Jorge Bonifacio was to the Royals farm system what Perry Ellis was to the Kansas basketball program - he seemed like he was there for a lot longer than he really was. Since 2012, there have been several names at the top of the Royals prospect list. There was Wil Myers and there was Kyle Zimmer and there was Raul Mondesi. Bonifacio, however, was always a stalwart of the top-ten, peaking at five in 2013. His career trajectory has been more of a zig-zag than a straight line, but after years of questions, he is in the big leagues and he is hitting home runs.
The crazy thing is that he is still just 23.
For people who have followed Bonifacio since the beginning, his power is what is exciting. Because for several years, we heard about the power potential, but never saw it. His first appearance in the Royals top-ten prospects list on MLB.com was in 2013, and his future power grade was his highest grade.
However, through 2013, he had hit just 23 professional home runs in 324 games. In 2014, he hit just four. His home run power finally started to come around in 2014, when he hit 17 homers, but slugged at a measly .416 clip. He followed that up with 19 more in 2015, seeing his SLG% jump up to a more respectable .461.
Which leads us to now. Bonifacio has six home runs in 27 games and has an average launch angle of 17 degrees. For reference, Eric Hosmer’s average launch angle is just over 6.5.
So how much of this is what we should continue to expect?
I remember a similar hot start from his baseball doppelganger Cheslor Cuthbert, which ultimately turned into a below-average season. I think the boring but correct response would be to say, “we will see. “
The power is exciting. As is always true, power doesn’t grow on trees and it is the greatest monetization of baseball production. It makes seemingly below-average hitters (like Brandon Moss, for example) really valuable. And I still remember the Boni from 2010-2014 that showed us an above-average hit tool, albeit mostly at Rookie and A-ball. The launch angle is encouraging, but he is also striking out a ton and is a complete liability in the outfield.
As for his staying power as a major league starter, there is a reason that the Royals were near the bottom of most third party baseball thinkers’ lists of organizational talent. Bonifacio’s under-achievement played into those rankings. Him being one of the royals top guys, despite his struggles has also showed the lack of depth in the system. It just seems like the Royals have a lot of guys with “ehh, maybe he’ll be a big league contributor” guys in their system.
However, we saw Hunter Dozier and Bonifacio come back to life last season, as well as seeing Josh Staumont respond in the second half after a really tough start to his 2016. A very light Royals farm system made some progress from seemingly unlikely sources.
The question remains whether or not it will produce any significant big league dividends. Bonifacio, if anything, is at least an encouraging start. It also represents how far the Royals international system has come.
So, basically, who the heck knows if he is for real? But given how this season has gone and the abyss of darkness that seems to be approaching in 2018 and beyond, I’ll certainly take what he’s giving me.