Just two Royals hitters had at least 300 plate appearances and had an OPS+ over 100. One was Bobby Witt Jr., who had a breakout season and will get some MVP votes. The other was Edward Olivares.
The enigmatic 27-year-old outfielder enjoyed a career-high 385 plate appearances and mostly avoided the endless yo-yoing between Kansas City and Omaha (aside from a demotion in August). But he was very streaky, getting off to a hot start, going into the tank in May, going through a lull in July, earning a demotion in mid-August, and then going on a tear in September where he hit .329/.390/.657 with half of the 12 home runs he totaled on the year.
Streakiness is not desirable, but the Royals could live with it, were it not for the other deficiencies in his game. Only four out of 124 outfielders with at least 400 innings were worse than Olivares in Defensive Runs Saved, and his numbers were similarly bad in Outs Above Average. He had the 12th-worst Ultimate Zone Rating and the 13th-worst Error Runs Above Average.
As a baserunner, he showed speed but had poor instincts. His sprint speed is in the 83rd percentile, but he was negative in Baserunning Runs at -0.6. He had the fifth-highest caught stealing rate of anyone with at least 10 steals, going 11-for-16 in steals, just a 69 percent success rate, below the league average.
Even with some positives with his offense, there are some causes for concern. Olivares had one of the higher soft-hit rates in baseball and his average exit velocity was just 87.3 mph, in the bottom 15 percentile. He has one of the highest pop-out rates in baseball.
But the Royals are light on outfielders who can hit, and they may not be able to move on from Olivares despite his deficiencies. He outslugged Vinnie Pasquantino and got on base more then MJ Melendez. His 16.6 percent strikeout rate was second-lowest among all Royals hitters with at least 250 plate appearances. According to Fangraphs, he was the second-most valuable contributor on the team on offense.
Olivares will be 28 years old next March and he is finally out of options. He has 771 plate appearances in the big leagues, and he is what he is, a .261/.310/.426 hitter with some pop but a defensive liability who is mistake-prone on the basepaths. He is projected to make around $1.8 million through arbitration if the Royals tender him a contract. J.J. Picollo has talked about adding a veteran bat and moving on from players that aren’t read to contribute, so it is uncertain whether Olivares fits into their future plans.
How would you grade Edward Olivares’ season?
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