The 2018 season is expected by many to produce the lowest win total in Kansas City in at least five years, but Sports Illustrated Executive Editor Steve Cannella said Royals fans should still feel optimistic about the long-term direction of the club.
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“The Royals are definitely a rebuilder,” Cannella said. “They’re at the very opening stage of that rebuilding project, so there’s a lack of talent here. But fans should feel good about at least now there’s a definite plan in place.”
This comes on the heels of an offseason where Kansas City lost two of its best players, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, to free agency.
“The centerpieces of those World Series team’s from just a few years ago are gone,” Cannella said. “Now it’s time for the Royals to start rebuilding with their farm system. Now’s the time to see if they can build toward 2021.”
Cannella said fans should keep an eye on Adalberto Mondesi, a key part of the team’s rebuild and the son of former major leaguer Raul Mondesi.
“He had a few at bats, a few games in the major’s last year, where he flashed his amazing speed,” Cannella said. “He’s one of the fastest players in baseball at any level.”
The Royals under General Manager Dayton Moore have traditionally valued speed more than most organizations, with the likes of Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore playing key roles on the World Series teams. Then in 2017, Whit Merrifield took baseball by storm with an American League best 34 stolen bases. Mondesi could be the next in line of KC speedsters.
“If he can hit well enough to keep an everyday job, and that’s a big if, he has a chance to lead the American League in stolen bases,” Cannella said. “He’s going to be a small dose of excitement on a team that otherwise is going to struggle to find success this year.”
In 25 games last season, Mondesi hit just .170 with 22 strikeouts at the big league level. But the promising side for the 22-year-old comes from his time in AAA, where he hit .305 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI’s in 85 games. Whether or not he’ll start in Kansas City or Omaha remains to be seen.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas did return to Kansas City this offseason, a move that Cannella said will provide a much-needed power bat.
“Their offense, let’s face it, is not going to be a strength of the team,” Cannella said. “Having Moustakas there is not only a reason to go watch the team, a guy the fans are familiar with, but he’s also going to hit 30 home runs for a team that desperately needs it.”
Moustakas returning to Kansas City was not something Cannella expected following the All-Star’s 38 home run season, but said the Royals should be happy to have a prominent bat in the middle of an unproven lineup.
“He got trapped in what was a historically frozen free agent market. It was a bad offseason to be a free agent,” Cannella said. “Moustakas found the market for his services was not what he expected, but he’s happy to be back with the Royals.”
As for the rest of the American League, Cannella said the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels will be the most intriguing team’s to watch this year with the additions of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani.
Opening day in Kansas City is set for Thursday, March 29 as the Royals host the Chicago White Sox.
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