The Kansas City Royals have an MLB-best 12 wins across their spring training games in Arizona, with a week until the first pitch of the 2021 regular season.
After a disappointing 59-103 season in 2019 and a COVID-19 shortened 2020, the Royals look to start strong this season with a roster that looks ready to compete.
Field manager Mike Matheny will start his second season in Kansas City after taking over last year for the now-retired Ned Yost. Matheny seems to have a more-than-capable roster on his hands if this year’s spring training is any indication.
The player creating the most buzz for the Royals is shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. Kansas City drafted Witt, now 20 years old, with the second pick in the 2019 draft. Although he has yet to make his MLB debut, Witt’s performance the last two months is promising.
Witt’s .289 average and three homeruns make him one of Kansas City’s top offensive weapons in Cactus League play. To have a player ready for the majors less than two years after being drafted would give the Royals a substantial payoff.
Witt is still fighting for a spot on the opening day roster, however. Kyle Isbel and Ryan McBroom both have batting averages over .300, and are integral pieces to the Royals’ spring training success. Multiple young prospects budding at the same time creates a sense of internal competition that tends to draw out the best in some players.
The Royals acquired new faces in free agency, and the team even brought back some old friends most Kansas City baseball fans will remember.
Outfielder Andrew Benintendi arrived in Kansas City as part of a three-team deal with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. Benintendi helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series and now joins Royals’ All-Star Whit Merrifield in the outfield.
Most fans will recognize first baseman Carlos Santana as a thorn, or bat, rather, in Kansas City’s side during his time with the division rival team in Cleveland. Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore made sure to change that this offseason.
“One of our goals was to add to the middle of our lineup, and Carlos does that,” Moore said in a Zoom call with MLB.com after signing Santana in December. “We have admired Carlos for a long time within this division. We have watched him develop and mature into a productive hitter, a winning-type player.”
The Royals also brought back pitcher Wade Davis and outfielder Jarrod Dyson, both famous for their roles in helping the Royals win the 2015 World Series. Davis has not given up a run this spring, and Dyson’s speed will surely come in handy for the team.
On top of the new faces in the clubhouse, Kansas City fans can look forward to seeing Royals’ veterans like Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy, and fan-favorite Salvador Perez. Perez, the former World Series MVP, signed a 4-year, $82 million extension on Sunday, the richest deal in team history.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kansas City fans missed out on seeing their boys in blue take the field, but many MLB teams, including the Royals, will allow limited fans to attend games in 2021. Kauffman Stadium will open the gates to 10,000 fans to start the season.