Tim Crone: Royals showing promise early

The Examiner
Tim Crone

It was fantastic to be able to watch the Royals live at Kauffman Stadium. It was a beautiful spring day. I would have bet all I own that after the Royals gave up five runs in the top of the first that the party was over early.

Man, was I wrong!

The opening day game and second game of the season left fans with the impression that this team seems to have the fire in the belly. Pitching as is always, the key to success. It is way too early to start feeling over the top, but the everyday players look like they belong in the major leagues.

The opening day lineup, even without starting shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, looked to be the real deal. Leadoff hitter “Two-hit Whit” Merrifield looks like he will again be a leader in the league in base hits. He is showing he has even more pop in the bat with home runs in the first three games.

Andrew Benintendi, hitting second, is made for that spot in the lineup. Benintendi was an excellent pickup as an exceptionally good outfielder and hitter.

Carlos Santana is a big-time professional hitter. He is a clutch hitter who is able to get on base with walks all the time. He put on a clinic getting on base in the first two games.

Whether Salvador Perez or Jorge Soler hit fourth or fifth, you know both players have the power during the course of the year to turn games around quickly.

The player who impressed everyone one in town the most is new center fielder Michael Taylor. This guy is an athlete and a player. He has shown power and great speed early. He threw two strikes to throw runners out at the plate in the first game. He looks like a more athletic version of Lorenzo Cain at his best.

Right Fielder Kyle Isbel plays hungry and can run and swing the bat. Hunter Dozier will hit and add power. You have to like his backup, Hanser Alberto, who is good defensively and seems to make things happen when he has the opportunity to play.

Nicky Lopez is playing short and has done a decent job in filling in for Mondesi. He will be out of the lineup as soon as Mondesi returns from injury. It is now time for Mondesi to play up to his billing.

Ryan McBroom and Jarrod Dyson will provide experience on the bench. Backup catcher Cam Gallagher will play a much bigger role as the season progresses and hot weather sets in. Salvy is going to need some time off to be able to make it to the end of the season without injury. That is the good news.

The big question for this year's team is what about the pitching? On opening day, Brad Keller was unable to get anyone out. Hopefully, this was a rare start. He has the ability to be a good starter.

Mike Minor has to bring another left-hander starting presence along with veteran Danny Duffy. Brady Singer has to become the stud of the staff and a true No. 1 starter. If he stays away from injury, he will be a star in the league. He has all the tools.

Scott Barlow looks like the most effective guy out of the bullpen. However, the old pros Greg Holland and Wade Davis look like they can still pitch at a high level. Jesse Hahn can be nasty if he throws strikes. Jakob Junis and Kyle Zimmer can make a difference in the bullpen for middle relief. Carlos Hernandez and Josh Staumont can be pleasant surprises.

The Royals have everyday players in the minors with a lot of talented young arms to help provide backup when injuries occur. An interesting new guy out of the bullpen is the left-hander from the St. Louis area, Jake Brentz. Bobby Witt Jr. is going to be the real deal and maybe his presence will motivate Mondesi to get his head out of his backside. Witt will be a big factor soon on the major league level.

Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. I am not suggesting that the Royals are going to the World Series, but this team is much improved and as far as everyday players, they may have a chance to win 80 to 90 games. I don’t think we will see 100 losses again this year.

It was great to be a human being again and sit out in the sun to watch real live baseball again. Everyone is in first place before the first pitch. I hope baseball fans can and will enjoy the 2021 season.

• The quote of the week comes from former major league owner Walter O’Malley: “We’re good because we work harder than anybody else.”

Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.