It's the Fourth of July, so, of course, the Royals are in town to start a 3-game series with our Jays.
The Royals are 43-38, a half game worse than our Jays. They sit third in the AL Central, 6 games back of the Indians, but just a half game out of a wild card spot.
The Royals are second last in the AL runs scored per game, at 4.06 (Jays are 6th from the top at 4.88). They are 7th in runs allowed per game, at 4.11 (Jays are 3rd at 3.89).
I sent off questions to Max Rieper, manager of Royals Review and he was kind enough to answer, even on the holiday weekend.
What's the story on Yordano Ventura ankle? While we are on Yordano, what do Royals fans think of the guy? I mean, I can understand thinking about throwing at Manny Machado, but I'm not a big fan of actually doing it.
The ankle doesn't sound very serious and I would be surprised if Yordano doesn't make his next start. I think Royals fans are pretty frustrated with his act right now. It would be one thing if he could justify his shenanigans with great numbers, but his performance has been very underwhelming this year. His command seems way off, leading to a career-high in walk rate, and he is leaving pitches up, causing them to get pounded up in the zone.
As far as his shenanigans, I think we have come to terms that he is simply a hothead. It is not like he is throwing at guys for no reason, in every instance he has been provoked, and Manny Machado is certainly no saint. But I think we have seen that he gets easily rattled by opposing players, which doesn't speak well for his composure.
The Royals have been hit hard by injuries. Who is replacing Lorenzo Cain and, more importantly, Mike Moustakas in the lineup.
Lorenzo Cain is being replaced by Jarrod Dyson, who brings the same kind of speed and defense, but is a huge downgrade in the power department. You may also see some Brett Eibner, a 27-year old AAA player who impressed in a small sample size while Alex Gordon was out until Eibner himself got hurt. He provides a bit more power, but as a career minor leaguer, is much less proven than Dyson. Cain is only expected to be out two weeks, which will only be about 12 games with the All-Star break, so the Royals may have caught a break there.
Mike Moustakas, who is out for the year with a knee injury, has been replaced by Cheslor Cuthbert. Cuthbert was a Top 100 prospect a long time ago, and fell off the prospect radar with a couple of underwhelming seasons. But he is still just 23 and got off to a torrid start in AAA Omaha. When Moustakas went down, Cuthbert came up and provided solid defense, which was a surprise considering many reports pegged him as a subpar defender. Even better, he has been a very solid bat in the lineup, hitting for some power with 7 HR in 48 games so far. The Royals have a pretty thin system, but they have gotten pleasant surprises from some guys up from the minors like Cuthbert, Eibner, and infielder Whit Merrifield, who leads all AL rookie position players in WAR.
Can you give us a quick recap of the starting pitchers we are likely to see this series?
Edinson Volquez has been a typically solid pitcher, but was lit up recently for perhaps the worst start in MLB history, giving up eleven runs in one inning against Houston. He rebounded to throw 6 2/3 shutout innings last week, so hopefully that awful performance is behind him.
Chris Young in Toronto sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Young has been awful, especially on the road. He leads the league in home runs allowed with 22, despite pitching just 57 2/3 innings. He has always been a fly ball pitcher, but this year those fly balls are leaving the park at an alarming rate. Many Royals fans have already written off Tuesday's game, however Young did pitch well in Rogers Centre last fall in the ALCS.
Ian Kennedy got off to a fantastic start for the Royals after signing a $70 million contract, highest ever for a Royals pitcher. But he has struggled since then with a .5.77 ERA in his last six starts. He has also had trouble with the long ball, giving up 16 of his 20 home runs on the road.
What are the Royals looking for at the trade deadline?
The Royals badly need starting pitching, but the market is thin, and the Royals have few trade chips. They depleted the farm system in deals for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist last year and they have not performed well in the last few drafts. They will have to shop in the lower tier of pitchers, looking for someone that can hopefully serve as an upgrade over Chris Young. However, with other fifth starter options like Kris Medlen, Dillon Gee, and Mike Minor, due back from his injury some time this summer, the Royals may just stay put. They may instead turn their attention on building bench or bullpen depth, seeing that as a way of upgrading with the trade chips they have.
Who is your favorite Royal to watch?
Lorenzo Cain has emerged as my favorite Royals player, even though it looks like he is constantly in pain. But he brings so much to the table, as an amazing defender, speed on the bases, good gap power, high average, a walk now and again, and he has developed decent home run power as he has aged. The bromance between him and Salvador Perez, captured on Salvy's Instagram account, also endears Royals fans to him.
The Royals are a few games back of the Indians in the Central (we trade to help out this weekend). What do you think of your chances of catching them? What does the team need to do?
The Indians have been the pre-season darling in the Central for a few seasons only to underwhelm, but this may be the year they finally reach their potential. Their starting rotation makes them seem like a tough team to catch, and they have some terrific players in their prime like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and when healthy, Michael Brantley. I think the Royals could still catch them, but the Indians seem like a more talented team than the Royals, and the team may have to look to the Wild Card to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season. That shouldn't be too much of a detriment however, they won the pennant in 2014 as a Wild Card.
It seems strange/silly to me that the Royals are playing in Canada on July 4. Are Royals fans pissed off about this?
That has raised a few eyebrows in Kansas City, especially since this isn't the first time this has happened - the Royals were in Toronto on July 4 in 2012 as well. I get that making a schedule is difficult but it does seem odd to have an American team in Canada for U.S. Independence Day. In the end, it is not that big of a deal. The Royals are drawing very well this season and could break the franchise record they set at the gate last year, and I, for one, will be listening to the game on a boat in the middle of a lake, celebrating freedom, fun, and a successful first half of Royals baseball.
Thanks Max, and enjoy your holiday. Be careful with the fireworks.
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