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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals

Around the AL Central we go

Kansas City Royals portraits John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images

The Indians are riding a five game winning streak and are coming off of a dominating sweep of the Detroit Tigers, who currently sit last in the AL Central. Now, they’ll face the Kansas City Royals, who are not much better in fourth place. The two clubs faced each other not too long ago and the Tribe came away with a sweep after that series as well. Can they do it again? One can only hope.

Team in a box

2019 Kansas City Royals

Record 36-62
Record 36-62
Runs Scored 425
Runs Allowed 497
Run Differential -72
Last 10 7-3
AVG .251
OBP .314
SLG .408
OPS .722
wRC+ 88
K/9 7.91
BB/9 3.67

The Royals, as of a few days ago, have officially committed to selling at the deadline. So it’s likely that the team that the Tribe faces this weekend will be a different team that who they face in the coming months. So it’s likely that these numbers take a hit as the weeks progress. But for now, this is what the Royals bring to the table.

Projected starters

Friday, July 19 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Mike Montgomery (v. Shane Bieber)

Mike Montgomery is the latest trade that the Royals have executed, acquiring him in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Martin Maldonado. It’s possible that the Royals are going to deploy the opener strategy later this evening with Montgomery as he has not started a game this season in the majors (he has four starts in Triple-A). This year at the major league level, across 27.0 innings in 20 appearances, Montgomery has allowed 17 earned runs while walking 13 and striking out 18 (ERA+ 80). He’s got a great sinker (93 mph) that’s good for generating groundballs, a curve (78 mph) that produces flyballs, and a change (85 mph) that has a bit of a sinking motion. He’ll also mix in a fastball (93 mph) from time to time. His last appearance came on July 2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates; in that game, Montgomery went 3.1 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 2 hits while walking 1 and striking out 1.

Saturday, July 20 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Jakob Junis (v. Adam Plutko)

Ever since Jakob Junis made his debut in 2017, his numbers have gotten progressively worse over the years and 2019 is no exception. Across 113.1 innings so far this season (in 20 starts), Junis has allowed 64 earned runs while walking 40 and striking out 108 (ERA+ 93). He’s got four pitches, primary of which is his slider (82 mph) and his fastball (92 mph). He’ll toss in a sinker (92 mph) and change (85 mph) on occasion as well. Brooks Baseball refers to his sinker as “a prototypical pitch with few remarkable qualities”. Ouch. His most recent start came on July 15 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, Junis went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 10.

Sunday, July 21 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP Glenn Sparkman (v. Zach Plesac)

Glenn Sparkman has done his best to take some positive strides this season, and by all accounts he’s done it. Hell, he has a complete game shutout to his name this year (his most recent start). Overall, across 73.1 innings (18 games, 10 starts), Sparkman has allowed 37 earned runs while walking 18 and striking out 42 (ERA+ 104). He’ll throw out a good fastball (94 mph) and mix in his 12-6 curve (79 mph), his flyball inducing change (86 mph), and his slider (83 mph), which is good for getting batters to swing and miss. As alluded to above, Sparkman’s most recent start came on July 16 against the White Sox. In that game, Sparkman went all 9 innings and allowed zero runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.

Lineup highlights

3B Hunter Dozier: Hunter Dozier has been one of the best, if not the best, hitters on the Royals this season. He hasn’t played nearly as much as Whit Merrifield, but he’s been extremely effective in the 75 games he’s appeared in. Across 316 plate appearances during that time, Dozier is slashing .291/.373/.542 (wRC+ 137). His BB% has nearly doubled from a year ago, going from 6.2 to 11.1, while his K% has dropped from 28.1 to 22.2. ZiPS projects a drop off coming for the remainder of the season, however, predicting that he’s going to start walking less and striking out more, which will ultimately lead to a depressed slash line. His BABIP on the season is .340, which is slightly higher than his career mark of .317, so it seems that only time will tell where the real Hunter Dozier lies. But if he can replicate what he’s done up to this point in the season, he’ll be a threat at the plate.

2B Whit Merrifield: It should be no surprise to see Whit Merrifield in this section once again. Sure, it’s been rumored that he may be traded, forcing him to move from Kansas City to somewhere remote like Cleveland or Crickhollow, but that may be more wishful thinking than anything. The Royals have announced players that they are aiming to move and Merrifield does not appear on that list, and for good reason. Across 447 plate appearances in 98 games this year, Merrifield is slashing .312/.365/.505 (wRC+ 126), all of which are his best marks to date in his career. And ZiPS likes what he’s doing and thinks he’ll keep being an above average bat (even if there is a slight drop off from his current production). We know what Whit Merrifield brings to the plate and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep producing at these elite levels.

RF Jorge Soler: Jorge Soler has had a great couple of years and has continued to be a solid force in the Kansas City lineup. This season, across 404 plate appearances in 98 games, Soler is slashing .248/.319/.518 (wRC+ 116). He’s striking out just south of 30% of the time, and ZiPS believes he’ll continue to do so for the rest of the season. ZiPS does think that Soler will start walking a bit more, however, which could raise his OBP slightly. Plus, his BABIP as of now is .283, which is several ticks below his career mark of .311, so it’s not unreasonable to think that he could get a bit better down the stretch.

Kansas City Royals roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    3
    (62 votes)
  • 54%
    2
    (93 votes)
  • 6%
    1
    (11 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (6 votes)
172 votes total Vote Now