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Thursday, July 7, 2022
Home Sports MLB Lesky's notes: The calendar does not stop for anyone

Lesky’s notes: The calendar does not stop for anyone

The end of January is upon us. Although it is not very easy to find the date of reporting throwers and catchers, as I think a lot of it has not been determined, but the first spring practice match is four weeks from tomorrow, theoretically. I’m just doing well here, but I feel like they need about two weeks to sort out all the staff stuff like free agents and trades. And if you think that’s not the case, we’ve seen what happened to the signing frenzy when the players wanted to figure out their contracts before the exclusion. I think it’s also fair to assume that they do not need all the spring matches they have scheduled. Let’s work back to see when Opening Day is in jeopardy. If you assume they need three weeks of games, the opening day is March 31st. Give them 10-12 days of practice before matches and that means they have to sign up by February 26 or so. If they need two weeks to figure out the roster, that means they have until February 12th. Let’s say February 11th to close it on a Friday. Okay, we have two weeks. The clock is ticking.

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Not to stay in labor, but I think the players who are giving up the changes in length of service are helping the Royals start their plans for 2022 ahead of time knowing that whenever they are raising their best guys, they will do so for six will have full seasons. Although they can not communicate with MJ Melendez or Nick Pratto at the moment as they are on the 40-man list, I would bet that there have been several conversations with Bobby Witt Jr. already. was to get him ready to compete for a job in spring training again. The Royals have never played service time anyway, so it probably does not change much, but if service time had dropped to five years or so, it would have been absolutely possible. I’m not so sure Melendez and Pratto have a great chance of making the opening day list, excluding injuries, but Witt’s spring will be the biggest story we all follow. About like it was last season.

This is no news, but how the Royals handle their infield at the start of the season is going to be fascinating. I wrote about it last week, but they have a handful of ways they can go. The safe route is for Whit Merrifield to play the right field and to get Witt, Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez on the field, but I also hate the idea that Merrifield is playing right with his offensive decline going pretty clearly. Add to that how well Isbel has beaten in his last few months in AAA and then in a small sample in the big leagues and it’s hard to justify Merrifield out there every day. What I’m very interested in is what happens when Lopez has a rough spring. He probably had a good enough 2021 that the Royals would look past that, but what if he set up another .118 / .231 / .147 line? They have so many options that while spring exercise is such a crapshoot to evaluate, I would think he would at least be better than it should be. For what it’s worth, Lopez had pretty solid feathers in 2019 and 2020, but just a thought.

I feel like Zach Buchanan is creeping up on my brain. Yesterday, he had a great article in The Athletic about Nick Loftin as I started to think I think Loftin might be the prospect who can make the most noise in 2022 for the Royals. Looking back on the 2020 concept, I hated the choice. Part of that was ignorance about what Loftin could do. I saw a guy who just looked like a contact hit type who looked like he might be able to get the bat knocked out of his hands at higher levels. When I dug a little deeper on Loftin, I think I hated the choice less and just did not like it more. I’m going to stop telling myself because I did not do enough homework and go into what makes me think Loftin has a chance to really explode in 2022. Part of that is what Buchanan writes about in the article linked above. He is willing to learn and listen, which does not have every prospect. In the end, it does not matter much for the long term without talent, but when you combine that willingness with ability, it means a lot.

So yeah, his ability to change things when it’s not working is great, but the ability is what excites me. He showed an ability to drive the ball that I did not think would translate from the university. And it’s not that he was good at it at university, to be honest. But when you have the ability to split gaps and the ability to make contact, this is a great recipe. He has a great approach, a much nicer swing than I thought when they drafted him and has now achieved some success. He spent the entire year in high-A and was terrible at starting the season. In his first 101 record appearances, he hit .218 / .320 / .368. They then went on the road to Peoria and he double and whore. Then they came home for a series and he hit two doubles and a home run. When embarking on a trip to Beloit, he hit .317 / .397 / .490 with a walking rate of 10.1 percent and a pull-out rate of 15.4 percent. The bat is not elite, but if you combine that with his ability to work at a number of positions, I think he has a great 2022 and ends up as a top-five Royals prospect.

I’ve talked a bit about some relief options that the Royald could target when the exclusion does end and one that I think makes a lot of sense in the Ervin Santana role is Collin McHugh. But, even if they added someone like him, I’m going to beat this horse who’s long dead and talk about using their young pitch in a different way. They have already gone to a six-man rotation to end the 2021 season, but with so many young arms currently beginners, I would be very interested to see them go with some sort of starting situation. It probably will not be exactly as the Rays used, but with all these arms they can give opponents different looks throughout the game and continue to come to them with a high octane. Can you imagine that you are a team preparing to take on Daniel Lynch, who kept leftists on a .161 / .229 / .194 line and then moved through after the occupation to Brady Singer who right after holding a .377 SLG in 2021 and a .224 / .267 / .355 line in 2020?

The jugs are not yet legally good enough to let go of most of their fears, but if used in an interesting way, they might be able to do so. Or maybe it’s just you start with Lynch for three innings and then bring in an arm like Dylan Coleman for the fourth to handle three tough right-handers and then turn it back to Carlos Hernandez for a pair. I do not know if I worked out the details, but with all these young arms that probably should have some limitations anyway, I think it will be a lot of fun to look at this. I think Mike Matheny can put it together because he managed the site staff differently than he did in St. Louis. Louis did, but I’m concerned Cal Eldred is part of this plan. Yet I would like to see them go in a different direction to try to get the most out of them all.

In this week’s memory lane, I thought a lot about the Royals 14 game winning streak in 1994 just before the strike hit. My life as a Royals fan was not what you would call exciting. I was born in January 1985, so I at least lived for their World Series victory, but I did not even really enjoy the end of the glory years when they won 92 matches in 1989. I remember one day very clearly. in 1993 when the Royals were in first place pretty early in the season and I was so excited that I cut the points standout from the newspaper that morning. Anyway, when that 14-game winning streak started, the team was two games more than 0.500 and 9.5 games out of first place, behind both the White Sox and Indians. Their 5-2 defeat in Detroit on July 22 was their third in a row. Then they only lost again on August 6 when they faced the Mariners in KC in a series that was supposed to be in Seattle. It’s a whole separate story that’s been a lot of fun ever since.

But that winning streak and the subsequent strike is something I think about much more often than I care to admit. People here remember, but Bob Hamelin was great in 1994. He hit .282 / .388 / .599 with almost as many hikes as strikes. Then the strike hit and he was never the same. Maybe it would not have changed anything, but I’m convinced he would have been in better shape in 1995. The team eventually traded for David Cone after winning a Cy Young and maybe it would not have happened without a strike. Plus, the whole thing where they were only four games out at the time of the strike. They completed 13 games over .500. The next time they were 13 games over was April 26, 2003. The next time after that was August 15, 2014. That 14 game win series was truly the last great time we as Royals fans had for almost a decade. I definitely think a lot about it.

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