2020 was a weird baseball season for many reasons. For example, the lack of a spring training likely skewed the partial-season averages for some players. Considering the projected batters in the Royals 2021 lineup, seven of nine had worse offensive numbers in 2020 than in 2019. Of course, rookie Kyle Isbel didn’t even play in the big leagues last year. The only player who didn’t do worse in 2020 is Perez, who didn’t play in 2019! Looking at the Opening Day lineups for the last three seasons, there are plausible reasons to be optimistic for the 2021 season. I broke the projected starters into three categories of offensive production compared to last season:
Likely Significant Improvement
- Carlos Santana (1B) will likely be a significant offensive improvement at first base over Opening Day starters Frank Schwindel (2019) and Ryan McBroom (2020). Even if his batting stats end up being similar to his depressed numbers during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, production from first base would still significantly improve.
- Andrew Benintendi (LF) will likely be a significant offensive improvement over Gordon’s swan song final season.
Likely Similar Production as Last Year
- Whit Merrifield (2B) is Mr. Consistent. Need we say more?
- Hunter Dozier (3B) was not in the opening day lineup last season and will probably provide similar offensive production as last year’s third baseman, Maikel Franco.
- Michael Taylor (CF) will probably provide similar defensive and offensive production as centerfielders Billy Hamilton (2019) and Bubba Starling (2020), the previous two opening day starters.
Similar Career Production at a Minimum, But Likely More to Offer
- Salvador Perez (C) can probably be counted on for his career offensive averages of .269/.300/.449, but if he duplicates last year’s offensive bonanza, it could significantly help the depth of the lineup.
- Adalberto Mondesi (SS) will likely provide .251/.284/.415 as a minimum. The flashes of offensive fireworks the last few seasons offer tantalizing additional production.
- Jorge Soler (DH) at 29 years-old will likely provide something in the range of his career .252/.335/.475 numbers. However, if he can recapture some of the 2019 magic, he could provide additional power to the middle of the lineup.
- Kyle Isbel (RF) - Since Merrifield will be back manning second base, I’ll compare Isbel with Nicky Lopez. In the big leagues, Lopez has produced a career triple slash of .228/.279/.307. That is a fairly low bar for Isbel, even as a rookie. His minor league career stats (.284/.347/.455) hint that he might provide more offensive production than Lopez did last year.
Will some of those nine players perform worse than 2020? Perez may regress from last year. Another player or two may stagnate offensively and replicate their 2020 offensive averages. However, it seems probable that several players will bounce back, making this an overall improved offensive lineup than the past two seasons. Am I dreaming to think that the Royals could approach a league average runs per game?