As the lockout continues to loom over our players of the modern-day, I figured it was time to bring the replacements in. Below I created what I believe to be a likely Opening Day roster for the Royals (if that ever happens) and by looking through Baseball-Reference at each 2021 Royals player’s most similar player from the past (based on similarity score), I was able to create a lineup of replacement players. Then, I compared each Royals player’s 2021 season against the replacement's best full season of their respective careers and see which team comes out on top.
To read about how the similarity score is calculated check it out here
A possible Opening Day roster (with 2021 stats shown) looks something like this:
1 – 2B – Nicky Lopez – 151 G; .300/.365/.378; .744 OPS; 21 2B; 6 3B; 2 HR; 22 SB
2 - RF – Whit Merrifield – 162 G; .277/.317/.395; .711 OPS; 42 2B; 3 3B; 10 HR; 40 SB
3 – LF – Andrew Benintendi – 134 G; .276/.324/.442; .766 OPS; 27 2B; 17 HR; 8 SB
4 – C – Salvador Perez – 161 G; .273/.316/.544; .859 OPS; 24 2B; 48 HR; 1 SB
5 – SS – Bobby Witt Jr.* - 123 G; .290/.361/.576; .936 OPS; 35 2B; 33 HR; 29 SB (AA/AAA Stats)
6 – 3B – Adalberto Mondesi – 35 G; .230/.271/.452; .723 OPS; 8 2B; 6 HR; 15 SB
7 – DH – Hunter Dozier – 144 G; .216/.285/.394; .680 OPS; 27 2B; 16 HR; 5 SB
8 – 1B – Carlos Santana – 158 G; .214/.319/.342; .660 OPS; 15 2B; 19 HR; 2 SB
9 – CF – Michael A. Taylor – 142 G; .244/.297/.356; .653 OPS; 16 2B; 12 HR; 14 SB
Using each player’s highest match batter similarity score, the replacement team is seen below with each new player’s best season stats (95+ games):
1 – 2B – Red Shannon – 119 G; .263/.320/.344; .663 OPS; 18 2B; 9 3B; 0 HR; 11 SB
2 - RF – Les Bell – 155 G; .325/.383/.518; .901 OPS; 33 2B; 14 3B; 17 HR; 9 SB
3 – LF – Kevin Mench – 125 G; .279/.335/.539; .874 OPS; 30 2B; 26 HR; 0 SB
4 – C – Mike Lieberthal – 145 G; .300/.363/.551; .914 OPS; 33 2B; 31 HR; 0 SB
5 – SS – Carlos Correa* - 99 G; .279/.345/.512; .857 OPS; 22 2B; 22 HR; 14 SB
6 – 3B – Earl Averill – 115 G; .266/.384/.489; .873 OPS; 9 2B; 21 HR; 1 SB
7 – DH – Ryan Thompson – 98 G; .225/.301/.434; .735 OPS; 14 2B; 18 HR; 1 SB
8 – 1B – Tom Brunansky – 157 G; .242/.320/.448; .767 OPS; 28 2B; 27 HR; 5 SB
9 – CF – Damon Buford – 150 G; .251/.324/.390; .714 OPS; 18 2B; 15 HR; 4 SB
*No similarity scores for Witt Jr. since he has not debuted yet, the Correa comparison was pulled from fellow SB Nation site, Fish Stripes, and Correa’s rookie season was used for a more fair comparison
Now let’s break down each matchup:
2B – 2021 Nicky Lopez vs. 1919 Red Shannon
This comparison makes a lot of sense unsurprisingly. Nicky has a career slash line of .262/.321/.341 with an OPS of .662. Red Shannon’s best full season was nearly identical to Nicky’s career numbers. Red also had the same lack of power that Nicky has and also showed a lot of speed with those triple and stolen bases especially for back in 1919. While this comparison is spot on to Nicky’s career, we are looking at each Royals player’s 2021 season against their comparison’s best season, so Nicky Lopez wins this matchup.
RF – 2021 Whit Merrifield vs. 1926 Les Bell
Les Bell had a spectacular year in 1926, in comparison to how Whit normally plays Les also hits high contact, a lot of doubles, and had enough speed to get 14 triples. Again, if this was a career comparison the numbers would be very similar and the slight edge would go to Whit Merrifield. However, Bell’s best season might even beat out Whit’s best career season statistically speaking (let alone his 2021 season). Although Les Bell would have to play out of position on this team, I think the third baseman/shortstop could hold his ground out there in right. Round two goes to Les Bell.
LF – 2021 Andrew Benintendi vs 2004 Kevin Mench
This is a tough matchup to decide. While Mench beats out Beni slightly in nearly every hitting category (and heavily in slugging and home runs), Benintendi does take the crown for speed and defense where he earned himself a gold glove in 2021. In an outfield like Kauffman’s, the speed and defense may be needed over the slight upgrade in power. Benintendi wins this one.
C – 2021 Salvador Perez vs 1999 Mike Lieberthal
Once again, another tough matchup, this time behind the plate. While Salvador Perez did have one of the greatest offensive seasons ever by a catcher in 2021, Mike Lieberthal was also no joke in 1999. Mike beats Salvy easily in BA and OBP, while barely leading him in slugging. Mike has over a .050 OPS lead on Salvy overall, hit a few more doubles, and won a gold glove in 1999. However, Salvy did hit 17 more home runs, had a higher OPS+ (126 vs 124), and 25 more RBIs (albeit in 16 more games played). As much as it pains me to say, I think I am going to have to call this one a draw. The only reason Salvy didn’t lose this one is because he did lead the MLB in home runs and RBIs, so he has to get some brownie points there. Mike is definitely giving him a run for his money.
SS – 2021 (AA/AAA) Bobby Witt Jr. vs 2015 Carlos Correa
This matchup showing Bobby Witt Jr.’s minor league stats is almost cheating (no pun intended Carlos) but Correa’s rookie season was fantastic regardless. If Witt can pull together a season like that in 2022, I think the whole fanbase would be more than happy. Correa wins this matchup (for now) essentially by default, it’s just not fair to matchup any minor league stats to that type of a rookie of the year run by a 20-year-old.
3B – 2021 Adalberto Mondesi vs 1961 Earl Averill Jr.
I am sure that the similarity score calculator had as tough a time as any trying to find a realistic comparison for Adalberto. He’s shown insane power, unreal speed, a terrible walk rate, played several positions, and has pretty small full-season sample sizes. Earl Jr. (the son of Hall of Famer Earl Averill) put up fantastic numbers over those 115 games and if the Royals could see Adalberto produce those stats across as many games next season (of course with more steals) then they would be more than pleased. Earl Averill, the catcher, and left fielder, takes this job at third over Mondesi.
DH - 2021 Hunter Dozier vs 1994 Ryan Thompson
Surprisingly, this 98 game season was the most Thompson ever played in the bigs. His slash line and OPS beats out Dozier, the home run numbers are very close, and Thompson’s doubles and steals fall short. While this was (hopefully) a historically bad season for Hunter Dozier, I am surprised that the matchup is still as close as it is. All around better-hitting numbers by Thompson along with Dozier’s lack of defense at third and in right in 2021, gives Thompson the edge here. Let’s hope Dozier outperforms these numbers in 2022.
1B – 2021 Carlos Santana vs 1985 Tom Brunansky
There isn’t much to say here. Following a good first half by Carlos in 2021, he fell off the map in every category. Tom Brunanasky wins this one in a landslide, but the everyday outfielder will have to start taking more reps at first base to get ready to join this team. Several other seasons of Carlos Santana’s career would have beat out Tom here, but those versions of Santana are not the current version on the Royals.
CF – 2021 Michael A. Taylor vs 2000 Damon Buford
This matchup, much like Benintendi’s is more situational than anything else for this team. Kauffman Stadium has one of the biggest Center Fields in the league and in 2021 Michael A. Taylor won the gold glove roaming it. So although Damon’s 2000 season does slightly beat out Taylors, the matchup goes in favor of MAT here.
In total, the 2022 roster has three wins, the replacement roster has five wins, and they each share one tie. The similarity score players' best seasons take the cake over their 2022 counterparts.
Which roster do you prefer?
This poll is closed
2022 "Opening Day"
Either of them as long as there’s baseball again!