Kansas City Royals Team Outlook

Between the Tigers and Royals, it will be interesting to see who capitalizes on and progresses their young talent the most to get themselves out of the cellar. This is a team with a superstar in Bobby Witt Jr., some core contributors in Salvador Perez and Brady Singer, and then a couple of exciting young players in MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino. After that, there isn’t much clarity or excitement to be had. Scott Barlow should repeat his successful 2022 campaign as the incumbent closer, and another bat might pop, but no matter how hard you squint, it is hard to see much more beyond that.

The Royals' rotation is, to put it simply, bad. Ryan Yarbrough and Brady Singer will definitely offer some life, but it’s going to be an ugly year for pitchers in Kansas City. The lineup as well is going to have some games where they really struggle to put runs on the board, especially if the top half of the lineup gets shut down. All in all, even with the AL Central being one of the weaker divisions in baseball, the Royals shouldn’t be counted on to get many more wins than they did last year with 65. 

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Projected Lineup:

  1. SS Bobby Witt Jr.
  2. DH MJ Melendez
  3. C Salvador Perez
  4. 1B Vinnie Pasquantino
  5. 3B Hunter Dozier
  6. CF Kyle Isbel
  7. LF Edward Olivares
  8. 2B Michael Massey
  9. RF Nate Eaton

Projected Pitching Staff:

Breakout Candidate: 2B Michael Massey

There has been a void in the Royals' infield since the departure of Whit Merrifield from the keystone in Kansas City. Nicky Lopez has shown he is not the solution and will be relegated to a bench role this year, which clears the way for Michael Massey. When compared to Lopez, Massey definitely has more juice in the bat and the potential to bring some consistency to the back third of the lineup. By no means should he be expected to vault into the upper echelon of fantasy players at the position; that’s not really within the realm of outcomes for Massey. Nonetheless, so long as Nicky Lopez doesn’t reclaim the starting job, Massey should see himself move from relative obscurity into strong consideration as a starting middle infielder for fantasy in what is a muddled position.

Sleeper: CF Kyle Isbel

There are sleepers, deep sleepers, and then there are guys who are in a coma. Kyle Isbel might fall into the latter category, since his price on draft day is around the 130th OF off the board. But with the Spring Training injury to Drew Waters, Kyle Isbel will get another shot to hold down a starting gig in the Royals OF. I say another shot, because last season he struggled mightily in 106 games at the Major League level to the tune of a .211/.264/.340 batting line. Coming up through the minors, Isbel projected as the type of player who would hit for a decent BA while adding a solid power/speed combination with good OF defense. Not the type of guy teams climb over each other to get, but still valuable. In 15-team and deeper leagues, Kyle Isbel is worth a very late flier just to see if he can unearth some latent skills from his minor league days.

Bust: 1B Vinnie Pasquantino

It is hard to pick a bust on a team where there is a pretty clear line between the players who are good and the ones who just aren’t. That’s where it actually hurts a little to pick on Vinnie Pasquantino, but considering his draft cost in the top 100 players (as high as 60th in one NFBC draft!) I feel like he has the highest probability of busting. This isn’t at all an indictment on his future value or value in general, just a point about what type of return on investment you are getting with Vinnie. Last season Vinnie hit 10 HRs with a .295 BA accompanied by an 11.7% walk rate and an 11.4% strikeout rate. This guy knows how to hit, and in OBP leagues especially, he will be a huge boon to fantasy lineups. Where I am not overly convinced yet is in his power numbers. By all accounts, Pasquantino seems to be a lock for 20 HRs, but he has not shown the power to hit for too much more than that. This means if you take him in your draft as your starting 1B, you are going to have to load up on power elsewhere later in the draft. Power is not hard to find later in drafts, but it is typically at the expense of average. Depending on your build, you may just be better off waiting at 1B unless Vinnie falls past pick 100.

Fantasy Baseball Prospect to Know: OF Drew Waters

Drew Waters is close to losing his prospect status, but until he does, this is one of the brightest gems in the Royals' farm system. Waters went from being one of the top prospects in the Braves system in 2019 to struggling enough over the last two seasons at Triple-A to be traded to the Royals. He rewarded the Royals’ faith in him by showing better power and patience at the plate. He only played in 32 games in the majors for the Royals last year, but there were encouraging signs that he should be able to stick in the lineup due to his defense and OBP. The strikeout rate is a little alarming (36.7%), as is the oblique injury Waters suffered in Spring Training. Even so, this is a guy to keep on your watch list in redraft.

Bold Prediction: Bobby Witt Jr. finishes as the top 3B in standard fantasy scoring.

Bobby Witt Jr. is one of the most exciting young players in baseball right now, and even more so for fantasy baseball. At a time when the 3B pool has become especially top-heavy, there is even more value in a player who can hit for average, hit for power and steal a significant amount of bases. Even before the announcement of the larger bases, Witt was a guy who seemed a lock for 25-30 SBs. Is it out of the question for him to reach 40 SBs, hit 30 HRs, and surpass 200 combined runs and RBIs? I don’t think it is. Additionally, Witt has positional flexibility that makes roster construction more versatile and will hopefully be looking at a full season of MJ Melendez, Salvador Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino batting behind him. José Ramírez with the Guardians is understandably going ahead of Witt Jr. in drafts, but I’m predicting a changing of the guard this year for the king of 3B in fantasy baseball.