The Return of the Royals

Photo Courtesy of Briana Tozour of Unsplash
Photo Courtesy of Briana Tozour of Unsplash

The Kansas City Royals have been one of the most surprising teams in all of baseball this year. They are currently third in the American League with a 32-19 record, going 21-8 at home. Superstars Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez lead the Royals, and Perez is having one of his best seasons ever, placing second among MLB’s batting average leaders. The Royals’ pitching staff, led by Seth Lugo, Cole Ragans, and Brady Singer, holds the eighth-lowest Earned Run Average in MLB at 3.40. 

 

Since their World Series win in 2015, the Royals have struggled. They have a total record of 499-695, boasting a mere 41% winning percentage. This is their first season being over .500 since their championship run. How were they able to build a juggernaut after all these years of failure?

 

Management Changes

This offseason, the Royals’ biggest shakeup was in their executive and management positions. After the 2022 season, the Royals fired executive Dayton Moore, who had been at the helm since 2006, and promoted J.J Picollo. Picollo’s first move was to fire manager Mike Matheny and hire Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro. Quatraro, in his second season with the team, has managed the Royals at an extremely high level. The results are evident in the statbook. The 2023 Royals ranked 22nd in MLB in defensive runs saved; the 2024 Royals now place third in the same metric — saving 22 runs so far this season.

 

Pitching

The Royals pitching staff has reinvented itself this season. Homegrown talent Brady Singer was drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 2018 draft. After struggling in 2023, Singer has had a strong start to 2024 with a 2.70 ERA and a 3.19 Fielding Independent Pitching. The biggest difference for Singer is that he’s no longer the only pitcher that the Royals can rely on. The best move the Royals made was trading for Cole Ragans from the Texas Rangers in the middle of the 2023 season. While Ragans floundered in Arlington, sporting a 5.92 ERA, he has been excellent for Kansas City. So far this season, Ragans flaunts a 3.34 ERA and ranks third in the American League in strikeouts.

 

The Royals’ strong pitching acquisitions continued this past offseason. Kansas City signed two former Padres, Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, both of whom have helped the team tremendously. Lugo has been especially brilliant, earning a 7-1 record with a 1.79 ERA. The Royals’ pitching staff, who are all still in their mid 20s and early 30s, will have a lot of time left playing at a high level.

 

Drafting Superstars

The biggest move in the Royals’ rebuild was drafting Bobby Witt Jr. in 2019. Witt Jr. has changed the Royals franchise since his 2022 debut. In his first season in MLB, Bobby hit for 20 home runs with a .722 On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage.  He has only improved since; this season, Witt Jr. has a .916 OPS, cementing his place as one of the best hitters in baseball today. Not only is he a great hitter, but he is also an elite baserunner. Witt Jr. is top four in MLB in total steals at 16. When looking at the defensive analytics, Witt Jr.’s outs above average sit at 10, which is second in MLB. With his unbelievable all-around game, Witt Jr. has been the leading face in the Royal’s return to relevance.

 

The Royals’ resurgence can be attributed to smart drafting and great offseason moves over the past two years. This elite Royals squad could put together one special season, and have built the foundation for a strong team for years to come.

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About the Contributor
Jake Lannon
Jake Lannon, Senior Staff Writer
4th year Communications major. Looking to work professionally in the field of sports media in the future and you should all read my articles no matter what.
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