season before breaking his toe. The swing-and-miss was still on display, however, so too was a slightly more selective eye at the plate. Furthermore, Soler’s hard contact rate (Hard%) was 42.9% over his 257 plate appearances. This isn’t to say that Soler should cost much (or anything) on draft day, because he won’t. But that is also part of the appeal, especially in 15-team mixed leagues and/or Draft & Hold formats. Steamer Projections have the 27-year-old Soler’s 2019 fantasy line at: 570 PA | 68 R | 22 HR | 69 RBI | 4 SB | .244

The Guy to Avoid: Hunter Dozier

A former top-prospect, Dozier received 388 plate appearances for the Royals in 2018. Dozier was a drain in the batting average category, batting .229 on the season. Prior to his call-up, Dozier was hitting .254 in Triple-A. A sub-par batting average will likely hang around as Dozier continues to swing-and-miss far too often at the plate. When Dozier did make contact it was typically of the medium and hard varieties. For fantasy purposes however, Dozier’s potential 20+ home run power is far outweighed by his batting average, team context and overall bust potential. Dozier is in line for everyday at-bats in Kansas City but that doesn’t mean you should roster him even in the deepest of leagues.

The Prospect to Watch: Nicky Lopez

Lopez was ranked the sixth-best prospect in the Royals organization by Baseball Prospectus and the seventh-best by Baseball America in 2018. While Lopez is blocked at both second base and shortstop in the immediate future, reports of his athleticism should allow him to find a home in a super-utility role. This could lead to multi-position eligibility in fantasy. Lopez projects to have below-average power, however, it shouldn’t be a complete zero either. Lopez has the potential to steal a useful amount of bases at the big league level. The one area that the Royals ranked within the top 10 last season was stolen bases. Lopez also has above-average contact ability with a very strong batting eye displayed in the minor leagues. As a super-late dart throw, Lopez could find himself in Kansas City for a good chunk of the 2019 season.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Our 2019 MLB Preview series will run from late-November throughout the off-season. We will cover each team in reverse order of the 2018 Major League Baseball Standings. Because of the number of teams and time required to produce these posts, we’re needing to early; before all roster moves have been made. Because we strive to provide informative and useful fantasy baseball content, we will be updating these preview posts throughout the off-season as rosters continue to take their final shape.

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