Kansas City Royals 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: The Beginning of a Slow Climb Back to Contention

Kansas City Royals 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: The Beginning of a Slow Climb Back to Contention article feature image
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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Adalberto Mondesi.

  • The Royals' winning days are over for now, but they likely won't stoop lower than their 58-win 2018 campaign.
  • Kansas City's roster has very few proven veteran players, and will need players who've shown potential to start succeeding to eclipse their win total of 70.5.
  • Adalberto Mondesi is the most promising of their young position players, while Brad Keller could be an x-factor in the rotation.

Original analysis published on Feb. 20.

The worst of the troublesome trio in the AL Central, the Royals have fallen mightily since their World Series title in 2015. This small market club knows they can’t be a contender every year, but I think they want to keep their sub-60 win seasons to a minimum.

The Royals needed years and years of miserable performances to build up to their back-to-back World Series appearances, but their peak did not last long.

They’re already back to rock bottom (they hope) and don’t appear to be spiking back to their winning days anytime soon.

2018 Results

  • Record: 58-104 (-23.6 units), 79-83 ATS (-5.9 units)
  • Over/Under Record: 70-82-10
  • Preseason World Series Odds: 500-1
  • Win Total: 70
  • Most Profitable Starter: Brad Keller (10-10, +4.7 units)

Though they managed just 58 wins, they weren’t nearly as unprofitable as the Orioles, who became the first team we’ve ever tracked to break the -50 unit barrier.

Oddsmakers knew a dropoff was coming, setting their win total at 70 despite 80 wins in 2017. They lost a couple key contributors in free agency, but I don’t think anyone expected them to win 22 fewer games — especially with the Tigers and White Sox in their division.

2019 Odds

  • World Series Odds: +100000
  • Division Odds: +6000
  • Win Total O/U: 69.5
  • Playoff Odds: Make +2000, Miss -10000

(3/4 Update: With Salvador Perez out for the season, the Royals’ win total has dropped from 70.5 to 69.5)

Original analysis from 2/20 below

The Royals have some lofty expectations set by the oddsmakers, eh? 70.5 win total?! Not sure how many folks will be taking that over.

Much like the Tigers, this team really has no value on any futures. Reaching 80 wins would be an incredible achievement, but making the playoffs or winning their division seems borderline impossible.

Roster Notes

  • Key Additions: Martin Maldonado, Brad Boxberger, Billy Hamilton, Jake Diekman, Chris Owings, Terrance Gore, Homer Bailey (minors), Drew Storen (minors)
  • Key Subtractions: Alcides Escobar, Nate Karns, Jason Hammel, Brendon Maurer, Jerry Vasto, Jason Adam
  • Potential Lineup
    1. Whit Merrifield – 2B
    2. Adalberto Mondesi – SS
    3. Alex Gordon – LF
    4. Jorge Soler – RF
    5. Ryan O’Hearn – 1B
    6. Hunter Dozier – 3B
    7. Lucas Duda – DH
    8. Martin Maldonado – C
    9. Billy Hamilton – CF
  • Projected Rotation
    1. Brad Keller
    2. Danny Duffy (Injured)
    3. Jakob Junis
    4. Jorge Lopez
    5. Homer Bailey
    6. Scott Barlow
  • Prospect Watch: Nicky Lopez (Unranked, IF), Kelvin Gutierrez (Unranked, 3B), Scott Blewett (Unranked, RHP), Richard Lovelady (Unranked, RHP)
  • Key Injuries: Salvador Perez (Tommy John, out for season), Danny Duffy (Shoulder, early April), Brian Flynn (Elbow, early 2019),
  • MVP Candidates: Whit Merrifield (+20000), Jorge Soler (+20000)
  • Cy Young Candidates: Danny Duffy (+6000), Jakob Junis (+8000), Brad Keller (+10000)

Analysis

Player to Watch: Adalberto Mondesi

Formerly known as Raul A. Mondesi, the son of Raul Mondesi (obviously) has had an intriguing career.

After becoming the first modern MLB player to debut in the World Series, Mondesi was suspended for 50 games for a banned substance in 2016.

He got some MLB playing time in 2016 and 2017, but was flat out terrible.

Out of 480 hitters with at least 200 plate appearances between 2016 and 2017, Mondesi’s wRC+ of 29 ranked 480th… you know, dead last. He hit .181 with an OPS of .497, but he was incredibly young.

Still just 23-years-old, Mondesi is coming off a season in which he was actually pretty darn good.

He played just 75 games, but posted an fWAR of 2.8 (legit for a full season), hit 14 homers and had an OPS of .804. He also swiped 32 bags and contributed in the field.

It certainly looks like he is coming around, but I do expect his hitting production to drop off a bit due to his inability to walk and his affinity for striking out.

Nevertheless, Mondesi could rival Whit Merrifield for the team’s best all-around player at the end of the day and help the team eclipse their win total.

Pitcher to Watch: Brad Keller

The Royals used 11 different men to start their 162 games last year. One of them had an ERA below 4.00 (and you wonder why they won 58 games). That one guy is Keller.

The 23-year-old Keller stands 6’5″ 230 pounds, though his 6.16 K/9 in his rookie season don’t exactly scream power pitcher.

Instead, Keller managed to pitch to a 3.08 ERA by keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark.

The pride of Flowery Branch, Georgia, Keller’s ability to induce grounders was a breath of fresh air for the Royals, who ranked sixth in home runs allowed. Of the seven pitchers who started at least 10 games for Kansas City, Keller’s HR/9 of 0.45 was 0.75 lower than the next best guy.

Unfortunately, that number and his ERA are due to rise.

I do like the fact that he’s a ground-ball pitcher with a good infield defense behind him. However, just 6.1% of the fly balls he allowed went over the fence — an unsustainable mark.

That, coupled with the fact his walk rate is mediocre and his strikeout rate is subpar, lead me to believe he could be on his way to joining his teammates on the 4-plus ERA squad.

Summary

As I mentioned at the top, the Royals are going to be bad this year. There’s just no way around it barring some serious luck.

Their downfall will be their pitching staff, which currently doesn’t have anyone with an ace ceiling. Their defense will help limit runs, but their pitching staff, which ranked among the worst in strikeouts last year and should again this year, will test them.

Their offense does have a bit of intrigue to it, but will be striking out so much that I doubt they will be above-average even if they do have some pop.

The former Cub Jorge Soler was off to his best offensive season of his career last year before being shelved due to a toe injury just a couple months into the year.

A big lefty first baseman, Ryan O’Hearn, made a very impressive debut last year, too. He hit 12 homers in just 44 games and posted a 153 wRC+ to boot, though his minor league track record doesn’t suggest he’s actually that good.

Yet a third everyday player with plus raw power and strikeout issues is Hunter Dozier. The previous two players produced at above average rates last season, but Dozier’s wRC+ of 80 ranked 212th out of 247 players with at least 350 plate appearances.

I expect all of these guys to strike out a bunch, but they also have 20-plus home run power and could drive in some runs if Merrifield and Mondesi can get on base in front of them.

For any Royals fans out there reading this, don’t be shocked if Alex Gordon and potentially others are dealt at the deadline. Kansas City would be wise to trade away literally everyone that other teams ask about, but Gordon is the most likely given his contract.

Since they were actually good for a stretch, the Royals farm system isn’t going to be helping them soon. It ranks among the worst in the majors and they have zero top-100 prospects per MLB.com.

They’re not exactly a free-agent landing spot, so they will need to rebuild from within. As we saw from that win graph in the intro, that can take a while. Hence why I said everyone should be on the trade block.

I’m personally staying away from this win total just because the bottom of the AL Central standings could be really messy, but getting more than 70 wins will be a tough task for this team.


All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 20

Transactions accurate as of Mar. 24. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign

Advanced data via Fangraphs.com, prospect ratings via MLB.com, prospects in prospect watch expected to be MLB-ready in 2019

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