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Hok Talk: Midterm Grades are in and they are not pretty

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If this keeps up the majority of the class will be begging me for extra credit by the end of the semester.

Kansas City Royals v Houston Astros
It’s no use arguing, Ned, the grades are in.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

We have arrived at the half-pole of the season. If you read half of what I wrote last year you’ll know I love ranking and grading players. Some find this sort of thing tedious but I think it’s really fun. And now I’ve got an excuse to do it again. So buckle in because here we go!

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

Catchers

Salvador Perez - D

Salvy gets a boost here because his defensive rankings have rebounded quite a bit from last year, so far. But his offense has cratered to a new all-time low. Sal has had bad second halves for a long time but his first half would already be his worst full season. If he gets even worse in the second half he’ll quickly go from “prime trade chip” to “completely unplayable” significantly faster than anyone had believed likely.

Drew Butera - F

Drew has managed to be worth negative half a win, according to FanGraphs, despite playing in only 34 games.

Infielders

Lucas Duda - D+

Lucas had one job when he signed with KC: hit well enough to get traded for at least a mediocre prospect. The jury is still out for a bit longer but so far between the injury and lack of overall production, it doesn’t look like it’s happening. Still, he hasn’t been as bad as some of his teammates so that has to count for something.

Whit Merrifield - A

Whit has been a breath of fresh air for this team. Despite many statheads - including yours truly - insisting that he’d fall off this year he’s so far managed to set a pace to be even better despite losing his power. He’s done this by reducing his strikeouts and increasing his walks. His defensive ratings have suffered from being shuffled all over the place to make up for the deficiencies and injuries of the rest of the team but he still rates highly at the two most important positions he’s played: second base and center field.

Alcides Escobar - F

He’s somehow worse than he was the last two years and still hasn’t had a day off.

Mike Moustakas - A

Mike is off his home run pace from last year by quite a bit but still has a decent shot at 30 bombs for a second straight year. His walk rates are at least closer to his career norms which should increase his trade value for teams that worried he had forgotten how to take a walk. His defensive ratings have also rebounded, as well, which means he’s on pace to be more valuable than any year since 2015.

Hunter Dozier - C-

Hunter is playing well enough to hold a roster spot on this version of the Royals but he won’t be here for long if he can’t find some more offense in one of the bags Moose leaves behind or something.

Ryan Goins - F

Not only was Goins bad, but he actually convinced some people he was good and deserved to be playing regularly.

Ramon Torres - F

How do get to be worth -0.3 fWAR in only 9 games played?

Cheslor Cuthbert - F

This was his last real chance to prove he deserved a spot as a starter on a big league roster. He whiffed. He’ll probably get more shots to be a backup guy or a pinch hitter for an NL team but this is also the second straight year where he’s missed considerable time to the DL with a back injury at the ripe age of 25. Back issues rarely improve with age.

Outfielders

Alex Gordon - A

We here at Hok Talk like to grade on a scale. Considering how terrible Alex has been the fact that he’s on pace to earn 2.0 fWAR, aka the level described as expected of an every-day major leaguer, means he’s improved enough to earn top marks.

Jon Jay - A

Jay had the same job as Duda when he signed with the secondary objective of holding down an outfield spot until Boni could return. He did that job.

Jorge Soler - B-

#SolerPower had two jobs of his own coming into this year: prove to KC that he could hit and stay healthy. He accomplished one of those goals. The other may require an injection of bone density.

Jorge Bonifacio - D

Don’t do horse steroids, kids.

Paulo Orlando - F

At this point, Paulo only has a spot on the 40-man roster because the Royals feel bad for him. He gets worse every year and managed to be almost as “valuable” as Alcides Escobar in a quarter of the games.

Rosell Herrera - B

There aren’t a lot of expectation for the former top prospect but he’s at least been above replacement level in his 16 games for KC. He needs to walk more and he needs to hit for more power but he’s still the third-most valuable outfielder on the team after Alex and Soler despite only playing in 16 games.

Abraham Almonte - F

The experiment to replace a live-armed but injured pitcher Almonte with an older, backup outfielder Almonte has not gone well, so far.

Pitchers

Ian Kennedy - D+

He’s more valuable than last season. But that just doesn’t take much.

Danny Duffy - F

Like our friend Salvy, Duffy has pretty much played his way out of being traded. He wanted to be a buried a Royal, but was it worth the cost?

Jason Hammel - C+

What if I told you that Jason was the second most valuable pitcher on the roster? fWAR is based on FIP and FIP insists that Jason has actually been really good just exceptionally unlucky. What FIP doesn’t account for is that opposing hitters are absolutely crushing the ball against him.

Eric Skoglund - C

There aren’t a lot of expectations for the Skog-man and the fact that he was very nearly replacement level means he’s doing as well as anyone could hope. He had a couple really good starts mixed in with some cruddy ones before hitting the DL which gave some hope for the future.

Jakob Junis - D+

Junis would be doing terrific if he could stop giving up home runs.

Nate Karns - W

Did you forget Karns was still on the team? I don’t blame you. Several of us thought he might be the key to an improved rotation, this year. Shows what we know.

Brad Keller - A

The 22-year-old Rule-5 Draft Pick has been terrific. There’s reason to worry that what he has done might not be sustainable but until then, he’s lapping the class.

Trevor Oaks - I

Trevor has only made two starts, so far, this year. Neither has gone terrifically well but he’s facing a massive .417 BABIP which should come back down in time. Assuming KC ever lets him have more than a spot start every couple of months.

Kelvin Herrera - A

Kelvin did his part. He only walked two batters in his final year with KC.

Tim Hill - C

Tim’s ERA says he’s been terrible but his K/BB ratio is solid and he’s getting a good number of groundballs. His FIP says he should be quite a bit better and hopefully, we’ll see that come around, for him.

Scott Barlow - C

Scott has been perfectly adequate in his handful of reliever appearances for the team.

Kevin McCarthy - B+

Kevin continues to be a solid if unheralded reliever for the Royals.

Wily Peralta - C

Wily was so bad in spring training that he got demoted to AAA before the year started. Since he returned he’s slid into the closer’s position and pitched well enough in a handful of games.

Brian Flynn - C+

Flynn has been on the active roster all year but still might be the guy you forget they have. He’s been completely unobjectionable but hasn’t stood out in any real way, either.

Jason Adam - D

Jason Adam has a great story and some nasty stuff but he’s had a lot of trouble keeping it in the park, so far. Only two other pitchers on the roster have been worse at it.

Burch Smith - D+

Burch is another terrific story but he’s been even worse than Adam. He’s been so bad that even his FIP and ERA agree about how bad he’s been. He’s got a lot of strikeouts but he also walks a ton and gives up too many home runs. If he can solve at least one of those problems he can become a workable reliever. Maybe he’s on his way to doing that as he’s managed to put together a stretch of 10 scoreless innings in his last 5 appearances; they include only two walks, seven hits and obviously no home runs.

Justin Grimm - F

You can’t survive as a big league pitcher when you walk more than a batter an inning.

Brandon Maurer - F

He got his ERA under 10, at least.

Blaine Boyer - F

For some reason, the Royals are determined to keep him in the organization as they recently moved him to the 60-day DL rather than cut him to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. He did help prevent a tragic bus accident, at least.

Other

Ned Yost - F

I am a firm believer that the manager’s primary job is to keep a team focused and showing up every day. Generally, if you’re not hearing rumblings of discontent from the players the manager is doing his job. Lineup building is overrated at best; it’s like the title to a college essay. It has to fulfill certain functions but beyond that, any extra flare adds very little to it.

That being said, if you wrote a college essay entitled, “Fartmaster69’s Paper to Tell You How to Chug PBR Like the Bestest Champions 5evar” then you might get a failing grade based on it, alone. Ned Yost has written lineups that include the second worst hitter in baseball (Holy crap, Chris Davis!) for every single game, so far, this year. He has continued to do so even when given a prime opportunity to not do that with the promotion of Adalberto Mondesi. The team’s prized catcher that injured his leg before the season started has played in every game since returning except one. Lineup construction doesn’t matter but when you willfully disregard common sense to that degree for that long, you get to fail.

Dayton Moore - F

Even ignoring the signals we’re seeing in regard to Dayton possibly being out of touch with the state of his farm he’s already admitted that he had no idea how poorly the roster he’s constructed would perform. He’s also been unable or unwilling to convince ownership to pay for even small amounts of money - in terms of rosters - which means that the Royals got lesser value than they might have when trading three different valuable relievers since last year. He’s also created a handful of unnecessary PR messes for no discernible reason.

The Royals have very few bright spots, so far. Let’s hope Dayton can redeem himself a bit with the trades he makes between now and the deadline. And let’s hope we can drop some of the veteran deadweight and at least get to watch the mediocre prospects, again.