Analyzing Kansas City Royals Hitters For 2020

The Royals’ 2019 season may best be summed up as “at least we weren’t the Rangers, Orioles, Marlins or Tigers!” As a unit, their hitters didn’t do much of anything when it came to driving the ball or getting on base. The only counting stat in which they posted a strong final line was steals, where the team swiped 117 bags and ranked second overall behind only the Rangers—another terrible offense.

But it’s not as if you could pluck any Royal off the wire and wrangle a few steals at a given point in the season. Together, Adalberto Mondesi (43) and Whit Merrifield (20) accounted for 53% of the team’s stolen bags. They didn’t rank higher than 19th in any major stat. Beyond Merrifield and Mondesi are a few solid or above-average regulars, but not much else.

 

Roster Changes

 

  • ADDITIONS: N/A.
  • SUBTRACTIONS: Alex Gordon (LF) is the only potential loss for Kansas City right now. However, the organization loves him, and he could easily have a contract and role on the team if he wants one. The skills have declined as they would for anyone playing through age 35, but there’s still use for a player of his stature on a young, rebuilding squad. And maybe yours, too, if you need a good matchup flier from waivers. 

 

Hitter Previews

 

Catchers

 

Salvador Perez (C | Batting 4th)

2018: 52 R, 27 HR, 80 RBI, 1 SB, .235/.274/.439

2020 ADP: 401.3 (C #15)

 

Salvador Perez missed all of 2019 after suffering an injury in spring training that required Tommy John surgery. He should be healthy and begin the season with the club, and immediately start over any option left on the roster from last year.

If he’s back to his usual self, he’ll be a rock-steady performer behind the plate. From 2014 to 2018, he was pretty much a lock for 50+ runs, 20+ homers, and 70+ RBI without being a drag on other categories outside steals or OBP, depending on your settings.

But we can’t just assume full health. Sure, Tommy John surgery isn’t as serious for position players as it is for pitchers, but it’s still an intense procedure that can impact performance. Maybe we can consider Didi Gregorius as a reference, since he had TJ at the end of 2018 and came back last June. Didi slashed .238/.276/.441 this season. The slugging was in line with his Yankee career (.447), but his batting average was down 35 points and his OBP was down more than 40 points. If the average drags down the OBP as he gets back into game shape, Perez will have some daunting stretches.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, H, HR

Weaknesses: OBP, OPS

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Perez will play most of 2020 in his age-30 season. He’s a rock behind the plate who can register 130 games or more and buoy you at the catcher position with power and steady counting stats, even on a bad team.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The TJ zaps his stroke at the plate and he becomes the first guy you cut at a time where there are surprisingly more catcher options available than there have been previously. He scuttles to a below-average line as the rest of the league continues to put up record-setting offensive marks.

 

2020 Projection: 52 R, 21 HR, 65 RBI, 1 SB, .240/.280/.465

 

Infielders

 

Hunter Dozier (3B/1B | Batting 5th)

2019: 75 R, 26 HR, 84 RBI, 2 SB, .279/.348/.522 | 3B #21

2020 ADP: 128.1 (3B #18)

 

Hunter Dozier blasted onto the scene in April and May, hitting .313 with 26 extra-base hits. June was a disaster with a sub-Mendoza line average. But according to counting stats, the rest of the season provided a useful line, if less exhilarating than his opening months as he returned from injury. He came out of obscurity and rode all sorts of ebbs and flows through the year, leaving us to ask what to expect for 2020.

At 94.2 mph, he hits the ball hard in the air—harder than nearly 75% of the league—and that always plays. He’s going to be in the heart of any offensive success for Kansas City, and there’s always value in players who have those roles even when they come on a bad team. He’ll likely make a fine corner infielder or bench bat who offers positional versatility.

Strengths: AVG, HR, SLG, OPS

Weaknesses: SO

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Dozier resembles more of what he was at the start of 2019 than the end and becomes a powerhouse at the hot corner. His torrid pace probably pushes your team into contention or beyond as one of the big surprises in 2020.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

His ability to drive the ball dissipates and so does almost all of his value, leaving you with a solid batting average but not much else.

 

2020 Projection: 70 R, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB, .265/.335/.510

 

Whit Merrifield (2B/OF | Batting 1st)

2019: 105 R, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 20 SB, .302/.348/.463| 2B #4

2020 ADP: 34.3 (2B #3)

 

Merrifield is another Royals late bloomer who has a track record that includes speed and power over the last three years. The speed is the big lure here: He’s stolen 34, 45 and 20 bags over that stretch. About 20 guys steal that many bags per season, and it’s been fewer than that in two of the last three years.

The big drop from 2018 to 2019 may be concerning, though. Merrifield will play 2020 at age 31, and speed is a skill that ages poorly. He lost two-tenths of a second off his sprint speed last season, dropping him from the 93rd percentile to the 85th. That’s still pretty awesome, but for an aging player who plays nearly every game, it’s something to be mindful of.

Merrifield also qualifies in the outfield and possibly even first base, depending on your league settings. Current ADPs see him going within a few picks of Ketel Marte, José Altuve and Jonathan Villar. If you’re looking for steals at that spot, three of these four offer varying amounts. Second base also runs deep, even for 15-teamers, so missing out will likely still leave you a few options in the coming rounds.

 

Strengths: H, R, SB, AVG

Weaknesses: SO

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Merrifield’s tiny drops in sprint speed mean nothing; he continues playing nearly every game and helps you move toward the top of the league in steals while being a legitimate contributor in the other big counting categories.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The sprint speed continues to dip and so do the steals, leaving you with a nice player, but one who’s similar to others who probably went rounds after him.

 

2020 Projection: 94 R, 14 HR, 67 RBI, 23 SB, .290/.335/.450

 

Adalberto Mondesi (SS | Batting 2nd)

2019: 52 R, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 43 SB, .263/.291/.424 | SS #11

2020 ADP: 21.0 (SS #5)

 

The love affair with Mondesi persists for now, but it might be time to consider a change of heart. He suffered a severe shoulder injury in September that ended his season and requires five to six months without baseball activity. The Royals hope to have him back for Opening Day.

It’s not just the shoulder injury that’s concerning. Mondesi showed a fascinating power-speed combo when he broke through with 14 homers and 32 steals in 75 games in 2018. He did it while posting a walk rate below 4% and a K rate above 26%, though, and followed it up this season by walking half a tick more but striking out an additional 3%. He was shifted a bunch more in 2019. His ISO dropped 60 points—from well above average to well below in spite of the rabbit ball. He hit 30% more grounders in 2019 than 2018. And now he’s got an injury that could impact his bat path through the zone. This seems like an enormous price to pay for a player who carries this much risk, especially when there’s a host of bona fide talent being picked after him and a handful of more intriguing lottery tickets to boot.

 

Strengths: SB

Weaknesses: OBP, SLG, HR

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Mondesi plays as though the shoulder injury never happened, he corrects his issues with grounders and shifting, and he more closely resembles the outstanding player we saw in his partial 2018 season. The price paid in the winter is worth it.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The shift continues to eat him up, and he continues to put the ball on the ground too much. He becomes nearly one-dimensional with his speed and looks a lot more like Mallex Smith than you’d like from a second-rounder.

 

2020 Projection: 85 R, 10 HR, 75 RBI, 57 SB, .250/.285/.410

 

Ryan O’Hearn (1B | Batting 7th)

2019: 32 R, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB, .195/.281/.369 | 1B #90

2020 ADP: 544 (1B #56)

 

At least it probably can’t get worse for Ryan O’Hearn than 2019?

 

Strengths: None

Weaknesses: Pretty much everything 

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

O’Hearn rebounds and looks anything like the 2018 version that slashed .262/.353/.597 in 44 games. You snag him off the wire as a fun surprise.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

He repeats his 2019.

 

2020 Projection: 57 R, 16 HR, 70 RBI, 1 SB, .220/.300/.420

 

Outfielders

 

Jorge Soler (DH/OF | Batting 3rd)

2019: 95 R, 48 HR, 117 RBI, 3 SB, .265/.354/.569 | OF #16

2020 ADP: 97.3 (OF #30)

 

2019 was the Jorge Soler season we’ve all been waiting for. It may have come a year or two later than expected, but he finally put it all together and ended up leading the American League in dingers. The slugging appears to be legitimate, rabbit ball or not. He hit the ball in the air harder than all but nine players last season. With speedy boys like Merrifield and Mondesi setting the table, Soler will continue to have a chance to rack up RBI with his extra-base hits. The ADP suggests people are looking elsewhere for outfielders for a while, making him a strong add as a second outfielder. Everyone’s hitting bombs for now, but Soler’s power could more easily survive another potential “manufacturing inconsistency” with the baseball than other players.

 

Strengths: HR, RBI, SLG, R

Weaknesses: SB

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

The power burst sticks and Soler Power lights up your smile all season.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The ISO peaked in 2019 and you buy in on a career year only to be left a little disappointed.

 

2020 Projection: 87 R, 40 HR, 112 RBI, 1 SB, .260/.350/.510

 

Ryan McBroom (OF | Batting 6th)

2019: 26 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, .215/.255/.317 | OF #209

2020 ADP: Undrafted 

 

Fun fact: The league-average ISO for Triple-A hitters who qualified in 2019 was .200. In 2018, it was .150. That’s a 33% increase in extra-base hits on an at-bat basis. MLB elected to have Triple-A use the same baseball, and the results were flat-out wonky.

Ryan McBroom came to Kansas City via the Yankees, where he mashed to the tune of a .315/.402/.574 line and .259 ISO with their Triple-A affiliate. The ISO was more than a hundred points better than his first go-round at Triple-A the year before and 54 points better than any ISO he’s ever posted in pro ball. The jump was huge and probably aided by the ball, but not fully responsible for McBroom’s power eruption.

He only played 23 games for Kansas City last year, failing to hit a homer or resemble anything close to what he did in the minors. He’ll probably get another shot this year and might be a name worth monitoring in deep leagues.

 

Strengths: HR

Weaknesses: SO

Best-Case Scenario

 

He relaxes into a role in the big leagues and annihilates baseballs, making him one of those waiver adds who could influence a team’s final position in the standings.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

He’s just a blip on the radar that resulted from the weirdest offensive season Triple-A has ever seen.

 

2020 Projection: 50 R, 14 HR, 36 RBI, 0 SB, .275/.350/.420

 

Brett Phillips (OF | Batting 8th)

2019: 7 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB, .138/.247/.262 | OF #234

2020 ADP: Undrafted 

 

Brett Phillips is in his third organization in four years and has shown varying degrees of progress. He played in only 30 games last season for the Royals. If he can corral his Ks, he might be a sneaky value play on the tail-end of a deep roster. It seems as though the Royals are collecting former first-rounders and and trying to catch another late bloomer out of the bunch.

 

Strengths: SB

Weaknesses: Pretty much everything else

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Something clicks and Phillips is able to get on base at a consistent clip. His ability to drive the ball is solid, and he’s an under-the-radar speed play.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

His 2019 performance is his true talent at the major league level.

 

2020 Projection: 44 R, 12 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB, .240/.320/.400

 

Bubba Starling (OF | Batting 9th)

2019: 26 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, .215/.255/.317 | OF #203

2020 ADP: Undrafted 

 

Bubba Starling only played in 56 games last year, but 98% of the league hits the ball harder than him. You might as well keep moving along.

 

Strengths: None

Weaknesses: Everything

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

You desperately need a specific stat, and the stars have aligned to provide you Starling’s best matchup sitting on the waiver wire.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

You desperately need a specific stat, and the stars have aligned to provide you Starling’s best matchup sitting on the waiver wire.

 

2020 Projection: 44 R, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 7 SB, .220/.270/.340

 

Playing Time Battles

 

Any outfielder aside from Soler will be fighting for playing time. Gordon is technically a free agent, but the org loves him. If he wants a contract, he’ll probably get one. Beyond that, the team also has speedy Nicky Lopez lined up for a bench role, and I could see the Royals trying to employ his services in the outfield from time to time. The club would probably be thrilled if one of the four (including Starling and Phillips) turned into more than a replacement-level player.

 

Projected Lineup

 

Royals Lineup v. RHP
Royals Lineup v LHP

 

Conclusion

 

The Royals have a pair of potentially high-value fantasy players and a few more steady or above-average regulars. Lottery tickets litter the roster, but not the kind you need to seek out. If you’re drafting from this squad, it might be best to look in that Soler-Dozier-Perez lot because they have more room to offer a surplus return based on where they’re getting picked than Merrifield and Mondesi. If you’re keen on getting steals early, you’ll probably have other players who are more reliable and who will be available at similar spots.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)

Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson is a writer and educator who loves pitching duels. Find him Going Deep for PitcherList and on Twitter @_TimJackson.

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Comments


Harrison

Why would you rather not be the Rangers? You dont want 19 more wins? Also the Rangers offense was 12th in the MLB in runs scored. Not sure how you would deem that a terrible offense?

Tim Jackson

Sorting by team/hitter fWAR, only the Rangers, Orioles, Marlins, and Tigers ranked lower than the Royals last season. Though, yes, the Rangers produced a nearly identical number.

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