Tim Crone: Royals need to play shortened season with an eye to the future

Staff Writer
The Examiner
Tim Crone

It looks like that there is going to be a Kansas City Royals baseball season beginning at the end of the month. Major League Baseball owners and the players union finally stopped shooting themselves in the foot and agreed to play a 60-game schedule plus the playoffs.

We can finally start talking about playing the actual game. The new format for teams the Royals will play makes for a much different look and should be a lot of fun. Some of the new rules to be tried during the shortened season seem like a good move. A designated hitter used by everyone will help the pitchers as they will not have much time to get into pitching condition.

Each team will be allowed a 26-man roster until Aug. 31 and then can increase to 27 through the remainder of the season. Teams will be limited to only 13 pitchers until Sept. 1. From then until the end of the season the limit will be raised to 14.

It can be a positive for the Royals organization to allow players to play who have the potential to help the team over the next two or three years. It equates to an extended spring training for a young team like the Royals.

Hopefully, some of their young pitching prospects can be called up at the end of the year. Even if the young prospects only throw a few innings at the major league level, it will give them a taste of pitching at a big-time level.

The organization obviously will not try to rush along its young talent but many of the draft choices taken in the last three drafts have been players who have already pitched at the Division-I college level. Some of the young arms have played 2-3 years at that level. They will be more advanced and be more physically and mentally mature than a kid right out of high school.

The everyday players look like a group of young players who will have a chance to improve and not struggle like they did with 100 losses over each of the last two seasons. The lineup has both speed and power and should be able to improve on last year's performance.

Hopefully, the organization will stay away from high-salary older players to fill in during such a shortened season. The organization needs to use the 2020 season to provide experience for the future. In light of the fact that the 2020 season could still end prematurely, every game experience a young player gets under his belt can only be a plus in the future.

Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, and Nicky Lopez just need more playing time to perfect their skills. It may be the last call for veterans like Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy this season, but they will be able to provide much needed veteran leadership in a very unusual season.

The shortened season can really help a player like Salvador Perez, who is coming off a serious injury. It will give him time to regain his confidence without going through a grueling 162-game schedule. He will also get a chance to see if he can play first base in the future.

In such an abbreviated season, teams will need to get off to a fast start. Many of the more talented teams in the majors are built for a long 162-game season. Last year’s World Series champion, the Washington Nationals, were under .500 after 50 games. You never know – a young team like the Royals could get hot early and have an exciting 2020 season.

If the 2020 season does go the full 60 games, the Royals need to keep a focus on the future. Through the past three drafts the Royals farm system, rated 30th a couple of years ago, is now ranked 18th by baseball gurus. Time will tell how those young players will pan out at the major league level, but at least the talent pool has improved a great deal.

If the Royals do not get out of the gate quickly, you will see young prospects get more and more of an opportunity as the season progresses. It will be a good season to see if local favorite Bubba Starling will become a regular major league player.

It will be an odd opportunity for fans to witness one of the most unusual and challenged baseball seasons in the history of our national pastime.

• The quote of the week comes from former major league pitcher Tug McGraw: “I’m an emotional ballplayer and unless I express that emotion – right then and there – I can’t perform, I can’t handle the pressure. I have to do my own thing – I have to be me.”

– 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.