Alright so I’ve been thinking about this for a while and just found some time to get it all on paper. I was sifting through the Royals offensive core heading into 2023 and trying to figure out what it could look like next year. I don’t really know how to organize these thoughts effectively so the first part of this may be a shit show…just FYI.
First thing we’re going to do is look at the main group of hitters that KC will take into next season and lay out some things they did well in 2022 as well as some things they can improve on for 2023.
– 12.4% BB% ranked 12th in MLB last year among 130 qualified hitters
– 42 XBH trailed only Salvy and Witt Jr. for the team lead
– 27.8% Chase% ranked 34th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 35.4% Hard% ranked 32nd in MLB among qualified hitters
– 13.7% Soft% ranked 29th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 10.4% Barrel% ranked 41st in MLB among qualified hitters
– 24.5% K% ranked 105th in MLB among qualified hitters
– .176 ISO ranked 55th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 74.5% Contact% ranked 102nd in MLB among qualified hitters
– 81.3% Contact% on pitches in the strike zone ranked 114th in MLB among 130 qualified hitters
– Pretty much every defensive metric that is publicly available to us
Melendez’ combination of plate discipline and power potential are going to make him a fantastic big league hitter for a long time. He doesn’t make a ton of contact, but he doesn’t chase bad pitches either so it really balances out in a lot of ways. I’m a little curious about how frequently he swings and misses on pitches inside the strike zone, but he hits the ball so hard that I think you’ll trade the whiffs for the power potential. I know the walks are fantastic, but I kind of question whether Melendez will hit for a high enough average long-term to stay in the leadoff spot. I didn’t mind the experiment at all this year but he seems much better suited as a 4-5 hitter long-term, especially as he grows into his power. Defensively, they have GOT to find him a home and leave him there. I personally believe in the bat so much I’d be okay with moving him to LF permanently and just letting him hit. I think you have a potential Max Muncy type of hitter here once the power comes around. Lots of walks, a good chunk of strikeouts, and lots of power as he gains experience. You just may have to live with the fact that he’ll never hit .280, but that’s more than okay.
Bobby Witt Jr.
– 20 HR and 30 SB as a rookie is…whew…
– 57 XBH led the team…as a rookie
– 113.7 mph “max exit velo” ranked 25th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 37.3% Chase% ranked 111th in MLB among 130 qualified hitters
– 77.6% Contact% ranked 74th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 85.6% Contact% on pitches in the strike zone ranked 83rd in MLB among qualified hitters
– .294 OBP ranked 117th in MLB among qualified hitters
– .174 ISO ranked 59th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 11.6% SwStr% ranked 89th in MLB among qualified hitters
– 9.3% HR/FB ranked 99th in MLB among qualified hitters
Bobby Witt Jr. had a really weird year. Like Melendez, the defensive metrics thought he was pretty terrible for most of the season. Just watching Witt, you can tell he’s a capable defender, he just seemed to be sped up early on and made a lot of silly errors that he did not appear to be making down the stretch. I’m okay with the team leaving him at SS again in 2023 if they can find themselves a third baseman. I’m also okay with them moving Witt to 3B if they think Maikel Garcia is ready to play SS. Whatever works, really.
Offensively…I don’t really know what else to think about Witt’s 2022 other than he swings entirely too much. He doesn’t need to be Melendez, but he’s got to at least be Michael A. Taylor. If MAT can walk 7.7% of the time, then Bobb Witt Jr. should be able to walk 8% of the time with zero issues. There’s no reason for a player of Witt’s caliber to be swinging that frequently unless he just cannot pick up the spin of the baseball. I’m not really worried about Witt, because I think most of this is correctable and the tools are obvious, but it’s going to be difficult to unlock that “superstar” level offensively with his current peripherals. With all of that being said, if a 99 wRC+ and 20 HR/30 SB is his ultimate floor, that’s pretty damn impressive.
We don’t need to do all of this for Salvy. Let him catch 130 games per season. Let Sebastian Rivero catch 32. Salvy will hit ~30 HR if he’s healthy, be worth 3-4 WAR, and anchor the middle of the lineup. The third spot in the order was made for guys like him.
– 11.7% BB% ranked 32nd in MLB among 317 hitters with 250+ PA
– 11.4% K% ranked 10th in MLB among 317 hitters with 250+ PA
– 1.03 BB/K ranked 6th in MLB among 317 hitters with 250+ PA
– 137 wRC+ ranked 27th in MLB among hitters with 250+ PA
– .383 OBP ranked 9th in MLB among hitters with 250+ PA
– 46.9% HardHit% ranked 39th in MLB among hitters with 250+ PA
– .374 xwOBA ranked 10th in MLB among hitters with 250+ PA
– .476 xSLG ranked 31st in MLB among hitters with 250+ PA
– 6.6% SwStr% ranked 26th in MLB among hitters with 250+ PA
– He doesn’t run or defend great?
Vinnie Pasquantino is pretty clearly the Royals best hitter, already, in my opinion. I don’t really know how you could argue against it at this point. Does Witt Jr. have a higher ceiling overall? Sure. Does Melendez have a higher ceiling overall? Maybe. There isn’t a safer bet to be an All-Star-caliber hitter on this team, though. My goodness, the man literally does nothing wrong at the plate. I think it would be funny to see him hit in the #1 or #2 spots in the lineup, but he’s likely to settle into the #3 or #4 spot at some point. I think you’d be better off with him at #3? Gives you a L/R/L/R 1-4? Probably doesn’t matter because he’s going to hit no matter where you put him in the lineup. What a find by the Royals scouting group in the 11th round.
– 21% LineDrive% should allow his .304 BABIP to hold most seasons
– 34.6% Hard% is a good indicator of his ability to square up the baseball
– We know he’s going to defend well at 2B
– 93 wRC+ would be a pretty fantastic floor if he can get his defensive metrics to improve
– Like Witt, Massey swings entirely too often
– 4.6% BB%
– .133 ISO needs to be more like .165 consistently
– Swung and missed quite a bit for a guy that didn’t hit for much power
Massey would be fantastic in your 7th or 8th spots in the lineup on a playoff team. 6th is pushing it, but you need a bigger bat to hit 5th if you want to compete for the playoffs. I think he’s kind of caught between two types of players right now and he needs to figure out which direction he wants to go. He pulled the ball 50% of the time in 2022 but didn’t hit for much power. He either needs to be able to hit 20 home runs consistently, or he needs to go the other way much more frequently and get his BA (and thus OBP) closer to .280. Something I find interesting about Massey is that he had *eight* HBP in 2022. In just 194 PA. I have no idea how sustainable that is but it had a lot to do with his .307 OBP. If that number regresses at all, and nothing else improves, his overall production takes quite a dip. I don’t know what Massey’s long-term outlook is just yet, he’s hard for me to peg at the moment, but I do think he can be a very valuable player on a playoff team.
– 10.4% BB%
– .203 ISO
– Pacing for 23 HR
– 45.5% Swing%
– 30.9% Chase%
– 36.3% K%
– 14.7% SwStr%
– 67.6% Contact%
– 13.8% LD%
Say what you want about Nick Pratto’s ability to make contact, this man has a plan at the plate and he rarely deviates from that plan. Nick “I Ain’t Swingin’ At That Shit” Pratto refuses to swing the bat a good portion of the time. He’s going to make you throw him something to hit and he ain’t swinging unless you do. Now…whether or not he makes contact with that pitch is a whole other deal. The contact issues are very real and they could limit his offensive upside long-term if he doesn’t figure something out. With that being said…he hits the ball very hard and the lift he creates with his swing give him legitimate 30+ HR potential if he can keep his strikeout rate closer to 30% than 40%. Pratto is so good at 1B and his baseball IQ is so high that I’m not overly concerned about him long-term. I think he’ll be a very nice 6-hole type of hitter in a playoff lineup.
– .240 ISO?!?!?!?!?!
– 11% BB%?!?!?!?!?!?!
– Defensive metrics LOVED him in RF
– 36.7% K%
– .353 BABIP
– 13.4% SwStr%
Drew Waters was incredible in a very limited sample last season. I am praying that the Royals will move on from MAT this season so that he can play every day in CF in 2023. The kid showed a phenomenal new approach in which he pretty well refused to swing at bad pitches. He hit good pitches very far, very frequently. He is going to swing and miss a ton, and I by no means think he’s a 125 wRC+ hitter all of a sudden, but if he’s hitting 9th in your lineup, that’s a damn good lineup as far as I am concerned. I do wonder about his ability to play CF at Kauffman Stadium every day, but I am more than willing to find out what that looks like. If Waters can hit 45 XBH, be on base at a .320 clip, and avoid striking out 35% of the time, you’ve got a legitimate everyday CF on your hands (again, as long as he’s hitting like, 9th, those K’s will create a ton of volatility in the long run).
There are seven of your nine lineup spots that should be playing most every day in the big leagues. If you want to compete in the playoffs with these seven, here’s what you still need:
- Someone to slot in behind Vinnie Pasquantino in the 5-hole. Nobody on this roster has currently shown the ability to be the final piece to the middle of the order. That includes Edward Olivares. Maybe Tyler Gentry can come out of the minors next year and give you a boost?
- Figure out how all of your utility guys fit in. Nate Eaton, Edward Olivares, Nicky Lopez, and Kyle Isbel all fill a role on a playoff team…I think. Where and how do they fit in? None of them are going to lock it down in the middle of the lineup, and asking one of Massey/Pratto to hit 5th seems like asking them to do too much. So, how does the bottom half of the roster shakeout?
Here’s where I’m comfortable lining everyone up on Opening Day in 2023, if anyone cares:
- #1: MJ LF
- #2: Bob SS
- #3: Sal C
- #4: Vinnie DH
- #5: ???
- #6: Pratto 1B
- #7: Massey 2B
- #8: ???
- #9: Waters CF
What the Royals choose to do at 3B and RF next year will be interesting. Outside of those top four hitters, I’m not entirely certain that you can say anything for certain about how this team will perform offensively next year. They’ve got a ton of upside and a lot of guys that could make an impact from the minors.
I don’t know if this was productive but I was bored so hopefully you got something out of it.
6 thoughts on “Thinking (poorly) out loud about the offense”
Do you know what happened to the talk of Melendez playing 3rd base? Have the Royals given up on that idea?
Would you consider a package that includes MJ if the return could get you a front-line starter (i.e. Gallen)?
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Thanks Alex for sharing your thoughts. I am assuming you will not be happy with a combination of Isbel/Dozier/Olivares in RF and Mondesi/Eaton at 3b?
There is never a good match if they look to FA to fill one of these spots. 3b is bare with maybe a signing of Brandon Drury looking like the best option. The OF has more and better options, but I think the Royals have more options internally to fill this need also. I agree with your statement that MJM is not best suited to be a leadoff hitter. I think this is the biggest hole the Royals have in their entire system – a lack of leadoff skills. They need to find an elite leadoff hitter capable of a .370+ OBP. I think having a player like this would really make things easier for the rest of the lineup to produce. I only see two players capable of this on the free agent market that are affordable for the Royals – Andrew Benintendi and Brandon Nimmo. Slotting them into LF and the leadoff spot and moving MJM to RF or in a trade for pitching makes a lot of sense to me. Signing one of these two could allow an adjustment to the batting order – Nimmo, Bob, Vinnie, Sal, MJM, Pratto, 3b, Massey, Waters. If they can bring in the leadoff guy, I would be okay with them rolling with Eaton/Dozier at 3b and hitting 7th. Give those two a season to prove they can do it or make a plan to bring in a short term fix until Cayden Wallace is ready in a few years.
I agree with moving MJ from leadoff. I would probably make him the 5 hitter. Plenty of power to fill that hole.
I would also flip flop Vinnie #3 and make Sal #4.
I would also consider using Vinnie at leadoff given his top shelf batting prowess. Unconventional, yes. But you get your best hitter the most at bats and Vinnie currently profiles as our best hitter.
If you squint and Olivares stays healthy, he could be hitting in the middle of the order but I believe that is too big of a reach. Basically we need to sign a 3-5 hitting 3B and/or a high contact, high OBP outfielder to hit leadoff.
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I think those RF/3B combinations are fine IF Massey and Pratto are above average hitters. However, you can’t bank on that.