Kansas City is coming to visit the Twins at Target Field this week, and before they arrived I asked Michael Engel of Kings of Kauffman to answer a few questions about the Royals.
With KC just coming off a 7 game losing streak that put them back to .500 and 11 games out, of first (7 out of WC), how do you feel about the way 2013 has gone for the Royals?
–In a lot of ways, fans should be thrilled. The team has a chance to finish .500 or better for the first time since 2003, and really, that team was a fluke, so this is the best Royals team in a couple decades.
But that losing streak took them out of legitimate playoff contention, so I think there’s going to be a touch of bittersweet this year because they were so close for a while. It’s been an up and down year – one blogger termed it the “Royalcoaster” – so it’s been a wild ride. But a good one.
What are you looking to see from the Royals as the last month of the season plays out?
–I think they’ll start looking at pieces for next year. How will Justin Maxwell do after more regular time? If they call up Christian Colon, can he play second full time? Will they look at Emilio Bonifacio there? They may shake up the starting rotation and see more starts from Danny Duffy. That might make Wade Davis move to the bullpen. There’s a shot Yordano Ventura gets called up to throw some innings.
There has been a lot of talk about the Wil Myers – James Shields trade all season, with the Royals playoff hopes fading and the possibility of finishing under .500, is there still someway that this trade is a success for the Royals?
–Ideally, the Royals would have made the postseason in both years of James Shields’s remaining contract but now, it has to happen in 2014 or Dayton Moore traded 6+ years of an all-star outfielder for two years of 2nd (or 3rd) place baseball. Wade Davis is still going to be around after Shields, but he’s really not a consistent starter, and he’d be a #4 guy at best in the future. Not quite what you want to see for giving up someone like Myers.
The Royals have had one of the best farm systems in baseball over the past decade. With many of those players now on the big league club, including some who have struggled to live up to their potential, how far are the Royals from being a legitimate playoff/WS contender?
–A lot depends on Yordano Ventura being a legitimate starter at the big league level and not being pushed into the bullpen, and a lot depends on Kyle Zimmer shooting up the pipeline. Feasibly, they’ll have Shields, Duffy, Jeremy Guthrie, Davis, and maybe Ventura next year if they don’t re-sign Ervin Santana. That may not be enough, so they’d need either (or both) of Ventura and Zimmer to get up fast and be top of the rotation guys.
Past those two, there aren’t big ceiling guys close to the rotation. Jason Adam can be good, but he’s a mid-rotation guy and he hasn’t seen Triple A yet.
The rest of the team is pretty much set. Sal Perez will be behind the plate all decade. Eric Hosmer looks like he’s figured things out. Mike Moustakas may not be a perennial all-star, but if he shows more consistency, he can be a power threat. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler will still be around, as will Alcides Escobar. There may be a way to mix in Cheslor Cuthbert in a year or two. Maybe Lane Adams or Brett Eibner make a leap. But it’s still maybe a 2015 kind of situation at this stage.
Now playing in his third season in MLB, what are your expectations for Mike Moustakas going forward? Will be live up to the hype of the #2 overall pick from the 2007 draft?
–For any first rounder (or any minor leaguer) to reach the big leagues is a success. But being the second overall pick comes with expectations for stardom. I can accept some streakiness from Moose if the lows aren’t as deep and his overall line ends up better. He’s capable of being a 25+ homer guy who’ll give you good defense at third (which is a bonus since he wasn’t expected to be much with the glove). He’s been much better in the second half of 2013, but his first half was horrible and he was days away from being demoted before the Royals changed hitting coaches.
He’s still got time to get to his ceiling but the chance he gets there is smaller each passing month. If he can be a .270/.320/.470 kind of hitter, I think that’ll work. It’s not beastly, but it’s productive.
Who is pitching for the Royals this series and what are your predictions for the Royals series in Minnesota?
–The Royals will send James Shields out, then Bruce Chen, then probably Wade Davis.
Shields is what he is. He’s going to compete and he’ll be good. Chen was ridiculous for his first six starts of the year but his last two have seen him come back to earth, so I don’t know what to expect at the moment.
Davis might get skipped. Ned Yost was non-committal about his potential of making his next turn, and the reportedly Royals made sure that Danny Duffy had his passport with him on Omaha’s latest trip. Omaha’s not leaving the country – but the Royals head to Toronto after the Twins series…so don’t be surprised to see Duffy pitch. I’d give the Royals the Shields game, then likely one of the other two, but I don’t see a sweep in the cards.
A big thanks to Michael for taking some time to answer the questions. You can find him on Twitter @michaelengel