Eric Hosmer’s emergence, Kelvin Herrera’s return bode well for Royals in ALCS

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Eric Hosmer had nine homers and a 93/35 K/BB ratio in 131 games this season. After going deep again in Sunday’s victory, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and a 4/5 K/BB ratio in four postseason games for the ALCS-bound Royals.

And that’s pretty much the best thing that could have happened to Kansas City’s offense, especially considering that Hosmer was going to occupy the cleanup spot whether he hit or not. Manager Ned Yost has used the exact same starting lineup 12 straight games now.

Obviously, Yost is very much a “don’t mess with what’s working” sort of manager, and since his team is winning (10-2 with the set lineup), nothing figures to change in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Orioles, even though it’d probably make sense to sit Billy Butler, use Norichika Aoki as a DH and give Jarrod Dyson a start against a tough righty in Chris Tillman.

Other thoughts on the Royals:

– Kelvin Herrera, who left Thursday’s Game 1 with a forearm problem, seemed just fine in throwing a scoreless inning in Sunday’s Game 3. His presence will be huge with several ALCS games likely to turn into battles of the bullpens. The Royals still have the edge there with Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland set to work the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but it’s a smaller one against the Orioles than it would be against any other playoff team. Baltimore will counter with Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller and Zach Britton at the end of games.

– With Herrera proving healthy, the Royals might not make any roster changes prior to the ALCS. They have the option of going with lefty Raul Ibanez over righty Josh Willingham as a bat off the bench, which might make sense given the short right field in Camden Yards. However, Willingham actually has better career numbers at the park, for what little it’s worth. Another option would be to go with utilityman Jayson Nix in that spot, but they’d only do that if they were worried about Omar Infante’s shoulder.

– By winning early, the Royals have the ability to set up their ALCS rotation however they’d like. They could even bring Game 3 winner James Shields back for the opener Friday, though they probably won’t. It make more sense to stick with the ALDS alignment, with Jason Vargas in Game 1, Yordano Ventura in Game 2 and Shields in Game 3. That would prevent anyone from having to go too long in between starts, and it’d set up Shields to start a potential Game 7. It’d also clear the way for Ventura, who has the best pure stuff and gives up the fewest homers of the starters, to pitch twice in Camden Yards. Game 4 will probably be Jeremy Guthrie over Danny Duffy, but that can always be decided later.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which teams would be hurt the most?

Mookie Betts
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently expressed his optimistic outlook, saying that he hoped the league would begin “gearing back up” in May. That would put a regular season return potentially at the end of June or at some point in July. He expressed that the league may have to get creative, likely referring to ideas like playing doubleheaders, extending the season deep into fall, and playing some games at neutral parks in warm-weather areas.

Manfred isn’t the only one champing at the bit for a return to normalcy. President Trump recently said he wanted to “open” the economy back up by Easter, meaning that our social isolation plan could be done in two weeks. And, frankly, I’m sure many of us are starting to become a little stir-crazy as we attempt to flatten the curve.

It’s hard to imagine life returning to normal when Coronavirus (COVID-19) is really starting to spread in the United States. It would be ill-advised for us to go back to business as usual. This is a time when we need to put other interests ahead of business interests. Frankly, there’s a very real possibility that there is no MLB season in 2020. Or, at the very least, there may be a point when Manfred has to choose between starting a season or protecting the health of the players and coaches, journalists, fans, and all of the many people that would interact with them and potentially become vectors for the virus.

In the event the 2020 season is cancelled, which teams stand to lose the most? Let’s take a look at some contenders.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The most obvious of the bunch. The club swung a deal with the Red Sox a month and a half ago to acquire the 2018 AL MVP along with David Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs. Betts was a huge upgrade to an already potent Dodger roster, one which won 106 games during the regular season last year.

Betts, however, is a free agent after the 2020 season. MLB owners and the MLBPA reached an agreement last week stating that, if there is no season, players would still get credit for a full year of service time. If the season is canceled, the Dodgers very well may have given up three good young players and taken on a lot of salary for basically nothing. They’ll get to keep Price, who is under contract for two more years after this, but that’s no consolation.

The Dodgers also have some other important players potentially hitting free agency after the 2020 season: Justin Turner, Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, and Pedro Báez.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds had a better 2019 campaign than their 75-87 record indicated. They finished in fifth place from 2015-18 before last year’s fourth place finish. The club acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees before the season and picked up Trevor Bauer from the Indians at the trade deadline. Eugenio Suárez, Aristides Aquino, and Michael Lorenzen were among a handful of players who shone brightly as well.

As a result of a roster on the come-up, the Reds bolstered the roster even more, picking up free agents Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. The Reds signed both players to four-year deals, so they will still be around when baseball eventually resumes, even if it’s next year, but Moustakas will be 32 and Castellanos will be 29. It’s a pretty big deal to miss 25 percent of their contracts in what are, on average, the seasons likeliest to be their best.

Bauer, by the way, can become a free agent after the season. That’s a pretty big deal, too.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies were supposed to be competitive last year, but they fell a bit flat, finishing exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. GM Matt Klentak continued to bolster the roster a year after inking Bryce Harper to what was then the richest contract in baseball history (13 years, $330 million). This past offseason, he signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. They also added Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal.

This is a team meant to be an NL East contender in 2020, to finally reach the postseason which it hasn’t done since 2011. If the season is cancelled, that’s one very valuable year out of its window completely gone. That is even more the case upon realizing that catcher J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best player at his position in baseball right now, is a free agent going into 2021. The two sides have discussed a contract extension, but that was tabled as of two weeks ago.

The Phillies haven’t had stability at the catcher position since Carlos Ruiz in the early- to mid-2010’s. They do have some catchers among their top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, in Deivy Grullon, Rafael Marchan, and Rodolfo Duran, but none of them are J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a guy you want to keep around if possible, especially considering the scarcity of his caliber of talent at that position.

. . .

This is a partial list, so this is not to say that teams omitted would not suffer at all from a lost season. You can see the factors that determine whether or not a team has a lot at stake this year: splashy trades, free agent signings, stars potentially becoming free agents after the season, etc.

In general, every team would be devastated by a lost season not just due to the lost development time or the loss of an attempt to win a championship, but because of lost revenues. This is going to have a ripple effect through the baseball economy. Teams will likely become less active in the free agent market, to name one of many potential effects.