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2022 Season in Review: Edward Olivares

The outfielder showed flashes in limited action.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Edward Olivares has been in the Kansas City Royals organization for over two years now, and the team has yet to figure out exactly what to do with him. Acquired in a 2020 deadline deal with San Diego, he played in 18 games down the stretch for Kansas City and was replacement level with an 86 wRC+. In 2021, Olivares became very well acquainted with I-29. After he was called up to the majors for the first time in the season on May 30, he was optioned back to Omaha eight different times. Despite torching AAA to the tune of a 155 wRC+, he couldn’t establish any kind of rhythm in 39 scattered big-league games and produced yet another 86 wRC+.

Entering the 2022 season, it was unclear exactly what role Olivares would play for the Royals; Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor, Kyle Isbel, and Hunter Dozier all figured to be ahead of Olivares on the outfield depth chart. He began the season on the bench, getting semi-regular action as a pinch-runner and pinch-hitter and drawing occasional starts in the corner outfield. He played well in limited action and was on a seven-game hit streak when he was placed on the Injured List on May 9 with a quadriceps injury.

Olivares returned to action on June 24 and picked up right where he left off, crushing two home runs that night in a win over Oakland. He was a fairly regular starter in both outfield corners through the All-Star break and continued posting solid numbers. Unfortunately, on July 22, he headed back to the IL with an injury to his other quad. This one was more severe, keeping Olivares out of action until September 17. He was a mainstay in the lineup the rest of the way, splitting time between the outfield and DH.

Between injuries, Olivares managed to play 53 games and posted his best numbers yet in the majors. He slashed .286/.333/.410, good for a 110 wRC+.

The good

Olivares hit better than ever in the majors this year and there are some positive indicators under the hood. He posted a .339 xwOBA fueled by a career-high 38.9% hard-hit rate, the same hard-hit rate as MVP finalist Nolan Arenado. He also flashed a career-high max exit velo of 111.3 mph, suggesting solidly above-average raw power. The tools are obvious with Olivares as he also placed in the 83rd percentile in sprint speed and 82nd in arm strength.

Most of Olivares’s offensive improvement came from a career-high .286 batting average. While this may be BABIP-fueled, there were notable changes to his batted ball profile. In addition to the increased hard-hit rate, Olivares hit line drives at a career-high rate and also hit the ball up the middle more often than last year.

Olivares will probably never be a high-OBP guy due to his aggressive approach at the plate, but he makes enough contact to maintain a manageable strikeout rate.

Just for fun, let’s also look at the four home runs Olivares hit in 2022. Their similarity makes for a goofy-looking spray chart.

The bad

While Olivares got limited playing time in 2021 due to the baffling way in which the organization handled him, it was injuries that held him back in 2022. It is concerning to see a guy sustain two separate lower body injuries in one season, but so far this is not part of a bigger trend. The only other IL stint I see on his transactions page is all the way back in 2016, when Olivares was still in rookie ball.

I mentioned earlier Olivares’s physical tools. Unfortunately, despite the good tools, he hasn’t really been able to translate those to on-field success. He hits too many groundballs to consistently access his raw power, his range and arm are offset by his questionable instincts in the outfield, and he has been a very ineffective base-stealer with a career 36.4% success rate.

There are not many definitive conclusions that one can draw from Olivares’s 2022 season. Given the small sample size, the only stats that really had a chance to stabilize were a few of the plate discipline and batted ball metrics. We can say with some degree of confidence that Olivares will likely never walk much but will put the ball in play more often than league average. We know that he has above-average raw power that is handicapped by his propensity for hitting the ball on the ground. What we don’t know is if the improved line drive rate that likely led to his inflated BABIP is legit or a small sample size fluke. If those gains were real, his offensive floor is likely high enough that he could at least be a competent fourth outfielder. If it turns out to be unsustainable, we’re probably looking at the replacement-level player we saw in 2020 and 2021.

In summary, it’s difficult to grade Edward Olivares. He didn’t get consistent playing time in 2021 due to odd handling and in 2022 due to injuries. After parts of three seasons in the organization, we still don’t really know what he could do with regular playing time over extended stretches. I believed after 2021 that the organization simply didn’t believe in him, and he wouldn’t ever get a fair shot. 2023 is shaping up to be another non-competitive season for the Royals. Olivares has shown enough to earn a shot next season. That said, the playing time equation gets tricky when Taylor, Isbel, Dozier, Nate Eaton, and MJ Melendez all figure to factor into the outfield picture as well. Edward Olivares will be 27 next year; 2023 needs to be the season that the Royals decide if he can be part of a competitive team in Kansas City.


What grade would you give Edward Olivares for his 2022 season?

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  • 5%
    (14 votes)
  • 61%
    (168 votes)
  • 31%
    (85 votes)
  • 2%
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
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