Grading the Royals: The Outfield

Jamie Squire

Opening the grade book for the outfielders

Today we move to the outfield. As usual, the two best hitters on the team reside in this group and it's not a coincidence they are players signed by Allard Baird. While they have failed to match their best performances of the last couple of years, they are still the stalwarts of the Royals lineup. The fact they have underperformed helps explain some of the offensive woes.
Defensively, this is a strong group since the removal of the Right Fielder Who Shall Not Currently Be Named. And yes, he's included. For old times' sake.

Alex Gordon
.283/.355/.417
.336 wOBA
2.2 fWAR

Funny how this works. If the season ended today, Gordon's rate stats would all be at three year lows. Yet, he earned his first All-Star selection.

Still, Gordon is the engine that is the Royals offensive attack. Last year, I wrote about Gordon and asked where his home run power went. This year, he leads the team with nine home runs (an embarrassing team stat if there ever was one) but his doubles production is way down. Gordon is good. He's just not as good as he was in '11 and '12. There's still time to recover and put together a stronger second half.

Defensively, what can we say? Stud.

Grade: B+

Lorenzo Cain
.259/.320/.374
.306 wOBA
2.0 fWAR

Offensively, I think this is the guy we're going to get with average to close to average slash stats. He's good enough that he won't hurt you with the bat, but he's not good enough that you can hit him in the top half of your lineup. He strikes me as the kind of guy you can hide between two strong corner outfielders. Except the Royals don't have two of those.

Cain does form part of the Royals outstanding defensive backbone. He has saved 11 runs according to The Fielding Bible, the tops in the AL. The man who took what would have been his spot in Milwaukee, Carlos Gomez, is having an all-world defensive season with 24 runs saved.

Grade: B

David Lough
.294/.310/.447
.327 wOBA
1.3 fWAR

Among AL rookies with at least 170 plate appearances, Lough ranks second with a .153 ISO, second with a .447 slugging percentage and third with a .327 wOBA. His 1.3 fWAR is third, behind Jose Iglesias and Leonys Martin. He's also playing some solid defense in the outfield. In other words, if Lough keeps this up, he can expect some Rookie of the Year love at the end of the year. Not a win. Love.

Here's the question: Can he keep this up? Lough has as many home runs (three) as walks. Would we expect otherwise from the guy who basically replaced Francoeur in the lineup?

Grade: B

Billy Butler
.271/.371/.402
.339 wOBA
0.6 fWAR

The on base percentage is around his career average, but it's the power that has been AWOL. Butler has been so consistent on his batted ball percentages throughout his career. The previous four seasons, his ground ball rate has lived between 45 and 47 percent. This year, he's at 51 percent. Uhhhh... That's not good for a hitter like Butler.

He's frustrated. The Eye Test tells us that. Butler has been pitched around with regularity and he's getting ticked off something fierce. He's seen a strike only 40 percent of the time this year, down from his normal 43 percent. Meanwhile, 33 percent of all strikes he sees are called, which is a career high and about three percentage points above his career average.

He leads the team in OBP and has the best wOBA of any regular, but is getting outslugged by Lough and Dyson.

He's off balance and needs to adjust.

Grade: C+

Jarrod Dyson
.247/.310/.455
.326 wOBA
0.8 fWAR

Dyson takes some strange routes to the ball in the outfield, but his speed usually makes up for any mistakes he makes when the ball comes off the bat. His arm feels a bit underrated to me. He gave us the signature "Royal" play of the year when he injured himself climbing for a home run ball he had zero chance of getting.

We know all about the speed, but for that speed to be of real value in the everyday lineup, he has to learn how to walk more frequently than his current eight percent. Although it is nice to have a classic Dayton Moore Speed Guy who can do more than hit singles.

Grade: B-

Jeff Francoeur
.209/.249/.321
.247 wOBA
-0.9 fWAR

He was on this team exactly 800 plate appearances too long.

Grade: F

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