The Royals may not be in the playoffs for the fifth-straight season since winning the 2015 World Series, but that does not mean that the postseason should be ignored by Royals fans. In addition to a new format which includes an increase in teams (16 now total) and rounds, there are some former Royals with teams currently in the postseason who will be worth following. After all, if Kansas City baseball fans can’t cheer on the Royals in the postseason, they might as well cheer for teams who have Royals connections and ties.
Though the American League finished their first slate of games on Tuesday, I decided to still post this, taking into consideration what happened on Tuesday as well. And thus, I wanted to mention five former Royals players who could have a huge impact on their respective teams this postseason, and why Royals fans should be following them (and maybe slightly cheering for them as well) as we being this new, modified playoff structure due to the COVID-shortened season.
Zack Greinke, RHP, Houston Astros
The Astros had a down year this season mostly due to injuries, inconsistent play, and just general “bad karma” from the cheating scandal (and probably bad managing too…Dusty Baker is the manager after all). The Astros finished the year 29-31, but still somehow made the postseason, which is only the second time in history that a team with a losing record made the postseason (the Royals were the first to do so with a 50-53 record in 1981; the Brewers also finished 29-31 and made the playoffs as well this year). Considering how this year has gone in the wake of a near World Series title in 2019, it would have not been surprising to see the Astros go quietly in the Wild Card series against the Twins, especially after losing Gerrit Cole to free agency and Justin Verlander to injury this year.
However, if there has been one pitcher who gives the Astros a puncher’s chance to win the American League, it may be Zack Greinke, who assumed the mantle as the ace of the Astros staff in 2020. The former Royals Cy Young winner didn’t post a great ERA (4.03, his highest since 2016 with the Diamondbacks), but he posted a 2.80 FIP (his lowest since 2015 with the Dodgers) and still posted a WAR of 2.1 in the shortened year. And though Greinke didn’t have his finest start in Game 1, he still was perfectly fine in the Astros win, as he went four innings and allowed two hits, three walks, and one run while striking out one.
The Astros are hoping they can surprise MLB fans who were counting them out as the limped into the postseason. If the Astros want to have any kind of impact in the postseason, and make a return to the World Series, they will need Cy Young-esque Greinke this postseason to do so.
Mike Moustakas, 2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds
After two years of being low-balled in the free agent market, Moustakas finally got his justified deal, as the Reds signed him to a four-year deal this Winter. Moustakas was just the icing on the cake of an aggressive off-season from the Cincinnati front office, as they also signed Nick Castellanos, and traded for Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline in 2019. Unlike other small market teams out there, the Reds made it clear that they were all-in on trying to make the postseason in 2020, even with the pandemic affecting play.
Moose wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad either in his first year in Cincinnati. He only hit .230 in 44 games and 163 plate appearances, but he still displayed solid plate discipline (0.50 BB/K ratio) and decent power as well (8 home runs; 17.4 HR/FB rate). The Reds will certainly have a tough match up in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, as they will be going against an Atlanta team with one of the most loaded lineups in the National League, which includes Ronald Acuna, Jr., Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna, and Ozzie Albies, just to name a few. Even though the Reds have a solid rotation with Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo, the Reds will need offense if they want to steal this series from the NL East division champions.
To accomplish that goal (even if is a longshot), the Reds will need Moustakas to have a great postseason. He’s certainly has the experience from his time in Kansas City, and if Moose can bring his playoff-chops to this series against the Braves, then it is possible that the Reds could be a dark horse to win the National League this October.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, San Diego Padres
Hosmer certainly has not had a great career since leaving Kansas City after the 2017 season. After signing an eight-year deal with the Padres going into the 2018 season, the “Hoz” has disappointed in Southern California. In his first two seasons, he posted wOBA numbers of .309 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. And hence, many Padres (and even Royals fans) were wondering: did the Padres make a mistake by signing Hosmer?(And did the Royal get lucky with him choosing San Diego over Kansas City?)
While I do think the Royals did get lucky by seeing him sign with San Diego over Kansas City (not sure if Hosmer would have done much differently at the K), Hosmer has had a bounce back season, much to the satisfaction of Padres fans. Hosmer improved his wOBA to .353, and he also posted a slash of .287/.333/.517 in 156 plate appearances and 38 games. Though he did miss some time due to injury, it has to be stated that Hosmer definitely was a key component to the Padres making the postseason for the first time since 2006.
It will be interesting to see how manager Jayce Tingler will use Hosmer against the Braves, especially in Game 1 against Max Fried, who is a lefty. Furthermore, the presence of Mitch Moreland, a trade-deadline acquisition from Boston, also puts Hosmer in a peculiar spot, for Moreland could replace Hosmer quickly if Hosmer doesn’t produce early on in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Hosmer is known for some great playoff moments in KC. (Who can forget him sliding in at home to tie the game against the Mets in Game 5?) It will be interesting to see if he can add onto his playoff legacy in San Diego in 2020.
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have plenty of former Royals on this year’s squad: Billy Hamilton, Jason Adam, and Alec Mills come to mind. Though some may think the initial former Royal on the Cubs list to pay attention to would be Mills, especially considering he has thrown a No-Hitter this year, I would argue differently. It is possible that Mills may not start a game in the first round of the playoffs, especially with options such as Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester available, all guys with bigger postseason histories and chops.
However, the Cubs bullpen has been a question mark, and it seems like the Cubs will be leaning on former Royals reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who spent two seasons in Kansas City (2011 and 2012) and is currently “designated” as the Cubs closer. He has accumulated 8 saves and a 1.54 ERA in 22 appearances and 23.1 innings of work on the North Side this year. Hence, if the Cubs want to return to the World Series for the first time since breaking the streak in 2016, Jeffress will need to be able to lock down the ninth inning.
That being said, Jeffress’ resume is certainly flawed. His FIP is only 4.09, and his 1.42 K/BB ratio is his lowest ratio in that category since 2017 (in which he had a split season with the Rangers and Brewers). Jeffress has done an amazing job keeping the ball on the ground (2.21 GB/FB rate) and keeping the ball in the yard (7.1 HR/FB rate), which explains his success as the Cubs’ closer this year. Nonetheless, all signs point to Jeffress being pretty lucky out of the pen in 2020 (especially with the high ERA-FIP difference), and it will be interesting to see if Jeffress’ luck will transition from the regular season to the postseason.
Jarrod Dyson, OF, Chicago White Sox
There is no question that Dyson is at the end of his career as a professional baseball player. He is 36-years-old, and he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates to be primarily a speed weapon off the bench. The White Sox needed a guy who could swipe bags beyond Tim Anderson, and Dyson wanted to make one last run in the postseason. And thus, it is not surprising that the two parties found each other, especially considering how difficult the situation was for Dyson, who was gritting his teeth platooning during a painful team campaign in Pittsburgh this season.
Dyson has not played much for the White Sox since coming over via a trade on August 28th. He has only played in 11 games, and only has 11 plate appearances to boot. At this point, Dyson is viewed merely as a pinch runner and fielder, who will get the occasional pinch hitter call every now and then. That being said, if there is one guy who may be used to this role, it may be Dyson, who proved to be the Royals’ speed demon off the bench in the 2014 and 2015 World Series runs. After all, who could forget this moment below:
The deeper the White Sox go in the playoffs, the more important Dyson will be for this team, especially in a pinch-running and late innings defensive replacement role. The White Sox only ranked 23rd in baseball when it came to stealing bases, and defensively, Dyson could be a valuable asset as a late-innings substitute, especially in left field, where Eloy Jimenez has been an adventure to put it nicely. That may not result in a lot of at-bats or playing time for him on the South Side this postseason, but Royals fans know first hand how valuable guys like Dyson and Terrance Gore were off the bench during those 2014 an 2015 runs.
Let’s see if Dyson has any “That’s What Speed Do” left in the tank for the White Sox this postseason.
Because this postseason may be the last time Royals fans see it at all from Dyson.