Fans Should Not Stress about New Look 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 new look Kansas City Monarchs and how fans should not be concerned about the team’s ability to compete for the championship.
Who Are These Guys Anyway?
The Kansas City Monarchs kicked off their preseason schedule last night when they took on the Savannah Bananas in a game that saw the Monarchs win, 4-2. It was standing room only as fans got a good look at the Monarchs lineup for the first time. What they saw had to be quite surprising to many.
Only two players in the lineup – Gio Brusa and Jacob Robson – played for the Monarchs last season, and they combined for just 46 total games played. It is definitely going to be a very different looking club taking to the field, especially after Monarchs fans have been accustomed to watching players like Gabriel Guerrero, Jan Hernandez, and Alexis Olmeda over the last couple of seasons.
Well, Let’s Tell You Who They Are
It definitely will be a new look in 2023, but there is plenty of talent on this Monarchs club, starting with catcher Chris Herrman. Herrman comes with an impressive set of credentials, playing eight seasons in the Major Leagues. He has a .205 batting average in 992 career games, but is excellent behind the plate and his veteran experience should be a key to keeping this Kansas City staff at the top of the league.
Justin Wylie had a big season for New Jersey (Frontier League) last season, where he hit .306 with 20 homers in 93 games. Wylie benefited greatly from a year off due to Covid-19, hitting .215 for Birmingham-Bloomfield (USBL) in 2019, but joined New Jersey in 2021, where he hit .289 with 15 homers. The 25-year-old looks like he is getting better.
Gavin Collins comes from AAA-Columbus (Cleveland Guardians), where he has been the last two seasons. Collins hit .235 in 41 games last season, but the concern for the catcher is that he has played in more than 67 games just one time in his six-year minor league career (2019).
Micker Adolfo was with AAA-Charlotte (Chicago White Sox) the last two seasons. Last year he hit .231 in 96 games, clubbing 15 homers. Adolfo will need to improve his eye at the plate, as he walked just 25 times in those 96 games while striking out 130, posting a .287 on-base percentage.
Dylan Rosa was at AAA-Toledo for parts of each of the last two seasons. He hit .205 in 35 games for AA-Erie, before moving to Toledo for the final 26 games of the season, hitting a combined .189. That came a season after he combined to hit .232 between the two levels. Rosa hit nine total home runs last season.
Olivier Basabe spent all of last season at High-A Fort Wayne, where he appeared in 77 games, hitting .243. However, the previous season he spent 71 games at AA-San Antonio, hitting .195. Basabe has five years of minor league experience, posting a .245 career batting average.
L.J. Hatch was at AAA-Albuquerque (Colorado Rockies) last season, where he hit .280 in 49 games, clubbing eight home runs. He has five years of minor league experience, appearing in 224 total games.
Dave Martinez will be battling for one of the catcher positions. He was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Miami Marlins in 2021, and did appear in one game for AAA-Jacksonville last year. However, in two minor league seasons he has managed to be on the field for just 22 total games, and will be looking to prove that he can play 80+ games a season.
Can This Team Compete?
This lineup is not what Monarchs fans have become accustomed to. They likely have some concern, especially after watching the moves that the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks have made heading into the season. However, there are some important factors to keep in mind.
First, while the statistics may not be great, one thing to consider is that five of those eight newcomers have played at AAA or in the Majors. You don’t get that far unless you have some talent, and each of those players will come to Kansas City with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove he deserves another shot at affiliate ball.
Wylie could be a total gem for this team. He can hit to all fields, and will love that short fence in right field. Martinez simply has not stayed healthy enough to prove his worth, but could be another big acquisition for Kansas City Manager Joe Calfapietra.
Then there were the two holdovers. Robson was a star for Kansas City last season, appearing in 29 games where he hit nine homers and batted .288. He scored 21 runs and drove in 34, and will likely hit in the N0. 3 or 4 spot in this batting order. Brusa had reached AAA-Sacramento in 2019. He began last season with the Lake Country DockHounds, and was an All-Star, hitting 15 home runs in 63 games. He homered just one time in 17 games for the Monarchs, but should be accustomed to his new surroundings and ready to be a big bat in the lineup.
Then there is the most important factor of all – Calfapietra. For those who are worried about a complete overhaul of this team, they need look no further than what he was able to pull off in 2019. After winning the American Association title in 2018, the Monarchs Skipper returned with just four players on his roster from the previous season, yet led the team to the top record in the South Division. For Monarchs fans, it is time to get used to a new slogan: “Joe finds a way.” Calfapietra always figures out a way to keep his team in the hunt for the championship. No one should think that this lineup is going to fall short in that quest in 2023.
By Robert Pannier