The start to the Royals season hasn’t been what many have wanted to see. The team is off to a 6-10 start with a -22 run differential. Some of the wins have felt like they aren’t well-played baseball games. Of course, there have been many positives. You watch the Royals’ defense, and they are constantly making gold glove plays. The bullpen has been absolute nails with Dylan Coleman, Collin Snider, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, and many others. Daniel Lynch and Brad Keller have seemed to take significant steps to improve their skillsets on the mound. And Zack Greinke has been a steady presence at the top of the rotation even if he hasn’t been electric.
The lineup is where most of the concern lies. Bobby Witt, Jr. is still adjusting to big-league pitching. After being moved down in the order, you have to be happy with some of his recent results. Over the last week, he is hitting .304/.333/.391 and has cut down on his strikeout rate. The production will come. It can be hard to be patient with these young hitters, but the Royals are doing the right thing about BWJ, giving him big league at-bats and the opportunity to adjust and learn. Andrew Benintendi has been scorching hot, and Salvador Perez is providing the much-needed power as he does every year. Hunter Dozier has provided some consistency in the lineup and looks like he has the potential to be back to 2019 Hunter Dozier. The struggles of Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Carlos Santana, and Michael A. Taylor have been a bit more worrisome
In terms of Merrifield, some seem related to luck, and some concerning statistics. His ground ball percentage is up 4%, but his line drive percentage is over 9%. His overall K% is in a perfect spot. Some of the concern is around his Whiff% on fastballs being up over 8%. His HardHit% is in the 20th percentile, max exit velocities are in the 22nd percentile, and barrel percentage is in the 1st percentile. He is just missing barrels and can’t seem to get his timing down. I am sure there is an age factor here, but we also know that Merrifield’s talent is too immense to give up this early on. He is going to need to improve his chase rate in the future.
The recent unfortunate announcement that Mondesi tore his ACL means that others internally will have to step up. Even though Mondesi was struggling at the plate prior to that, he is a dynamic talent that will be lost in the lineup. That leaves the question of who in the farm system can give this lineup a jolt? Here are three bats with the Omaha Storm Chasers that might be some internal options if things don’t turn around for the big league lineup
Kyle Isbel – OF
We all know about the curious case of Kyle Isbel. Not on his talent, but the journey he has faced to get playing time. This year, he tore up spring training to the tune of a .290/.389/.774 with two doubles, two triples, three home runs, and nine RBI. Even with that great spring, he only made it into two games and received one at-bat before being optioned back to Omaha on April 21st. He’s already been super productive in just five games in Triple-A. He has been called up and is starting in the lineup. The assumption is that Merrifield slides into second base, and they platoon Edward Olivares and Isbel. Hopefully Isbel can take the reigns right off the bat and see more consistent playing time. He started off strong in his first game up going two for four and driving in two key runs to help the Royals win against the White Sox. There is no doubt Isbel is ready for everyday at-bats in the show. He doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors, and he could provide a much-needed power/speed blend in this big-league Royals lineup.
Emmanuel Rivera – 3B
Rivera was a late scratch the other day in Omaha and has also been called up with Isbel. He’s been off to a great start slashing .290/.389/.532 with three home runs, four RBI, and ten walks. Rivera can provide some more versatility off the bench. He debuted in 2021 and showed some promise that his bat could play at the big league level. Slatted as a 1B and 3B, he could potentially take some ABs over Santana at first base or in the designated hitter spot if Dozier were to move to right field and Merrifield to second base. Rivera doesn’t possess the upside of Isbel but has the skills to be a serviceable bench bat that could provide some production in a currently stagnant lineup. There could be some opportunities for him to see at-bats.
Vinnie Pasquantino – 1B/DH
I know this is the guy you are all excited for to debut. Most of us are just waiting for the day that Vinnie Pasquantino gets the call to the show. We all know that Nick Pratto is the top first base prospect in the system due to his glove, but there is no denying that Pasquantino provides a more polished big league-ready bat. He has quietly been productive in Omaha, carrying a .825 OPS with two home runs, 15 RBI, and shockingly three stolen bases. He also has more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) in 19 games. The bat is ready. There is no question about it. It gets hard to see the production levels of Pasquantino and not think that he could provide a much-needed upgrade over Carlos Santana at the big league level. As much as I love the person Santana is, it gets more difficult by the day to justify that he should be getting regular at-bats over someone like Santana. The question no longer is if Pasquantino is ready, but when will the Royals give him his shot?