With the end of MLB's regular season coming next week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with an eye looking at what happened in 2021 and another at what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Kansas City Royals.
What went right
• Salvador Perez made just enough of an adjustment to lay off some bad pitches and crush those that he could, and it paid off with a monster 46-homer campaign, a .546 slugging percentage, 115 RBIs and 26 walks. He doesn't get good marks for pitch framing, but is 18-of-43 baserunners and has just one passed ball.
• Nicky Lopez has developed into a very good player, batting .304/.369/.380 with 20 stolen bases. He's also saved three runs on defense.
• Andrew Benintendi has battled injuries to post his best season at the plate in three years. He's also been a plus player on defense in left field.
• Overall the Royals were a net positive on defense; they have 15 total runs saved, which is middle-of-the-pack overall.
• The Royals appear to have good pieces in the bullpen, notably Scott Barlow, Jake Brentz, Josh Staumont, Domingo Tapia and Richard Lovelady. Overall, they have the 19th-lowest ERA and 16th-most fWAR.
• It seems like years ago, but the Royals spent 28 days in first place and were as many as seven games over .500 in early May. They won the season series against the White Sox, Astros, Brewers and Mariners. They're also just one game under .500 since June 1, so manager Mike Matheny has appeared to keep them focused.
What went wrong
• Adalberto Mondesi hasn't been able to stay healthy. The Royals like to say they're a different team with him on the field but it's true. He's batting .266/.296/.521 with six homers and 13 steals in 26 games. They are 15-11 in those appearances.
• Hunter Dozier started the season with a deep slump. He's got his batting average into the .280s recently, but the power never came. He's also not played well on defense at third base.
• They went a combined 18-37 in May and June.
• They're 24th in runs scored and 21st in ERA, after probably expecting to be in the middle in both.
Perez, a fan favorite going back to the World Series teams, has been a dynamo at the plate at 31 years old.
Right-hander Carlos Hernández, 24, showed a lot of promise in his first few starts and has posted a 3.51 ERA in the second half.
Reasons for optimism
• The Royals have been pointing toward 2022 as when they'll contend for the playoffs again. They have a top-five farm system, perhaps better, with top sluggers like Bobby Witt Jr., Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez on the verge of joining the big league club.
• Whit Merrifield has 40 steals but regressed some at the plate, batting .279/.320/.396. He's been great on defense, saving 10 runs.
• Dayton Moore has turned over the GM job to assistant J.J. Piccolo, but they're still part of a similar team that built two World Series teams in 2014 and 2015.
What needs work
• Some of their top prospects who are pitchers — notably left-hander Daniel Lynch and right-hander Jackson Kowar — already have been promoted with mixed results. Right-hander Brady Singer was a highly regarded prospect a season ago and has shown improvement in 38 major league starts. Lynch has done likewise but in 14 starts. These guys haven't started their major-league career in a full sprint like Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza and Danny Jackson seemed to in the mid-80s, but the talent is there. Patience will need to be there too.
• The lineup has too many players with slugging percentages under .400. The production at first base, third base and right field has been below replacement level. Figure that Pratto and Witt will address two of these positions, but the Royals could use more help than that in free agency or trades.
Check out our earlier MLB Exit Interviews: