DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 19: Terrance Gore #0 of the Kansas City Royals scores on the single by Christian Colon #24 during the seventh inning of the game against the Detroit Tigers on September 19, 2015 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

End of season post-mortem: 2016 Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals weren’t a terrible team this year, but it’s impossible to look at their likely third-place finish in the AL Central as a positive after winning the World Series in 2015.

As in 2015, the Royals had a tremendous defense and bullpen, but their starting pitching and offense lagged behind while the Cleveland Indians took the next step forward and the Detroit Tigers maintained the level of production they have had since 2009 (with the exception of 2015). At 81-77, the Royals will finish the season above .500, but the question remains whether this is their window closing or just a bump in the road towards future excellence.

Preseason Prediction: Any of the AL Central teams could technically win the division and chances are the whole thing will end up separated by a very small margin. Expect the Royals to finish first or second still with between 84 and 88 wins. This should also put them in prime Wild Card range and one way or another, they should be considered serious play-off contenders no matter what the stat gurus say. (Joseph Coblitz, April 1)

What Went Right: The Royals brought great defense and a strong bullpen back into vogue in 2014 and that part of their team hasn’t disappeared. While the Chicago Cubs may have beaten them at their own game, KC still has the second-best defense in baseball and the best in the AL. Of their regular players, only Eric Hosmer had a really poor season defensively, while Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain were among the best in baseball at any position.

Despite losing Greg Holland, the Royals bullpen maintained as Kelvin Herrera and Brian Flynn really stepped up. Wade Davis wasn’t as perfect as last year, but was still solid and even Luke Hochever and Peter Moylan provided positive performances. Finding further depth was a problem, however, and the bullpen was not quite as good as the previous few years.

What Went Wrong: Considering how good their defense is, it’s incredible how bad the Royals pitching staff has been. You would think creating more outs and thus allowing fewer base runners would help a starting staff, yet still the 2016 Royals rotation ranks 22nd in ERA. It wasn’t all bad as Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy had good years, but the attempt to recapture the 2015 magic by resigning Chris Young was a complete failure and Yordano Ventura has still yet to regain the production level he saw during his first full season in 2014. The Royals could have had the best bullpen in baseball history, but it wasn’t going to be very effective if their rotation was unable to regularly hand them a lead.

Of course, there are two sides of handing a bullpen the lead and the other is scoring runs, something the Royals struggled with all year. Only Kendrys Morales was a significant player in the offense (30 HR, 93 RBI, 112 wRC+) with the majority of the starting lineup hurting more than they helped. While he was a great defender, Perez had a terrible season at the plate, reaching base less than 30 percent of the time and Cain took a major step back as well. The re-signed Alex Gordon was a major disappointment (a la Young) and young replacements Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando and Cheslor Cuthbert were not quite the next generation of superstars.

Most Surprising Player: This team may have been full of surprises in 2015, but this year, there were few breakout stars. We already knew Cain is one of the best players in baseball and that Herrera can pitch out of the bullpen. With many disappointing young players in tow, the truly most surprising player was actually a veteran, Ian Kennedy, who put together a solid season, particularly when compared to 2015.

The Royals signed the veteran right hander out of San Diego as a free agent this year with a five year $70M deal and, while they may end up regretting it, he was huge this year in simply giving the Royals a dependable arm on the mound every five days. He’s only made two more starts than in 2015 to this point, but has pitched about 20 more innings and held an ERA of 3.69 after a 4.28 last year. There should be an element of trepidation here, however, as the Royals defense appears to have helped him greatly with an FIP nearly a full run worse than his ERA. This makes sense given the great Royals outfielders and his pitch to contact/fly ball style, but it may not be something that is sustainable in future seasons.

Most Disappointing Player: Basing this completely on expectations, the $72M, four-year signing of Alex Gordon already looks like an albatross for KC. After an All-Star campaign in 2015 that saw him bat .271/.377/.432, he batted just .224/.317/.387 this year after missing time with an injury early in the season. This signing is the kind many teams regret when they spend with their hearts rather than their heads, signing a player over 30 to a long-term deal because he meant a lot to the franchise in the past. It certainly felt right to Royals fans to reward the player who had meant so much to the franchise over the previous five seasons, but now they will have to deal with the effects that this big contract will have on a mid-market team through at least 2019.

TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 5: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after Devon Travis #29 of the Toronto Blue Jays turned a double play to end the third inning during MLB game action on July 5, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

TORONTO, CANADA – JULY 5: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after Devon Travis #29 of the Toronto Blue Jays turned a double play to end the third inning during MLB game action on July 5, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Future: The Royals have some major escalating contracts coming up in the next few years including not only Gordon and Kennedy, but also Joakim Soria, Perez and Ventura. With the exception of Dillon Gee and back-up catcher Drew Butera, the entire roster could be coming back next year and there is little reason to expect anything, but more of the same. Undoubtedly, the Royals will have a tremendous defense and great bullpen, aided by the rookies Matt Strahm, Scott Alexander and Flynn who will likely assume larger roles in the future. They will also likely have comeback seasons offensively from some players who have performed at significantly greater levels in the past, like Cain, Gordon, Perez and Mike Moustakas.

Unfortunately for the 2015 World Champs, however, they aren’t getting any younger. None of the many offensive rookies they tested this year really stuck out and they traded much of their farm system to win it all last year. Now, they stand without a top 100 prospect (according to and with few high level prospects who haven’t already at least spent some time with the MLB club. While they already accomplished the ultimate goal last season, it appears that their window of contention with the current roster could be significantly smaller than other teams in the AL Central, particularly the Tigers, who have already been a legitimate contender for eight years and will remain one at least going into next year and the Indians, who have a younger core and will also be returning the majority of the roster in 2017.

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of and has been since its inception in 2011. He also writes for The Outside Corner and the Comeback and hosts the Tribe Time Now podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BurningRiverBB