So the Los Angeles Dodgers took Game 1 of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. This isn’t surprising, because honestly, the Dodgers are the deeper team, especially offensively. If the Rays were going to have a shot in this thing, they would have needed an implosion from Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, as well as some subsequent struggles from the Dodgers’ pitching staff. The fact that the Kershaw held his own may not be a good sign for the Rays in this series, though honestly, it’s just one game in this series. If this year’s playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that things can change at the drop of a hat. The ALCS and NLCS were prime examples of that theory.
Anyways, watching this Game 1 of the World Series has gotten me thinking about Royals baseball in various different forms. So, I am going to list below three “random” Royals thoughts that came to mind as I was watching Game 1 of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Rays.
Could the Royals find their own Mookie Betts?
I know that’s a loaded question, because Mookie Betts is a once-in-a-generation player. The fact that the Red Sox not only traded him, but deemed that JD Martinez was worth keeping over Betts, is mind-boggling, especially considering the kind of player Betts is. He truly is a “five tool” type, and though he’s on a team that I’m not the biggest fan of (I credit that to my family’s San Francisco Giants roots), I can’t help but cheer for him as he steps up on the game’s biggest stage in Game 1.
Plus, I’m sure this below doesn’t make things easier for Red Sox fans to stomach.
Seeing Betts’ greatness makes me wonder: could the Royals produce a player like Betts in their system? Furthermore, is there someone lingering the Royals system that could, even if it is a longshot, have a Betts-like outlook? My guess is that the closest one could be Kyle Isbel, who is a toolsy athletic outfielder who has the potential to be a five-tool type of player. However, he seems a couple of years away from reaching the Majors, and it would be interesting to see how he would perform in Double-A Northwest Arkansas next year (he was up and down in High-A Wilmington in 2019). Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi was a favorite to be that Betts-like superstar, but after an up and down season in 2020, I think Royals fans would be better off tempering those expectations for the future, especially with Mondesi now 26-years-old.
Nonetheless, seeing Betts continue to succeed makes it only more of a downer that the Royals have been unable to produce that kind of position superstar in their system in the past decade, though to be fair, 28 other teams in Major League Baseball have been unable to utilize Betts on their team as well.
Are the Rays a good or bad model for the Royals?
There’s no question that the Rays have been a success story in the modern era of Major League Baseball (especially over the past decade). The Rays have succeeded despite continually sporting one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, as they have reached the World Series in 2020 thanks to solid acquisitions, scouting, and player development. That kind of emphasis should be celebrated, especially by an organization like the Royals that values player development and scouting so highly. Furthermore, the defensive-heavy, pitching-dependent style of the Rays has definitely been reminded Royals fans of the 2014 and 2015 Royals teams that won AL Pennants (as well as a World Series in 2015).
However, while some critics have gotten grief for ripping the “Rays model” of success, I am starting to come around on that mindset. To be clear, this is no critique of the players on the field. The Rays as a team are fun to watch. However, it seems weird to celebrate an organization that is notoriously cheap, is content to see their star players walk in free agency (or via trade), and barely gets any support from their hometown fans. Now, for those that say Tampa is not a great market, the Buccaneers and Lightning don’t seem to have any problems drawing crowds, and yet, the Rays continue to play in front of empty stadiums, and receive ho-hum support for the community. I mean, hell, even when the Royals were winning from 2013-2017, they were drawing fans and at least keeping a couple of their key players (i.e. Alex Gordon).
I worry that the Rays model could convince many MLB owners to continue to be cheaper and cut costs, thinking they can replicate the “Rays Model” much like many teams in the mid-2000’s tried to duplicate the “Moneyball Model” embraced by the Oakland A’s by Billy Beane. I don’t think the Rays will influence the Royals and their front office in the near future any time soon. Moore emphasizes player development and scouting, but he knows when to cash in and spend at the Major League level, as he did from 2013-2017. But I do wonder: if the Rays turn it around after their Game 1 loss, will Royals fans be clamoring for a Rays-like organization in Kansas City?
And what could that mean for the relationship between Moore and owner John Sherman in the near future?
Could Franchy Cordero be the Royals’ version of Randy Arozarena?
We have all heard the story countless times before this postseason: the St. Louis Cardinals felt their outfield was too crowded last year and they ended up trading a 25-year-old Arozarena in the off-season to Tampa in a deal involving a slew of players (interesting to read the recap of it now). While the Cardinals seem to be happy with players like Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson (or at least that’s the gist I get…Cardinals fans prove me wrong), Arozarena has been the darling of the postseason, mostly thanks to his timely hitting and dynamic play:
For Royals fans like myself, Arozarena’s story does feel a bit similar to Franchy Cordero, who was acquired at the beginning of the 2020 season from the Padres because he didn’t “fit” in a crowded outfield in San Diego (which also proved to be the case as well for Edward Olivares, who later came to Kansas City in the Trevor Rosenthal deal).
Granted, Cordero is not an Arozarena clone by any measure. Cordero is a little older and even Cordero has a bit more big league experience than the Tampa Bay Ray outfielder (95 games for Cordero to 42 for Arozarena). However, Cordero is a dynamic player both at the plate and in the field, and he was a valued, though not “elite” prospect in the Padres system. Furthermore, Cordero certainly showed signs of an “Arozarena-like” outlook in a September 23rd game this year at Kauffman Stadium against none other than Arozarena’s former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, as Cordero hit two home runs in the contest, which included this bomb below:
Now, Cordero has a history of injuries, and he never really hit for high average as consistently as Arozarena in the minors either. However, with the left field spot available now thanks to Alex Gordon’s retirement, it would not be surprising to see Cordero break out in 2020 and have an “Arozarena-esque” impact on the Royals lineup in 2021.
Or at least that’s what I’m hoping for, as a Royals fan, anyways.