It’s safe to say that going into this season both Tigers and Royals fans alike thought the mid-season standings would look a little different than they do today.
With the Tigers heading into a weekend series against the Royals, Detroit is fresh off a seven-game winning streak, while the Royals are 4-6 over their last ten, and firmly ensconced at the bottom of the AL Central.
We wanted to know what was going on with the Royals, what they might be doing ahead of next week’s trade deadline, and who the sneaky superstars of the series might be. So we chatted with Matthew LaMar, a writer and editor for our sister site Royals Review about this weekend’s series.
BYB: I think we’re both probably a bit surprised by the current AL Central standings. What do you think contributed most to Kansas City being where they are currently?
RR: Before the season, the median Royals Review staff win prediction for Kansas City was 76. They’re on pace for 67, so even though very few of us thought the Royals could make a real push for the postseason, it has been undeniably a disappointment. This is the case for three main reasons. First, Adalberto Mondesi, the Royals’ most talented and highest-ceiling player on the roster, has only played 10 games on the year. Second, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier, two veterans who were expected to perform at an above average level, have been arguably the worst position player tandem in MLB. Third, the young Royals starting pitching has not made any steps forward and in some cases have done the opposite.
BYB: Obviously (sorry) a postseason push won’t be happening this year, do you think the Royals will be making any trade moves at the deadline and who do you think is likely to be shopped?
RR: Whit Merrifield is the one premium trade chip the Royals have. He can fit with any contender thanks to his flexibility, and there’s more chatter about trading him this year than there has been in the past. I wouldn’t expect that to happen, though. I do think the Royals are likely to trade Michael A. Taylor. They might trade a Scott Barlow type. Carlos Santana also has a chance. The Royals have traditionally been reticent to trade players who were not expiring contracts at the deadline, so that tempers what should very clearly be a “sell” mode.
BYB: Which player should the Tigers be keeping an eye out for this series, anyone on a hot streak?
RR: Soler has hit a home run in consecutive games and has always been a streaky player even when he’s good. Royals fans (and the team itself) have been praying to whatever deity they think is most likely to help that Soler would turn it around, because he’s been putrid all year. We’ve been fooled a couple times in the past with Soler breakouts that were mostly just blips, but he’s a guy to watch out for: the Tigers will either easily dispatch him or just get torched.
BYB: Which Tigers player do you think poses the biggest threat to the Royals this weekend?
RR: Akil Baddoo is someone to watch out for. He seems to be the rare Rule 5 pick position player who has got it going on in the big leagues, and he’s young and has the opportunity to truly deal damage to the Royals not just this year but for a long time.
BYB: Can you make one bold prediction for the Royals’ second half?
RR: I think the Royals are going to look night and day from the last two months of the year compared to earlier. Soler is an expiring contract, and if he can’t get his poop in a group as it were, he’ll be released. Likewise, Dozier still has one option left—and if either players do well, that’ll be a huge turnaround. In addition, the Royals are on the verge of promoting a bunch of players, including 2019 second overall pick and potential Tigers killer for years to come, Bobby Witt Jr. He’s a top five or so prospect in baseball and looks every bit the real thing. The Royals could simply be running out a lineup that’s hugely different than what they’ve done all year, and that in and of itself will probably lend itself to more wins.
BYB: What has been the BEST moment of the Royals season so far?
RR: I had to really think about this one. It has been such a disappointing year and the Royals have played so poorly for so long that it’s hard to pin down a specific moment. But I think the most memorable one was Salvador Perez’s walkoff single on April 21st against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was his second walkoff in a week, and it brought the Royals to 10-7 and looked all the world like a replay of his walkoff single in the 2014 Wild Card game.
Big thanks to Matthew for taking the time to chat with us about the Royals and this upcoming series. If you want to read more of Matthew’s work, head on over to Royals Review.