Let the young kids play

Column

The MLB regular season is winding down, bringing with it the end of the season for the Kansas City Royals. I know this comes as a shock to most of you, but the 54-102 Royals will not be making the playoffs this year. It has been a rough season for the Royals. It started in April when star player, Salvador Perez, hurt himself by slipping while carrying luggage hours before opening day. This snowballed into a 7-21 record by the end of April and caused most of the fanbase to lose interest. For those that stuck around, it did not get much better as it became clear the Royals would be battling out the Orioles for the status of worst team in baseball.

Then on July 8, something happened. Veteran shortstop, Alcides Escobar, was given the day off and allowed 23-year-old Adalberto Mondesi to start at shortstop. This ended a streak of 421 consecutive games for Escobar and more importantly, showed favor to the younger Mondesi to play.

This trend continued as 25-year-old outfielders, Rosell Herrera and Jorge Bonifacio, started to get regular playing time. Then, the Royals traded for 24-year-old Brett Phillips and let him start in the outfield. First baseman Ryan O’Hearn got called up and took the league by storm. He’s only 25. The Royals finally did what many fans, including myself, had been screaming since May. They let the young kids play.

The second half of the season actually gave fans a reason to watch. These young guys are developing and some in a big way. O’Hearn is slugging over .600 through 39 games which is unheard of. Only three active players in all of the MLB have a slugging percentage that high. Mondesi is sixth in the American league with 28 stolen bases. He’s only played 69 games. This doesn’t even include the young pitching prospects of Brad Keller and Jacob Junis. Both have had strong seasons, and both are under the age of 25. These kids are showing they can compete at the major league level.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Royals have still been bad. The bullpen still has its issues, and the offense isn’t consistent. Since the all-star break, they are 27-34, which is an improvement from April, but not where they want to be. The energy in these games have been different though. There’s always something positive to take away from a win or loss. Whether it was a strong start from Keller or Mondesi hit a long homerun, it feels like we are watching the future. When you’re a 100-loss team, it is okay to look at the silver linings.

The Royals no longer look hopeless. There is a lot of optimism going around Kansas City about what these young kids can do. Can they follow in the footsteps of the 2015 World Champs? Only time will tell, but getting them big league experience is a huge step in the right direction. Too bad it happened in July instead of April.