Recapping The Kansas City Royals Offseason: Players to Watch in Spring Training

The Kansas City Royals have had a quiet offseason when it comes to free agency. The most notable sign made by General Manager Dayton Moore and the team was signing third baseman Maikel Franco to a one-year deal. The two other signings were made to potentially address the bullpen. The team sign Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland to minor leagues deals, with spring training invites.

First, let’s take a look at the Franco signing. Franco, 27, has play for the Phillies since his MLB debut back in 2014. At the beginning of his career, Franco displayed his pure power, hitting 71 home runs from 2015-2018. However, this pas season was the worst of his career, hitting .234 with 17 HR and 56 RBI in 123 games. After a rough ending in Philadelphia last year, it has been rumored that a change of scenery was needed.

As for this season with the Royals, Franco is expected to be the everyday third baseman, with 2019 breakout star, Hunter Dozier moving to the outfield. A move of this nature was to come in the coming years with the development of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Bobby Witt Jr. However, it seems early as Witt has not played a full year of pro-level baseball. It would have made more sense if the Royals gave him a two or three-year deal, but Moore could use Franco’s contract as a “prove it” year, showing if he can play at a high level with the Royals. Overall, kind of a head-scratcher of a signing, knowing the depth in the outfield and improvements Dozier made at third.

As for the two pitching acquisitions bot have a deep connection to the Royals organization. The first signing was Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal is a Kansas City native, graduating from Lee’s Summit West High School, and playing collegiate at Cowley County Community College. Rosenthal was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2009 MLB draft. He made his debut in 2012 and grew into the closer role for the Cardinals. In 2014 and 2015, Rosenthal had a combined 93 saves with a 2.65 ERA and 170 strikeouts while being an All-Star in 2015.

Since the 2015 season, Rosenthal fell off. In 2017, he injured his elbow, needing Tommy John Surgery in 2017 and missing the whole 2018 season. Rosenthal’s continued struggles following his return his struggles to return would result in a release from the Cardinals. This past season, Rosenthal returned to the majors with the Nationals, but struggled terribly, walking 26 batters and accumulating a 13.50 ERA in just 15.1 innings before his release in June. The Detroit Tigers then gave him a shot, where Rosenthal would go on to only pitch nine innings. The most glaring connection between Rosenthal and the Royals is manager Mike Matheny. When Rosenthal played in St. Louis, Matheny managed weh he made bis debut all the way through his injury. Rosenthal has mentioned that Matheny was influencer in signing with Kansas City.

The other pitching acquisition is former Royals draft pick and 2015 World Champion, Greg Holland. Holland was one of the bullpen stars from 2011-2015, including the 2014-2015 nickname HDH, for Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Holland as the guys to end the game in the seventh inning and beyond. During that span, Holland tallied 125 saves with a 1.97 ERA and 242 strikeouts. Holland was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015, playing a key role in the Royals AL Pennant in 2014 and World Series Championship in 2015.

Like Rosenthal, Holland suffered an injury and had Tommy John Surgery. He missed the 2016 season, but came back in 2017 and was an All-Star with the Colorado Rockies, leading the MLB in games finished and saves. However, Holland did not get a big-money deal in free agency, leading to signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018. Like Rosenthal, Holland played for Matheny with the Cardinals.

During his time with the Cardinals, Holland there 25 innings with a 7.25 ERA, and was released in the middle of the summer. Holland got back on bis feet, resurging with the Washington Nationals, throwing 21 1/3 innings with a 0.82 ERA. This past season, Holland signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, eventually being released in August after posting a 4.54 ERA in 35 2/3 innings. Holland is back with the Royals and has a chance to resurge once again as he is back in the blue and white, where he became a top closer and World Series Champion, and returning to play for Mike Matheny again.

With Spring Training officially underway, here are the top things to watch for the Royals in Surprise, Az.

The Next Wave of Pitching Prospects

The storyline since last year has been to wait for the next wave of young pitching talent to reach the high leagues. This wave of talent includes right-handed pitcher Brady Singer (MLB Pipeline’s No. 59 Overall Prospect), and left-handed pitcher Daniel Lynch (MLB Pipeline’s No. 61 Overall Prospect). Along with Singer and Lynch, right-hander Jackson Kowar (Royals No. 5 Prospect), and left-hander Kris Bubic (Royals No. 6 Prospect).

Singer, the top draft pick for the Royals in the 2018 draft, started last season in Class A Advanced Wilmington, where he was excellent in 10 starts, posting a 1.87 ERA. Singer was moved up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He struggled at the beginning, but heated up and finished 7-3 with a 3.47 ERA.

Bubic, 22, posted a 2.33 ERA last season and led the minor leagues in strikeouts, with 185. Bubic was also awarded the MiLBy’s “Top Starting Pitcher” last season.

The list continues on beyond those four young prospects. Add left-handers Austin Cox and Daniel Tillo, along with right-handers Johnathon Bowlan and Tyler Zuber.

The Royals biggest weakness is pitching, and with the lack of pitching acquisitions in the offseason, some of the young pitching prospects have a shot at the big league roster. The bullpen has many holes and the team still doesn’t have a No. 5 starter in the rotation, so look out for any of these prospects to come out and impress this spring.

Development of Mondesi and Perez

Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez missed the entire season last year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Not having Salvy hurt the team at the plate with his power and his on-field presence as a leader and top fielding catcher in the entire league. Perez has progressed well and is going to hit in upcoming Spring Training games, but the team will not rush him to get back behind the plate. Perez expects himself to play every game this year and wants to catch all 162 games this season.

Royals young star shortstop, Adalberto Mondesi had shoulder surgery and is currently recovering in rehab. There isn’t going to be a rush to get him back on the field, but they are hoping he will be ready by Opening Day. Mondesi does not appear ready to play in Spring Training games, so he will not play the first few games at least. Mondesi is one of the most electrifying players in the MLB with his speed, but got injured a few times last year, cutting his play time.

The Royals hope to have both key players of the team healthy for the full season as they look to improve and move away from a 100-loss season.

There are other aspects to look at for the Royals Spring Training, but these two storylines are the most major as the health is an issue going into the start of the season and the pitching staff that has been the team’s kryptonite for the past few years.

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