American Association 2021 Mid-Season Report: Kansas City Monarchs
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the first half of the season for the Kansas City Monarchs, looking at top players, areas to improve, and where this team is likely to finish.
Kansas City Monarchs Reach Midway Point
Record: 31-18 (1, 1) (Place in Division in parenthesis, followed by record overall)
(Overall ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Average: .277 (5)
Homeruns: 50 (T-8)
Runs: 317 (3)
Stolen Bases: 49 (T-8)
On-Base Percentage: .360 (6)
Slugging Percentage: .459 (3)
ERA: 4.80 (8)
Strikeouts: 432 (7)
Opponent Batting Average: .251 (T-4)
Saves: 10 (9)
Fielding Percentage: .979 (6)
Errors: 34 (T-2)
First Half Recap
To paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals head football coach Denny Green, “The Monarchs are who we thought they would be.” After a slow start to the season, Kansas City has caught fire, and there may be no turning back. The Monarchs were 4-8 to start the year, but have gone 27-10 since. The Monarchs are currently on a four-game winning streak and have won eight of their last nine games.
In true form, manager Joe Calfapietra has not only been able to put together an outstanding club, but he has been able to replace key pieces that have been lost. While the pitching staff has been solid, it has been this lineup that is the story. Jan Hernandez has turned himself into an MVP candidate, hitting .306 and leading the lead with 56 runs driven in. Add the likes of Gabriel Guerrero, Ryan Grotjohn, and Kevin Santa and it is easy to see why this lineup is rolling over opponents. That does not even include Colin Willis, who has plenty of protection this season and is hitting well (.314, 8, 23).
This would be a spectacular starting staff, but the Monarchs have seen Cody Mincey, Eric Stout, Gregori Vasquez, and Dylan Baker transferred to affiliate clubs. That would be a pretty outstanding starting four, but Calfapietra has been able to piece together a good enough staff to turn games over to this outstanding bullpen.
One player who has really stepped up is former closer Jameson McGrane, who has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the rotation. McGrane has made six starts for the team, going 25 innings, striking out 38. The team is still working on stretching out his arm, but he could very well become the ace of the staff.
There are a lot who have been impressive for this team, but Hernandez has been the key to this offense. He was hitting .272 on June 26, but has raised his average 34 points over the last 15 games and has a ridiculous 27 RBI in that span. Should Adam Brett Walker II falter in Milwaukee at all, do not be surprised to see Hernandez hoisting the PURE Performance MVP award.
Nick Travieso has shown flashes of brilliance this year, but a 5.95 ERA is far from what it should be at. The right-hander had back-to-back outstanding performances on June 17 and June 22, but has given up 12 earned runs in his last 16.1 innings pitched as a starter. The team even used him in a bullpen appearance in his last outing, where he gave up three hits in 1.1 innings.
What They Need
Kansas City is another one of those teams whose primary need is to be left alone. This is a very well-built team, but the club needs one more quality starter. It is likely that none of the transfers are returning to their clubs, so the Monarchs need to find one more guy give them five or six quality innings on a regular basis.
What to Expect
This is the top team in the South, and they will have the opportunity to establish how good they are over the next two weeks, taking on Chicago, Fargo, Cleburne, and then Sioux City. It is likely that the race for first place will be over by the middle of August.
By Robert Pannier