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A Royal Debut: The New Guard's First Regular Season Matchup

The Royals are all but set for Opening Day 2023 tomorrow, as set as they'll ever be at least. Coming out of Spring Training with a 19-13-1 record (2nd place in the Cactus League by a mere half game) there's a lot of positives that can be seen. However, most of those wins came early in the Spring season, and the Royals went on a quasi-skid to end Spring League play. For a team that has a first-year manager, multiple first-year staffers, and a very young player core, it certainly wasn't a bad performance by any stretch. We can hope this continues into the regular season and we'll see tomorrow if the big offense and serviceable (which mind you, is a GIGANTIC step up from last year) pitching can stay the course.

Let's look at the bats and the field first, shall we? Obviously, you've got the guys you knew would make the cut. Bobby Witt, Jr., Salvador Perez, Hunter Dozier, and Vinnie Pasquantino are all shoe-ins for the starting lineup somewhere. I would say MJ Melendez and Kyle Isbel have also cemented themselves. The big questions are though, who starts in the outfield and who will be at DH? Michael Massey, Nathan Eaton, Edward Olivares, Matt Duffy, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. are all names being thrown around for outfield players, and Franmil Reyes has the potential to be at DH instead of Melendez, who can also play in the out or infield and still be in the batting lineup. Massey led the team during the Spring in home runs, which is certainly something to note as well. Overall, though, I think Royals have their guys they want to be playing. Count in Nicky Lopez too to more than likely make an appearance at least as a rotational guy.

For pitching, I would be surprised if Zach Greinke was not the starter for Opening Day. He showed that even as a seasoned veteran he's got a terrific arm and is popular among the fanbase. Brad Keller though is my dark horse, and while I realize a lot of people have heard this same old song and dance with him only for him to underwhelm during the regular season, he still looks like a guy that could turn into a marquee starter. You hope last year was merely a fluke... Brady Singer and Jordan Lyles are also on my radar, but not as likely as the aforementioned two. Filling that final starting spot though post-Daniel Lynch injury, I have Kris Bubic rounding out the starters until Lynch gets healthy. Relievers include Scott Barlow, Aroldis Chapman, Amir Garrett, Dylan Coleman, and Carlos Hernandez. Probably Angel Zerpa too given the Lynch injury. This pitching corps is incredibly hit or miss, but a much better unit compared to last year's Cal Eldred-endorsed debacle. The coaching is there for guys like Singer, Keller, Bubic, and Hernandez to unlock their potential. Guys that struggled last year looked improved during the Spring and that will hopefully carry over.

Like I said, this is a young Royals team that, while having some time to develop in the Spring, will still be very green. I certainly wouldn't expect a World Series run, but a solid season developing potential future stars and working out of the shortfalls of last year is most likely in the books. Whether or not that leads to the playoffs is up in the air, but with a new regime in place that's I think the least we can ask for from this team, is a developmental year that could at least lead to playoff runs and successes a year or two down the line. They've got the bats now for it as we saw in the Spring. The Royals had +15 run differential in the Spring and have shown a balanced offensive attack. Nothing too flashy, but it gets the job done. Pitching once again is a night and day difference thus far and could prove to be even better as the year goes on once the injury bug goes away. Again, you've got a lot of guys that were plagued by bad coaching finally unlocking their potential, you hope it sticks. In the end, I predict the Royals to finish at .500 +/- 10 games. This is a unit that certainly isn't a lock for postseason play, but if they find their footing and groove could prove to be incredibly dangerous. In a weak AL Central, the timing could be just right, but first the Royals need to find their stride and keep it. Something that has been elusive to them for a few years now, but again with a new regime, could be right around the corner.

Verdict: 79-83, 4th in the AL Central. Developmental year that could potentially see fireworks

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