Spring Training Royals Baseball

In this Nov. 2, 2015, file photo, Kansas City Royals catcher Drew Butera and Wade Davis celebrate after Game 5 of the team's baseball World Series against the New York Mets in New York. 

The Kansas City Royals are not a good baseball team.

That’s no secret, but there’s no need to dance around it. The lineup is only okay, the pitching staff is shaky at best, and the bullpen is about as reliable as gas station sushi.

By all accounts, in terms of on-paper talent, the Royals are towards the bottom of the major leagues.

If you look at where the franchise as a whole is heading, though, things aren’t quite as grim.

Sure, the minor league system was ranked dead last by Bleacher Report, but there is some room for optimism. If the team can navigate the next few years well, Kansas City could be hosting playoff baseball again sooner than you may think.

There are a few solid young pieces playing in the big leagues, although not many. Jake Junis shoved in his first start of the season, and possesses a very effective slider. Cheslor Cuthbert has been decent in his sporadic playing time, and could put it all together with a full season of reps. Eric Skoglund and Bubba Starling both have potential and sit on the fringe of Triple-A and the majors, but don’t necessarily deserve a full paragraph.

The farm system isn’t “good,” per se, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t house any talented players. Nick Pratto, Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias offer high-potential young bats in the lower levels, with pitchers Foster Griffin and Scott Blewett offering similar promise.

The departure of several key free agents this winter will give the Royals six picks in the top 100 of this year’s draft. There’s a lot of good talent in this year’s crop, so if management can draft better than in recent years, they could reap the benefits.

Hunter Dozier and Nicky Lopez highlight the more major league-ready options, two infielders that could crack the big league club in the next year or two.

Lopez will have to compete with Adalberto Mondesi, who is currently injured but will shortly end up in either Omaha or Kansas City. If the team finally ends its relationship with on-again, off-again frenemy Alcides Escobar, the two could form a strong duo up the middle.

Moving on from Escobar has been tough for Kansas City, as it attempts to cling to the fond memories of the “2015 Era.” However, in order to establish the next generation of Royals success, the cord needs to be cut.

Not just with Escobar, though. Save for a few exceptions, anyone currently on the 25-man that doesn’t offer potential ten years down the road should be considered expendable.

Bringing Mike Moustakas was a great decision, but not just because it’ll sell tickets and make fans happy. Signing Moose to a one-year, 6.5-million-dollar deal sets him up to be one of the highest-prized trade pieces come July. An expiring, low-cost corner infielder bound to mash at least 30 homers would fetch a couple decent prospects at the very least.

Whit Merrifield is another player who should be moved, despite his popularity in Kansas City. He’s provided a surprisingly-high level of play in his short career, but has probably hit his peak. He’s under team control until 2023, making him an attractive option for many teams as he can play several positions and bat for a solid average.

The bullpen isn’t exactly full of luster, but guys like Kelvin Herrera and Justin Grimm could be eyed by playoff teams looking to add an arm or two. Starters Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel would be tougher to move, but if the Royals ate some of their contracts, it could be possible.

Dayton Moore should be the first one to put a “fire sale” sign in his yard, but there is a line he should be weary to cross. Both Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy have expressed a desire to stay with the team, which should make them untouchable. Keeping iconic athletes in Kansas City is something the city has struggled with for decades, so the chance to do so shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The next few years are going to be tough, but Perez and Duffy would help stabilize things to a degree. Fans aren’t going to enjoy watching a losing product, so having these two familiar faces will give them something to keep them interested.

They’ll also help to usher in the next wave of Royals baseball, to navigate the next frontier. The 2015 team was full of young studs, but their success may not have been possible if not for the likes of Alex Gordon, Wade Davis and the few other veterans. When the next generation is ready to compete, Perez and Duffy will have been there before.

That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Recapturing that 2015 glory? Well, it won’t be easy, but there’s precedent to believe it could happen sooner rather than later. With some careful attention, Royals fans could soon relive the days of Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, just with different names on the backs of their jersey shirts. Until then, I suppose, they’ll just have to trust the process.

— Edited by Hannah Strader