Welcome to part four of I don’t know how many. Here are the links to the ones I’ve written already:
I’ve got to be honest with you all, as excited as we all were for Michael Massey by the end of last season, I may have somehow been the low man on him when he was promoted to AAA Omaha on June 12th. In my defense, at the time Massey was a 24-year old with a 0.39 BB/K ratio and 113 wRC+ at AA. Massey has always hit a great amount of line drives, and his batted ball profile was off the charts, but he just wasn’t having the type of overall production that you’d expect from someone that you’d want to be an everyday big leaguer by, say, August.
All of this is to say nothing about everything else that Massey does extremely well. Between AA, AAA, and the big leagues this year Massy has stolen 16 bases while only being caught twice. He is perhaps the most advanced defender I’ve seen in five years covering the Royals minor league system, outside of Nick Pratto. His baseball instincts are obvious to anyone watching him play. Even if Massey is never an All-Star-caliber hitter, he’s going to provide value to a big league team because he does everything else so well.
The thing is, he just wasn’t hitting the way you’d need him to if he’s going to be an everyday type of player in the big leagues. The Royals felt confident enough in his performance to promote him to AAA where he went nuclear for about a month before being called up to fill out the big league roster in Toronto during the vaccine fiasco. Massey collected three hits in Toronto, but the Royals sent him back to Omaha for nine games before bringing him back for good in August.
Since being recalled from Omaha for good, Massey is slashing .246/.321/.387/.708 with a 0.22 BB/K, .141 ISO, and 101 wRC+. A league average hitter with a fantastic defensive reputation and the ability to rip a few bags on occasion and all of a sudden you have a ~2 fWAR type of player on your hands. For whatever reason the defensive metrics haven’t favored Massey much this year, but any improvement in that category and you’re looking at more of a 2.5-3.0 WAR player which is a nearly everyday player for a playoff team. All of this, by the way, without considering any kind of improvement from Massey on the offensive side of things, especially in the power department.
I was looking around the league for what I think are fair expectations of Massey moving forward and came up with these three names:
- 2022 Thairo Estrada (SF)
- 0.36 BB/K
- .148 ISO
- 111 wRC+
- On pace for 3.3 fWAR in 150 games
- 2021 Jazz Chisholm (MIA)
- 0.23 BB/K
- .177 ISO
- 97 wRC+
- 2.3 fWAR pace for 150 games
- 2019 Eric Sogard (TOR/TB)
- 0.60 BB/K
- .167 ISO
- 115 wRC+
- 4.2 fWAR pace for 150 games
In a normal season, I think you can kind of look at 2021 Jazz Chisholm for Massey’s average production, 2022 Thairo Estrada for Massey’s good years, and 2019 Eric Sogard in a season where everything goes his way. I do still think there’s a world where Massey struggles a bit at times because of how frequently he swings, but if he can hit for the type of power in the big leagues that he hit for in the minor leagues, he should be a frequent contributor to a big league lineup because he is so well-rounded.
Looking back at the 2015 Royals lineup, they had six heavy hitters at the top of their lineup.
- Kendrys Morales: 131 wRC+
- Lorenzo Cain: 128 wRC+
- Eric Hosmer: 124 wRC+
- Ben Zobrist: 124 wRC+
- Mike Moustakas: 123 wRC+
- Alex Gordon: 122 wRC+
They also had Paulo Orlando, who did enough offensively to play in 86 games, and Salvador Perez who hit 21 home runs that year. If the Royals are going to compete for the ultimate prize in the next five or six seasons, they’ll need Massey to pop a big season like Hosmer had once or twice. The thing with guys like Massey, guys who hit a bunch of line drives and have the ability to hit home runs, is occasionally you’ll get a big season like Hosmer and Cain had in 2015. It’s not that you need them to hit that way all the time, you just have to have a couple of them in order to win the World Series. If Massey can be one of those guys, and everything we’ve seen so far suggests he’s at least capable of it in some capacity, that’s a huge boost to the Royals chances when they’re ultimately ready to compete again.