2024 Kansas City Royals Preview


2023 was a mixed bag in KCMO. There was more hype around the Royals than there had been in previous seasons in the Chappy era, as several other teams were picking the Royals as dark horse playoff candidates. But when play began, the Royals found themselves in a frustrating position where almost every batted ball seemed to fall for a hit, and almost every late-inning lead was squandered by closer Addison Reed. Slugger Kody Clemens carried his 2022 slump into 2023. KC tried to beef things up, trading for All-Star pitcher Ryan Copeland, but the veteran seemed to fall victim to the same little things that were terrorizing the rest of the team. Copeland posted a respectable 1.17 WHIP in KC, but timing is everything, and his ERA was nearly 5, well above his career mark.

Ownership and the GM still believed in the roster though, and after a 19-27 start to the season, manager Blake Butera was fired. A couple of weeks later, David Eckstein was brought in, and overnight the Royals became one of the best teams in the American League. Despite dealing Copeland to Arizona to try to recoup some assets, Eckstein led the Royals to a 59-38 finish. The Royals under Eckstein were winning at a .608 clip, which would have been good enough for a playoff berth had it lasted all year.

Now we turn toward 2024, and the Royals are once again coming into the season with high hopes, but also with first-hand knowledge that a good-looking roster on paper means nothing if you don’t produce on the mound, in the field, and at the plate.


P Evan Smith – claimed off waivers by Chicago Cubs March 13th

P Matthew Allan – lost in Rule 5 draft to Los Angeles Angels December 18th

1B Anthony Rizzo – traded to Pittsburgh December 6th

C Carlos Romero – traded to Chicago Cubs November 15th

IF Jose Iglesias – granted free agency

C Matt Wieters – granted free agency

Rizzo and Romero were dealt in salary dumps. The Royals had wanted to keep Wieters as their backup catcher for 2024, but he wanted too much money. He wound up signing a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers, so he may want a new agent.


P Jose Castro – signed as a free agent March 14th

P Dan Jeffries – claimed off waivers from San Diego March 3rd

P Jason Ramos – signed as free agent February 8th

OF Curt Franklin – signed as a free agent January 31st

OF Paul Robbins – claimed off waivers from New York Yankees January 26th

IF Dennis Moore – signed as a free agent January 18th

IF Alfonso Javier – claimed off waivers from Minnesota December 12th

1B Donald Taylor – acquired in trade with Pittsburgh December 6th

P Orlando Dias – acquired in trade with Chicago Cubs November 15th

Also in need of a new agent is Curt Franklin, who turned down a 3-year, $18 million contract early in free agency and wound up signing a minor league contract with a $1 million major league option with Kansas City. There were no big free agent signings for the Royals, who chose to focus instead on extensions for players entering their final season under contract in 2024. Gus Lopez and Daz Cameron were each extended 4 years, making them our 2nd and 3rd highest paid players behind Mark Baker.


22-year-old Francisco Alvarez will be the starting catcher for the Royals. He is ranked as high as #2 among prospects depending on where you look and has the potential to hit 30-40 homers. Alvarez hit .267 with 2 HR and 8 RBI in his cup of coffee last September, registering 52 plate appearances in 15 games. The young star hit .303-19-72 in 92 games with AAA Omaha as well.

Fellow rookie Javier Lopez has beaten Hagen Danner out for the backup catching role. Lopez hit .312-7-53 in 74 games with AAA Omaha last season. Lopez, 23, is a lefty and Alvarez is a righty, so expect to see some sort of platoon behind the plate this season. Danner had a slight defensive edge on the other two catching options, but he struggled at the plate, hitting just .159 in 52 plate appearances for the Royals last season. He will likely be the first catcher called up from Omaha in the event of an injury.


After a lot of deliberation and experimentation, former outfielder Dan Bryant has been named starting first baseman. KC has been trying to get the young contact hitter into the lineup more often, but with an established outfield, they’ve had trouble finding a spot for him. Bryant hit .320 for the A’s in 53 games in 2021 and he hit .400 in 22 games for KC last year. He’s a career .305 hitter at the big league level, and he hit .334 in 83 games with AAA Omaha last year. The 24-year-old is said to be ecstatic about having an everyday spot in the lineup entering the 2024 season.

Gus Lopez – no surprise – will start at 2B. Though he hit a career-low .300 last season, the team extended him and is ready for him to get his regular 190-210 hits and maybe tack on 10 or so homers.

Switch-hitter Tyler Donaldson is expected to start at SS on opening day, but he’s lost a lot of playing time this spring to Alfonso Javier. Donaldson hit .237 as a rookie and .249 last season, so the club is hoping he can develop into a .255-.265 hitter this season. He’s got excellent skills defensively, and he’s never really going to be a great hitter, but he should be able to get a lot of walks and have a solid OBP. The Royals just haven’t seen that from him yet.

Moving back to 3B after playing 1B last year is Kody Clemens. He hit 30 HR as a rookie, fell to 16 as a 2nd year player, and hit 17 last year. Entering his 4th season after a nice Spring at the plate, KC brass hopes to see Clemens double his HR production.

Last year’s starting 3B, Nander De Sedas, will be regulated to the bench. The 24-year-old switch-hitter hit .268-5-78 last year, so he will be a solid bat to have available when needed. He will probably sub in for Clemens late in the field a bunch too.

Also riding the pine will be 24-year-old Alfonso Javier. Javier hit .196 with 5 doubles in 48 plate appearances with the Twins last season. Although he has decent gap power and is not the easiest guy to strike out, he’s not really known for his hitting. He plays every position except catcher and plays them well. Javier’s versatility will go a long way for the Royals in 2024.


Four-time All-Star Mark Baker was impressive last season, hitting .286-32-108 in his first year of a monster 6-year deal. He has looked awful at the plate this spring, but the veteran has earned a long leash and is expected to start in left field opening day and beyond.

Daz Cameron has also struggled mightily this spring, but he’s expected to start in CF. KC manager David Eckstein has given a lot of center field playing time to Curt Franklin because the organization wanted to see what he could do, so Cameron might just need a few AB’s to get going. Even if he hits poorly, Cameron’s range is his greatest asset. He can motor around the cavernous Kauffman outfield like Kelly Leak on a motorcycle, so even if he hits .220, he has value.

Curt Franklin has played well enough this spring that the only true mystery left is whether Franklin or Blanchard will start in RF. I’d give the nod to the incumbent Blanchard for the moment, but either player could hold down the spot. Blanchard’s price tag has become a little high, so many don’t expect to see him in KC beyond 2024. The grouchy Canadian is an on-base machine and as a lefty hitter he’s a great fit for Kauffman Stadium. He is one of the fastest players in the league and makes good decisions on the basepaths. Franklin is a switch-hitter and while he does not have Blanchard’s speed, he does run the bases well and is excellent at finding the right time to swipe a bag. He’s got more power, both over the fence and to the gaps, and he is a slight defensive upgrade. Franklin had a rough year playing for the Dodgers in 2023 but is only a year removed from a 5.8 WAR season in Los Angeles.

Whomever doesn’t start in right field will be the reserve outfielder, while spare infielder Alfonso Javier is also available to fill in in the outfield.

Griffin Conine tore up Spring Training, hitting 7 HR in his first 65 plate appearances (it’s not over yet). He is a bit of a defensive liability but is available to play the outfield and 1B/3B when necessary. He will be KC’s full-time DH when the season starts. He was able to fend off slugger Paul Robbins for that job. Robbins, a waiver claim from the Yankees, will start the season in AAA Omaha.


LHP Jason Neal was named captain by his peers and will be the Royals opening day starter, after reeling off a nice line in Spring Training. In his first 6 starts, Neal posted a 0.97 WHIP and a 1.19 ERA in 22.2 innings. Neal was one of KC’s best performing starters back in 2020, but had fallen off so much that he began 2023 in Omaha. The players love him, so it’s great to see him back in form and at the top of the rotation.

If not for a dismal spring, Kris Bubic might be the #1 guy. Instead, the 26-year-old will be the #2 starter. He’s coming off a 16-9, 3.11 season in 2023 but has had a poor spring, allowing 22 ER in 17.1 innings. That’s an ERA of 11.42 for those scoring at home.

Rookie Kenny Funkhouser will get the #3 spot. The highly touted prospect has a 1.04 ERA in 17.1 spring innings, fanning 18 and walking 5. He was the 6th overall pick in 2020 and is the #9 prospect in MLB-Pro. He got his feet wet with 5 starts last fall but was beyond bad, posting a WHIP of 2.30 and an ERA of 12.64 along with an 0-2 record.

Kevin Knaust had a nice rookie season last year, going 13-9 with a 4.23 ERA. Pitching coach John O’Quinn is a little disturbed by Knaust’s spring numbers, but hopefully he’s just knocking the rust off. The 25-year-old is 0-4 with a 12.89 ERA in 5 spring starts. Yikes.

Holding down the #5 spot is a recent addition, former Padres starter Dan Jeffries. Jeffries led the NL in losses last year with 16 and posted a 5.06 ERA, but his 1.40 WHIP was better than some of KC’s starters who had much better stat lines, so we’re hoping to see a much-improved season from him. He was 10-9 with a 4.07 ERA for San Diego in 2022, so the Royals know what he’s capable of. The 25-year-old looks like a good fit in KC.


The Royals have only suffered 2 injuries that were worse than day-to-day this spring. One was to Garrett Price, a lock for the bullpen who will instead miss the entire season. The other was a 2-week injury to incumbent closer Addison Reed. Thankfully, Reed will be back in time to open the season as closer. A third reliever, Kazuya Takano will also miss the entire season. He’s still recovering from an injury suffered last May.

As of the time of this writing, it appears as if presumed setup man Matt Diemer will begin the season in AAA. He’s been the worst of the worst this spring, with a 12.27 ERA and a team worst -0.7 WAR. KC will let him fix his demons in Omaha and promote him when appropriate.

That leaves former Diamondbacks pitcher Ethan Hankins and strikeout artist Henry Lockwood as the likely duo in the setup man role.  Both have sub-1.00 ERAs this spring.

Chris Rivers will be in middle relief, along with veteran Joe Kelly. Both pitchers are potential starters should the need arise. Al Weber, who last saw MLB action in Oakland in 2021 will be the third option. He was claimed off waivers from Minnesota during the offseason.

The final two members of the opening day bullpen are home-grown prospects. Greg Shapiro, 25, was the team’s 7th round pick in 2020, #196 overall. Jose McBride was taken 363rd, in the 12th round in 2019. Both players – like Rivers and Kelly – are potential starters should a need arise. Both are low-cost options who should pitch well enough at the MLB level to keep us in games.


KC is staring at a $40 million increase in payroll in 2025, so there will be some changes after the 2024 season, if not before. Highly prized prospect Bradley Swagger is opening 2024 at AAA Omaha, and his arrival means the end for Clemens in KC unless Kody can handle 3B well. Some of the payroll increase can be covered by increased revenue, and some playoff revenue would be a welcome addition. Detroit has been one of the best teams in the American League this spring, and Minnesota will likely be making a run at another division crown. KC is right there in terms of talent, with the combination of Baker-Clemens-Alvarez-Conine giving the Royals more pure power than they’ve had in any other season during the Chappy regime. But as we learned last year, looking good on paper means nothing if your players can’t write the story in real life. And we’ll start to see how the story unfolds March 28th against Minnesota.

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