2019 Kansas City Royals Season Preview: More to see on the fantasy front than in reality

Yahoo Sports

Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the Kansas City Royals.

The Kansas City Royals will be useful in 2019, one way or another.

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It probably won’t be in the reality of the AL Central, where the only question is whether they can avoid the cellar and finish ahead of the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox.

But the Royals have some players that could help your fantasy team — whether we’re talking about post-breakout Whit Merrifield, upstart youngsters like Adalberto Mondesi or a few pitchers who might be worth keeping an eye on. We’re talking about Jakob Junis’ strikeouts, Brad Keller’s ERA or even the possibility of a Danny Duffy bounce-back year. They even have Billy Hamilton now, if you’re one of those people hoping he can become more than a one-dimensional fantasy player. Don’t forget Jorge Soler’s tantalizing upside.

Whit Merrifield has plenty to offer the Kanas City faithful as well as fantasy players in 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Whit Merrifield has plenty to offer the Kanas City faithful as well as fantasy players in 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Royals still have Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon too, for the fans who just want to remember the K.C.’s glory days. So there are certainly more reasons to watch the Royals than, say, the Baltimore Orioles.

Offseason grade

The Royals didn’t make any stunning moves this winter, but they did add a few names you’re familiar with. Hamilton, the ex-Cincinnati Reds speedster, is the main one. But they also grabbed Homer Bailey on a minor-league deal, which seems like an understandable reclamation project. They added reliever Jake Diekman, Drew Storen and Brad Boxberger for the bullpen.

But there’s nothing that’s going to immediately vault them into a contender in the mediocre AL Central. If anything, they can hope that some of these guys prove to be useful trade chips and they can use someone like Bailey to accelerate their rebuild in that way.

Our grade: D+ — Nothing too exciting, but if they can flip someone at the trade deadline, they’ll come out ahead. - Mike Oz

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Projected lineup and pitching staff

The Kansas City Royals projected lineup and starting rotation for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)
The Kansas City Royals projected lineup and starting rotation for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)

Who will be the Royals’ fantasy breakout?

Kansas City is home to a few interesting fantasy pieces who've already delivered breakout seasons, which were followed soon after by breakdowns. Billy Hamilton is a strong candidate for a re-breakout campaign. He landed in an absolutely perfect spot, joining one of the few teams in baseball where a low-OBP base-stealer is appreciated. Hamilton has a clear shot at 60-plus steals in a healthy season. He can't help fantasy owners in any other standard category, of course, so let's not ask for anything crazy.

Jorge Soler is a decent name to consider in the final rounds in larger leagues, despite his long, complicated injury history. Soler's power potential is well-known — he slugged .466 last year over 61 games — but we're still waiting for him to reach 400 at-bats in any season. If it happens for him in 2019, at age 27, he could easily clear the fence 25 times. -Andy Behrens

What is Kansas City’s biggest fantasy question?

Here's hoping Adalberto Mondesi's production is repeatable. He jammed a ton of useful fantasy stats into 75 games at the major league level last season. Mondesi swiped 32 bags in 39 attempts, launched 14 homers, scored 47 runs and hit a respectable .276. At age 23, it's easy to imagine that Mondesi's big half-season was just the beginning. But there are a few obvious shortcomings in his game that complicate his profile. Mondesi drew only 11 walks for the Royals last year (3.8 BB%) while striking out 77 times (26.5 K%), reaching base at a miserable .306 clip. Without continued success on balls-in-play, he could become almost unusable in fantasy leagues that use OBP. Fantasy owners also have to hope that last year's power is legit; he'd never hit more than 13 home runs in any minor league season before binging in 2018. Still, the speed gives him a decent fantasy floor. -Andy Behrens

[Positional Rankings: Top 300 Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | P ]

Royals’ prospect to watch

Of the three Royals prospects ranked in Baseball Prospectus' Top 101, only Khalil Lee has seen time at Double A. That means Royals fans will spend much of the season watching Mondesi develop. Mondesi impressed in limited time last season, but as mentioned, his approach at the plate is questionable. He doesn't walk and strikes out quite a bit. With that said, Mondesi is blazing fast and surprised many with his power last season. There's enough here for Royals fans to be intrigued. - Chris Cwik

Things that MUST go right for Kansas City

1. Bullpen steps up: Manager Ned Yost doesn't expect the Royals to have a firm closer by opening day. That speaks to how little Kansas City's bullpen showed last season, finishing 29th in MLB with a 5.04 ERA. It also shows there's not a ton of confidence in their current options. Granted, Wily Peralta had success in the role last season, but he's far from a lockdown reliever. They did bring in former Diamondbacks closer Brad Boxberger as well, but there's a reason he wasn't highly sought on the market. If the bullpen, particularly in the late innings, remains bad, Kansas City will remain at the bottom of the AL Central.

2. Billy Hamilton is an offensive factor: The Royals new center fielder is among the most dynamic players in MLB because of his game-changing speed and defense. Unfortunately, his offense hasn't yet caught up. Hamilton holds a .245/.298/.333 career batting line over 2,736 MLB plate appearances. That's not good. The 28 year old needs to pump those numbers up if he hopes to reach his full potential in Kansas City.

3. Lineup finds a centerpiece: The Royals have some intriguing hitters. Mondesi is a surging young shortstop who will be fun to watch. Whit Merrifield is already pretty fun to watch, though he's not exactly a guy you can build a dynamic lineup around. What the Royals need is a centerpiece. Perhaps that's Hunter Dozier, who homered 11 times in 57 games last season. Perhaps it's Jorge Soler, whose upside as a Chicago Cubs prospect seemed limitless. Regardless of who it might be, they won't make much noise with a consistent source for run production. - Mark Townsend

If the Royals had a walk-up song, what would it be?

The Royals might be fun in spurts this year, watching some of their talent develop, but it certainly won’t be like a few years ago when Kansas City was one of the best teams in the league.

Fans will be wise to hang on to those memories — to remember the time that they won a World Series with their star-studded cast that is largely in other places now, like Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Wade Davis.

So for the Royals walk-up song, it’s Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time,” a song thinking back to better days in a relationship, the video for which comes with its own star-studded cast that was much better in its heyday too.

“It just seemed like heaven so why did it end?” - Mike Oz

More 2019 MLB Previews From Yahoo Sports

Baltimore | Miami | Kansas City | Detroit | Texas | Toronto | San Diego

Chicago (AL) | Minnesota | San Francisco | Pittsburgh | Arizona | Seattle

Cincinnati | Los Angeles (AL) | Oakland | Tampa Bay | Colorado | Cleveland

New York (NL) | St. Louis | Atlanta | Philadelphia | Milwaukee | Chicago

Washington | Los Angeles (NL) | Houston | New York (AL) | Boston

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