Back in May I wrote this article titled “11 Numbers I’m Watching Early On” that was basically a combination of things we were looking for during preseason and things that stood out to us after a month of play on the farm. I wanted to take a chance now to revisit all 11 of those “numbers” I had my eye on in May to address any tangible change, for better or worse, that we’ve seen since then.
1. Nick Loftin’s .148 ISO
So, here’s a funny thing. Since I wrote that article, Nick Loftin has a .154 ISO. Immediately after that article came out, he hit a home run and a double on May 13th to shoot his season ISO up to .170. Since May 14th, however, he’s back down to a .147 ISO over 368 PA. All told, his ISO is .153 for the season which is effectively the same as .148. We’ve seen flashes of Loftin really getting ahold of pitches inside and cranking them 420+ feet for home runs, so we know there’s some raw juice in there, it just doesn’t seem like he’s found a way to split gaps for consistent doubles production yet, which is where his “power” production will likely come from at the big league level. Anyway…I know the power is down a bit, and he’s struggled in Omaha, but I couldn’t care less at this point. He looks the part of an every day player in the big leagues and I’m excited to see what he looks like after an offseason working with the strength team.
2. Darryl Collins’ .097 ISO
Much like Loftin, Collins’ ISO has increased slightly since the original article ran, but it’s a grand total of 10 points moving to just .107. Much like Loftin, we’ve seen Collins really get into a few balls that make it clear that his raw power is capable of producing more power in games. Much like Loftin, Collins’ approach and bat-to-ball skills are excellent and suggest he should be at least hitting more doubles than he is at present. The question for the Royals hitting development team now centers around getting both players to access their power more frequently in games, which shouldn’t be overly difficult for either player…in theory. They’ve got it in them. It’s just a matter of utilizing present skills and finding a swing path that maximizes efficiency.
3. Nick Pratto’s 33% K%
Pratto’s strikeouts came down 4% at AAA between May 13th and his call to the big leagues, and have since risen to 35% at the big league level. Unlike some folks, I’m not really that concerned with where Pratto’s strikeout numbers are right now. He’s got a .200 ISO and he’s got fewer than 130 big league PA under his belt. We knew the strikeouts would always be present in his game. He’s shown a great approach at the plate, he’s doing damage when he makes contact, and he looks every bit the part defensively at first base. The offense will come around as long as he stays in his approach and doesn’t chase too many pitches out of the strike zone. If he can keep his strikeout rate around 30%, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to impact the ball enough to be surplus value at first base.
4. Yefri Del Rosario’s 17.4% K%
Del Rosario’s strikeout rate is down to 16.4% since May 13th. The important thing is that he’s been healthy all year and is on pace for back-to-back seasons of 70+ IP after missing all of 2019 to an injury and 2020 to the pandemic. The concerning thing is that Del Rosario’s fastball doesn’t look nearly as explosive as it once did and I’m trending toward the pessimistic side of a 50/50 chance that he could ever contribute to a big league bullpen. He still commands the ball well, and his curveball is a weapon, but he just doesn’t have the “umph” I once thought would carry him. Baseball America still has him in their top-30 Royals prospects, and we know they get intel from the front office which has publicly spoken good things about Del Rosario, but man. I really wonder how healthy he is and how healthy he’ll ever be. Sometimes that just happens and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
5. Kasey Kalich’s 15% BB%
Kalich was the return KC got for Jorge Soler last year and he’s had kind of a “meh” career in KC so far. His BB% is 15.1% since May 13th, so that hasn’t changed, but opponents are hitting just .174 against him in that time so he’s clearly got some good stuff that could make him an effective bullpen piece. He can’t keep walking nearly six batters every nine innings, but the stuff is actually kind of intriguing.
6. Christian Chamberlain’s 44.1%K%
That strikeout rate was never going to be sustainable long-term, but I am encouraged by Chamberlain’s 25.4% K% since May 14th and the fact that his walk rate is down since being promoted to AA. He is all over the place at the moment and walking entirely too many hitters to be effective long-term, but he’s still showing borderline elite stuff and should be a really good reliever at the big league level if he can get the ball in the strike zone more often.
7. Tyler Gentry’s 45.5% GB%
Gentry’s GB% actually went up slightly for a month after I wrote this originally, but he was promoted to AA in the middle of June and his GB% all of a sudden plummeted to 38.4%. That is a tremendous development for the outfielder out of Alabama and his ISO jumped over 50 points as a result. Gentry has pretty well been the Royals best offensive prospect all season and jumped into our top-5 Royals prospects this season. If he keeps hitting the ball in the air like he has been at AA, he’ll almost definitely be an effective big league hitter as soon as next June. This guy is legit. It’s about time the average Royals fan knows his name.
8. Michael Massey’s 7.7% BB%
Here was an exact quote from the May version of this article: “So much of what Massey is doing is so good. Seriously, top-10 prospect in the system good. I’m just afraid that more advanced pitchers will take advantage of his tendency to swing too much when he reaches the upper levels of baseball.” After I said that, Massey went to AAA and hit .325 with a 157 wRC+ while raising his BB% to what was a career best 9.1%. He’s now gotten 89 big league PA under his belt and his BB% at the big league level is just 4.5%. Massey makes so much contact and hits so many line drives that he’s treading water in The Show, but the difference between Massey having a 95 wRC+ and a 115 wRC+ will come from his ability to hit more extra-base hits and be on base more often (ground breaking stuff, I know). I think the XBH will come, it’s now a matter of how Massey adjusts to big league pitching and how many pitches out of the zone he can lay off of. If he can get his BB% back up around 7%, he’s a lock at second base every day.
9. Maikel Garcia’s .407 BABIP
Garcia’s BABIP inevitably came back to earth and it just has not mattered one bit. He moved to AAA Omaha and has the best wRC+ of his minor league career at 129 and the best ISO of his career at .268. That ISO is like…more than double his previous high. Part of that is the park he’s playing in, part of it is just a concerted effort to hit the ball hard in the air that has Garcia looking like an entirely different player. Garcia, like Gentry, cracked our top-5 for the first time this season and looks the part of the Royals every day shortstop by next June. His K/BB ratio got a little wonky at AAA, but that’s come with a ton of newfound power that’s a pretty even wash in the long run. We’ll see if he gets a shot with the big league club in September, but I love what I’ve seen from this kid this year.
10. Alec Marsh’s 31.3% HR/FB%
Marsh’s HR/FB% for the *season* is down 10% since May 13th, which was inevitable all things considered. He’s still striking out a ton of batters at AA, but nothing else is really going right for him. I don’t know what to make of it all.
11. Angel Zerpa’s 7.7% SwStr%
Zerpa ended his minor league season early due to an injury with a 9.5% SwStr%, so it came up a bit, but not significantly. I still love Zerpa long-term for several reasons, but it is kind of curious that he doesn’t miss more bats with his stuff. It’s not the end all be all, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on and could ultimately be the difference between Zerpa starting and relieving before it’s all said and done.