The Royals have surged back into contention on the wings of a 7-2 road trip.
ESPN’s David Schoenfield writes “welcome to the American League, circa 2017, where one nice little stretch of baseball makes you an instant contender.”
The Royals, 33-35, are two games back of the second wild-card spot and 3 1/2 behind Cleveland, which has leaped over the Twins and into first place in the Central.
Schoenfield says the Indians “are much better than the Royals and more likely to pull away to a significant lead than for the Royals to catch them.” This could leave Royals general manager Dayton Moore in a predicament when the trade deadline nears.
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The Royals have some high-profile pending free agents in left-hander Jason Vargas, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer. Closer Kelvin Herrera will be a free agent after the 2018 season.
“Even with this hot streak, I don’t see the Royals as one of the five best teams in the league,” Schoenfield writes. “Vargas has been crazy-good and likely will regress, and the rest of the rotation minus (left-hander Danny) Duffy isn’t good. They’ve scored the third-most runs in the AL in June, but they’re still last in the AL in OBP for the season. I don’t see that recipe holding up, so I think Moore trades Vargas and Herrera and at least one of the other three. Did we mention the Red Sox have the worst third-base production in the majors?”
▪ In USA Today’s Power Rankings, no team had a bigger jump in the last week than the Royals, who climbed seven spots to No. 16. “Mike Moustakas enhancing his free agent profile — and boosting Royals’ last ride,” USA Today writes.
▪ At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron takes a look at the potential buyers and sellers at the trade deadline. The Royals? They are among the “on the bubble” teams.
“The Royals have, perhaps unfortunately for their franchise’s best interests, played themselves back into a dilemma; a fruitless run at a playoff spot that kept them from trading any of their impending free agents could make the coming rebuild even more challenging, but with recent playoff success with this group still in everyone’s memory, it’s not that hard to justify a ‘one last run’ mentality,” Cameron writes.
That FanGraphs story says the Royals have a 7.1 percent chance of making the playoffs.
▪ Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com writes that even with the Royals’ winning road trip, FanGraphs’ playoff odds seem to show that it is unlikely they would earn a postseason berth.
Morosi writes: “A roster reboot is inevitable between now and Opening Day 2018, and many rival executives believe the Royals would be wise to leverage the next six weeks to restock the farm system. …
“Moustakas, enjoying a career-best offensive year, is the most intriguing Royal to monitor over the coming days. He could become the subject of a bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox as the rivals chase the American League East title.”
▪ At fivethirtyeight.com, the Royals’ chances of making the playoffs are worse than the St. Louis Cardinals, who are 31-37. That site predicts the Royals will finish with a 77-85 record.
▪ Baseball Prospectus also projects a 77-win season for the Royals with a 7.4 percent chance at making the postseason.