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Grading the Royals position players

Can you guess how many guys made the cut?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Kansas City Royals
The Royals had a bad offense and three of their best seem unlikely to return, next season.
Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

It seems that some teams are still playing baseball but honestly that doesn’t quite track since the Royals weren’t good enough this year to justify holding the playoffs. Since all the important baseball has been played this year, already, and the free agents haven’t quite been set free yet, it’s a good time to evaluate individual performance from this season.

Today we will hand out the grades to the Royals position players and the staff members responsible for assembling and coaching them. Most years you look for a couple of your position players to have career years and for everyone else to be at least average around them in order to field a quality offense. The Royals got the first part right, but the second part didn’t turn out so well. All of the stats are from the terrific Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. When you grade a student on performance as opposed to knowledge you always want to grade their growth as much as their objective performance, To that end it was helpful to discover that FanGraphs still has their pre-2017 projections up including Steamer, FANS, and ZiPS. Unless otherwise noted all references to projections are for ZiPS.


Drew Butera - C-

Believe it or not, despite his defensive reputation, Drew was predicted to be an even more below average fielder before the season started. He also beat out what the prediction systems saw as a likely outcome for his offense, which means his 0.2 fWAR is an upgrade over the likeliest outcome for him. Drew only avoids the failing grade because ZiPS saw what most of the fans didn’t - he’s terrible.

Cam Gallagher - B

Cam’s ZiPS projections are actually written up as if he were to have played 97 games. Obviously that was never in the cards outside catastrophic injuries to the two guys with guaranteed contracts. In retrospect it sure seemed like he should have had the job over Drew, he wasn’t much worse - if at all - and he would have been much cheaper. In a very small sample size he made a very positive impression on Royals fans, walked 3 times compared to only 4 strikeouts, and vastly out-performed both his projected OPS and Drew’s actual OPS. For some reason his fielding this season was rated as even worse than Butera’s, but fielding ratings are notoriously volatile in small samples.

Salvador Perez - B+

For the seventh consecutive season - out of seven total seasons - Sal hit more home runs than the previous year. he did this while actually reducing the number of strikeouts he endured last year which were themselves a huge spike over the year before. For the first time since 2013 his overall offensive numbers could be taken as something other than a black hole. Unfortunately his defense slipped quite a bit, but that may have been due to his injuries limiting his abilities or it may have been because his pitchers were far worse at holding runners than before. If he can even maintain this offensive production while seeing his defense rebound he could become a 3-4 win catcher again, next year.


Cheslor Cuthbert - D

The King of Corn Island was both bad and hurt, this year. Some had theorized that his errant throws to first toward the end of last year were due to an injury he was hiding but they continued into this season. If he is going to be the starter in 2018 he’s going to have to be better.

Alcides Escobar - D-

Esky was terrible this year. He had an insane hot streak in September that managed to boost him all the way up to... third worst qualified hitter in all of baseball by OPS. The thing is, while his offense was bad it wasn’t much worse than most people - and the projections - saw him as before the year started. His defense and baserunning actually rebounded a bit despite the atrocious stolen base numbers. Should be a starting shortstop for any team, next year? No. Did the Royals get about what they should have expected? Yep.

Eric Hosmer - A+

Eric has a career year for his contract year, just like so many expected. The projection systems completely whiffed on him, but the fans - as described both anecdotally by people before the season and in the FANS projections - saw it coming a mile away. His fielding rebounded to be merely very bad instead of borderline unplayable and he had easily the best and most consistent offensive season of his career, matching and setting a variety of career highs in the process. No one could have asked for more.

Whit Merrifield - A+

Whit only had 2 things go wrong for him, this season. He didn’t make the team out of spring training - not his fault - and he saw his fielding marks drop significantly to slightly below average among second-basemen. It’s only his second season but he set career marks in just about every category, gave the Royals their first second baseman with 19 home runs since Frank White hit 22 back in 1986. He even led the league in stolen bases as a Royal for the first time since Johnny Damon. He did everything that was asked of him and more. The next question is: Can he do it again in 2018?

Raul Mondesi - F

Mondesi was bad, bad, bad. He should never have made the opening day roster. He was overmatched, overwhelmed, and overplayed. Hopefully his successful tour through Omaha will have prepared him to take over the job next season, though.

Brandon Moss - C-

Brandon was, in a lot of ways, exactly what he was predicted to be by ZiPS. The FANS were, as ever, much more bullish on him. He started off so very ice cold that he has left a terrible taste in everyone’s mouth. However, if you took just his second half he actually played almost acceptably. He was a barely above average hitter from July 1 through the end of the season. Of course, as a DH he needs to be well above average in order to justify his place in the lineup but considering the other black holes that were present sometimes you have to take what you can get.

Mike Moustakas - A-

Moose’s running and fielding abilities took steep nose dives thanks to his various knee and leg ailments both from before and during the season. His OPS was nearly 100 points higher than was predicted and of course he broke the 31 year-old home run record (just as I predicted) so he gets high marks for those. But could you imagine what a special player he would be if he could still field his position and run even a little bit?

Ramon Torres - C-

ZiPS had the young infielder being worth approximately -0.7 fWAR if he played 124 games for the Royals. In reality he managed to be worth exactly 0.0 fWAR in 33 games. He was a better fielder and a worse runner than expected. He honestly didn’t get much enough playing time to really have a clue what he’s about, but he was pretty atrocious at the plate after a decent start.


Jorge Bonifacio - B+

Jorge, like Moustakas, beat his projected OPS by better than 100 points. Moose did it with power but Boni actually did it with plate discipline and power. He ended up only .1% behind third place on the team in walks despite having a lot less protection in the lineup than all but one of the people ahead or tied with him. His .752 OPS made him the most valuable member of the Royals who wasn’t an obvious pick going into the season.

Lorenzo Cain - A

What can I say about the amazing Lorenzo Cain that hasn’t already been said? He hit, he walked, he ran, he hit for a decent amount of power, and he fielded his position extremely well. His defense did fall off from “god-like” so that’s why he loses the plus.

Melky Cabrera - F

We aren’t here to grade Cabrera’s entire season, just his time with the Royals. Let’s just put it this way. Brandon Moss’ season OPS is higher than Melky’s in a Royals uniform. It was great to see him again but the mid-season offense boost ended up being a replacement of the second best offensive producer in the outfield with a new second worst who managed to be significantly worse defensively, as well.

Alex Gordon - F

Alex was the worst hitter in baseball. His amazing defense not-withstanding, you can’t do better than fail when you’re the absolute worst.

Paulo Orlando - F

On a team that wasn’t hitting in April Orlando was demoted to AAA because he was among the worst. He was also one of the few remaining with options. I’ve seen arguments that it was only that latter category that mattered, but he was more or less terrible in AAA and when he returned to the big leagues, too.

Jorge Soler - F

This was all the Royals could get back for Wade Davis in a trade. Plenty of people, including myself, expected him to be bad. None of us expected him to be this bad. Everyone knew he couldn’t field or run when he was acquired, but they were hoping he might hit a little. At least he was decent in AAA but when you’re worth -1 fWAR in only 35 games you have been the worst and you get a failing grade.


Dayton Moore - F

Pretty much every move Dayton made this year for the offense backfired in incredibly predictable ways. Brandon Moss was mostly a bust, Melky Cabrera sucked life from the Royals’ lineup instead of infusing it. Jorge Soler was the worst. The Jorge Bonifacio promotion worked out pretty well but was undercut by the Cabrera trade. When a team might have been better off without your additions you know you screwed up.

Dale Sveum - D

When you’re the hitting coach and your offense is below average in basically every offensive category you get a failing grade. Don’t forget the near historic futility the offense endured in April and then again at the end of August. He’s saved from an F only because Escobar and Gordon both found their way back over the .200 mark in batting average before the end of the season. If we’re going to blame the failures on the hitting coach then we should reward him for the mid-season adjustments that allow players to improve.

Ned Yost - D

Yost’s lineups were frequently poorly planned and executed. Moving Moose lower in the lineup to be a better RBI threat made sense, but giving him the protection of Alcides Escobar entirely too often neutered that threat. Speaking of Esky he was allowed to lead off again, too, which is a no-no.

If you’re sitting at home still baffled by how the Royals couldn’t manage to scrape into the second wild card spot despite the unwillingness of literally any other team to take hold of it you can start here with the offense. There are just entirely too many Fs and Ds in there and too many of them started every day to ever really give the Royals a real chance. Considering how bad the offense was and that three of their best hitters - a full third of the lineup - are unlikely to return it wouldn’t surprise me if they go ahead and break that league record for consecutive scoreless innings, next year.


What grade would you give the Royals’ offense, this year?

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