2B Whit Merrifield - Key Stats: 146 wRC+, .923 OPS, .359 BABIP
Two-Hit Whit has been the best offensive player on this team in the last month. It’s true that his BABIP has skyrocketed but it isn’t at an unreasonable level for a player who consistently hits the ball as hard as Whit does and has the speed he features; you maybe shouldn’t expect it to always be that high but it shouldn’t be too much lower.
He’s got 3 home runs and four stolen bases over 23 games in the last month, neither of which is a massive number but they would be more than enough for a 20-20 pace over a full season. The last time someone did that for the Royals was Jeff Francoeur in 2011. The last time the Royals had a second baseman who could get 20 home runs or stolen bases was Desi Relaford in 2003 (he stole the bases) which is also the last time before Frenchy that the Royals had a 20-20 player when Carlos Beltran smacked 26 home runs and stole 41 bases.
3B Mike Moustakas - Key Stats: 7 HR, 6.3 BB%, .299 ISO
Mike has actually kept Balboni watch alive into June now by hitting another 7 dingers over the last month. His batting average is right at .299 despite a BABIP of .268. His K% has come down drastically since the last time he was here - only 10.5% from the Royals’ best power threat - while his walk rate and ISO have both practically doubled.
OF Jorge Bonifacio - Key Stats: 30.5 K%, .327 BABIP, 6 HR
Coming out of nowhere, “Hip Hip Jorge” has managed to really show off his natural power in major league game settings. His six home runs in the last month have led to his inclusion into many Balboni-watch pieces as well as stealing the starting job and causing the demotion of his fellow Jorge. His strike out rate is on the extremely high side and his walk rate on the low side, but if he can maintain the BABIP and ISO neither of those will be obstructions to him. Of course, that’s easier said than done and it seems he has sneaked into his first slump already - he’s quietly struck out in more than half of his at-bats in the last week.
1B Eric Hosmer - Key Stats: 9 2B, .382 BABIP, 57% GB%
Eric continues to be a positive contributor based almost entirely on BABIP singles. He’s the fourth most valuable offensive player on this team in the last month and the reason is that he’s hit a ton of singles with a fair few doubles based on a BABIP that seems in no way sustainable for a hitter with his profile - too many groundballs, even now. It’s amazing to watch broadcasters try to explain him. Eric Karros on Saturday suggested that Hosmer’s power profile looks so poor because he hits the ball to all fields. So Hosmer promptly hit a home run to nearly straight away left field and so high that the center fielder had time to run over and stand underneath it as it cleared the fence. Hitting the other way is not what drops Hosmer’s power numbers.
CF Lorenzo Cain - Key Stats: .250 BABIP, .276 OBP, 2 SB
LoCain has quietly stopped getting on base and he’s stopped stealing when he gets there. It’s slipped the notice of the broadcasters because he’s started to hit for a bit more power than earlier this year. A quick glance at his batted-ball profile shows that he’s hitting it much harder, now but has converted half of his line drives into flyballs. The true idea behind the “Flyball Revolution” is to get the ball off the ground, he hasn’t actually gotten any more balls off the ground as his groundball rate has stayed stable. Combine the increase in flyballs with Cain’s over-rated power - he says two days after Cain’s two home run-day - and you get a low BABIP for a speedy player that’s dragging down his offensive value.
C Salvador Perez - Key Stats: 2.2 BB%, .500 SLG
Salvy has finally started hitting home runs for the first time since his 3 bomb day during a double-header in Minnesota. Rex theorized that would help him relax and get him going but it was one of two hits he had that day and now he has nine hits in his last five games so hopefully he’s heating back up.
OF Alex Gordon - 12.0 BB%, 13.3 K%, 84 wRC+
Bad news first or good news first? Bad news it is. Alex Gordon is still hitting poorly. The good news is that it’s not nearly as poorly as he was! He’s hitting the ball approximately as hard as he was last time, but he’s striking out even less while increasing his walk rate just a smidge which has helped him carry a perfectly respectable .347 OBP in the last month - tied for third on the team with Moustakas - while hitting .222 - which is nothing great but at least is over the arbitrary point of the Mendoza line. He’s also doubled his ISO by belting a pair of doubles and his first home run of the season.
OF Jorge Soler - Key Stats: 16.7 BB%, 36.1 K%
This may surprise you, but Jorge Soler wasn’t that bad. Yes, he was striking out almost 40% of the time, but he was even closer to walking 20% of the time. If it weren’t for Brandon Moss’ contract or Bonifacio’s rookie surge he’d still be on the team and we might actually have some people calling for him to be the lead-off hitter. Those people would probably be a small handful at Royals Review while everyone else demanded the Royals seek a refund on their trade, but still. He’s already hit five home runs and walked four times in seven games since being demoted, too.
SS Alcides Escobar - Key Stats: 2 wRC+
There are other stats to tell you how bad Escobar has been, but that’s really all you need to know. Before yesterday’s offensive explosion that number was negative. It’s a number that is supposed to represent a percentage of the average offensive performance. Is that even mathematically possible? He is literally* hitting worse than any other hitter who qualified for the batting title - which Esky seems destined to do, as oxymoronic as that sounds - since 1918. The last time anyone even got as many at-bats as Escobar already has and hit that poorly was Jose Molina in 2014 as a backup catcher for the Rays. Before that was 1975.
I have to think that most other teams baseball he would have cut him by now - or never picked up the team option for this season - and given shots to Christian Colon, Ramon Torres, or even Raul Mondesi. Escobar has already been worth -1.0 fWAR so far this season. The Royals insist they are trying to win, but their insistence on starting this black hole in their lineup - and at leadoff for a month (!!!) - belies their words.
Since Esky is unlikely to come up with a hitting streak at any point this year, it might be fun to keep an eye on his strike-out streak. Escobar has successfully struck out in seven straight games and ten of his last twelve!
OF Brandon Moss - Key Stats: .240 ISO, 31.5 K%, 92 wRC+
Moss, at this point, has turned into Matt Stairs. He gives you one things - the ability to hit a home run at any given moment. If he’s not hitting a home run then he probably isn’t helping. I made fun of Esky’s strike out streak above, but Moss actually had a seven-gamer going before striking out in Saturday’s pinch hit appearance. His wRC+ over the last month is less than ideal for a DH but not that bad when compared to the rest of the lineup but he also hasn’t hit a home run in two weeks. He’s striking out nearly a third of the time and his walk rate has dropped precipitously. Between him, Travis Wood, and until recently Jason Hammel it’s enough to make you long for the days when Dayton did things like give 11 million dollars to Alex Rios - at least these guys wouldn’t be here next year in that scenario.
The Unable to Give Legitimate analYsis
C Drew Butera - Key Stats: ???
Drew came back down to earth from whatever planet has a sun that was giving him super powers. He’s been a thoroughly unspectacular but also not horrible backup catcher for a month. Absolutely nothing really stands out.
UT Ramon Torres - Key Stats: 2 H, 0 K%
Torres’ hot start in AAA this year earned him a promotion and he started at second base his first night in the majors. He got a pair of hits including an RBI double and has yet to strike out. In a single start he is worth 0.1 fWAR - aka worth a bajillion times more to this team than Alcides Escobar. ZiPs projects him to be worth -0.3 fWAR for the rest of the season in 63 games. That would also be better than Escobar.
3B Cheslor Cuthbert - Key Stats: .333 AVG, 0 BB%, 26.7 K%
Cheslor is having a weird month. He’s technically got a 95 wRC+ - that’s not terrible. But he hasn’t walked the entire time. He has only a pair of doubles for power, and he has a .455 BABIP. The results have been good, but the approach is utter garbage and it seems unlikely to last. One of those things will have to give.
OF Billy Burns - Key Stats: 2 PA
Billy Burns came up for a couple of days to pinch run and care for praying manti. Unfortunately, no rally insects nor any other animals from the rally zoo appeared so Billy went back to Omaha.
2B Raul Mondesi - Key Stats: 66.7 K%
Raul Mondesi was inexplicably recalled for a single game during the double header in Minnesota. He struck out twice and grounded into a double play. He was promptly demoted again.
In yesterday’s game thread blog I pontificated a bit about how confusing this Royals’ team was. The combination of being tantalizingly close to the division leader while terrifyingly near the worst record in the American League - shout out to tomorrow night’s opponent for making “Worst Record in Baseball” a much more distant fear - makes for a very confusing experience in following this team.
But it isn’t just their record that makes them so confusing. You’ll note that Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez are both in the “Bad” section up there. When I started working on this before Friday night’s game there was no doubt they belonged there. But a hot weekend including a pair of home runs from both of them makes it a bit more questionable. On the other side, Jorge Bonifacio was very clearly in the good category but now I have been wondering if I might ought to move him down a bit based on the strike outs from the last week if nothing else.
One thing that’s valued a great deal in baseball is consistency. The Royals do not have any. At least not outside Moustakas’ power stroke and Whit’s hits. If they succeed against their fellow bottom feeders over the next week and want to convert that into a true playoff run, they’ll need to find some.