Building a Top-10 Offense

I don’t quite have the same time I used to have to take a deep dive into this, so you’ll have to bear with me as I paraphrase most of this into useful information.

The main point of this is to analyze whether or not the Royals are capable of stacking up a top-10 offense in baseball this summer. I think we’re all quite high on Salvy, Melendez, Vinnie, and Witt Jr. as a really nice core at the top of the offense. From there, guys like Mike Massey, Nick Pratto, Kyle Isbel, Drew Waters, Nate Eaton, Adalberto Mondesi, and Tyler Gentry will have the opportunity to fill in. The question is, how many things have to go right for the Royals to have a top-10 offense with the guys currently on the roster.

First, let’s take a look at what it takes to have a top-10 offense in MLB. Here is the team wRC+ of the #10 offense in baseball each of the last five seasons (save for 2020):

2022
Philadelphia Phillies – 106

2021
New York Yankees – 101

2019
Atlanta Braves – 101

2018
Milwaukee Brewers – 100

2017
St. Louis Cardinals – 101

Let’s just say that, for the sake of the argument, the Royals need a team wRC+ of ~104 in 2023 to reach that top-10 mark. Here are some averages for every team with a team wRC+ of exactly 104 over the last five seasons:

2022 Milwaukee Brewers

  • Number of above average starters (101+ wRC+): 8
  • Number of below average starters (< 101 wRC+): 4
  • Number of above average platoon players: 1
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 120: 1
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 110: 6

2019 Tampa Bay Rays

  • Number of above average starters (101+ wRC+): 7
  • Number of below average starters (< 101 wRC+): 4
  • Number of above average platoon players: 3
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 120: 4
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 110: 6

2019 Washington Nationals

  • Number of above average starters (101+ wRC+): 6
  • Number of below average starters (< 101 wRC+): 4
  • Number of above average platoon players: 1
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 120: 3
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 110: 4

2017 Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Number of above average starters (101+ wRC+): 7
  • Number of below average starters (< 101 wRC+): 5
  • Number of above average platoon players: 1
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 120: 5
  • Number of players with a wRC+ > 110: 6

So, here are some things we can take away from this group. In order for the Royals to have a shot at a top-10 offense in 2023, they must have…

  • 7 regular starters with a wRC+ of 101 or better
  • Another 2-3 platoon bats (<250 PA) with a 101 wRC+ or better
  • NO more than 4 regular starters with a wRC+ <101, probably best if it’s 3 or fewer…
  • At LEAST 2 regular starters with a wRC+ >120, but again, probably easier if it’s 3-4…
  • At LEAST 5 regular starters with a wRC+ >110

Let me be clear that this does NOT guarantee anything. 10 other teams could go nuclear, injuries happen, as does regression…it’s a good thought exercise though. Here are what some preseason projection systems have to say about the Royals chances to accomplish all of this:

2023 “Steamer” Projections:

  • Vinnie Pasquantino: 140 wRC+ (lol)
  • MJ Melendez: 118 wRC+
  • Tyler Gentry: 116 wRC+ (somehow funnier than Vinnie?)
  • Bobby Witt Jr.: 114 wRC+
  • Salvador Perez: 109 wRC+
  • Edward Olivares: 107
  • Nick Pratto: 107
  • Samad Taylor: 101
  • Michael Massey: 101
  • Drew Waters: 99
  • Kyle Isbel: 94
  • Hunter Dozier: 92
  • Nate Eaton: 90
  • Maikel Garcia: 89
  • Michael A. Taylor: 89
  • Nicky Lopez: 84
  • Adalberto Mondesi: 83

A few things…

#1: Tyler Gentry is not likely to jump from AA to MLB in one offseason and post a 116 wRC+…
#2: I know we all want Bobby Witt Jr. to be the next Julio Rodriguez, and he certainly CAN be, but his swing decisions have to improve for him to reach that ceiling.
#3: I love Kyle Isbel, and he’s fantastic defensively, but asking him to go from a 67 wRC+ to 94 in one year seems like it would require a lot to go right.

5 reasons that the Royals could wind up with a top-10 offense in 2023:

#1: MJ Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr. both take huge steps forward and approach that 120 wRC+ mark, giving the Royals (with Pasquantino) three hitters in that top echelon.

#2: Salvador Perez stays healthy, DHs a fair bit, and hits 30+ home runs again, getting him back around a 115 wRC+.

#3: Tyler Gentry arrives in the big leagues early in the seasons and really does hit well enough to be an above average hitter in the big leagues. I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to be around a 110 wRC+, but I think he’s capable of being average or a touch better pretty quickly.

#4: Drew Waters holds that league average projection and plays a LOT of center field.

#5: Michael Massey holds that league average projection and plays a LOT of second base.

I don’t think it’s crazy to think that any of those five things could happen. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that two of them could happen. It would be an outrageous success, and statistical anomaly, if all five of those things happened.

3 obstacles preventing a top-10 offense from forming:

#1: Hunter Dozier, Michael A. Taylor, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, Nate Eaton, and Kyle Isbel all figure to get a significant amount of playing time, and it’s not fair to expect any of them to be league average hitters over the course of 162 games at this point in their careers.

#2: Depth. The Royals have some DUDES at the top of their lineup. Somewhere between four and six flat out studs depending on how things shake out. If something happens to one of them, there’s not a lot of offensive support coming in behind them. The Royals, historically, have preferred athletes and defense. If something happens to Melendez, they are more than covered defensively. In fact, his replacement would probably be a defensive upgrade. It’s just going to be a massive fall off offensively.

#3: Normal regression to the mean. Vinnie Pasquantino was freaking incredible last year and his projections are off the charts. MJ Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr. hit well for most of the year and have a crazy amount of upside. Drew Waters was better than ANYONE could’ve imagined. Sophomore slumps happen. Regression happens. It’s fair to wonder if they can do it again over the course of three or four years, but it’s not fair to EXPECT them to repeat their exact performances from 2022 in 2023 again.

My Predictions:

#1: Vinnie Pasquantino builds on his 2022 campaign and solidifies himself as a top-25 hitter in baseball.

#2: Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez do improve from 2022, maybe reach their 2023 preseason projections, but don’t quite go superstar on us just yet. Both around a ~115 wRC+.

#3: Salvy stays healthy, hits 30 home runs, but floats in that 105 wRC+ range due to OBP issues.

#4: Drew Waters and Michael Massey both hold at league average, but neither play every day, meaning Michael A. Taylor and Nicky Lopez take ~600 PA away from the younger guys.

#5: Ultimately, between some natural regression and a general lack of depth, the Royals wind up with a team wRC+ right around 99 and look a bit like the 2022 Chicago Cubs offensively. Here’s what that lineup looked like, with some relative comps to the 2023 Royals lineup in parentheses:

  • Willson Contreras: 132 wRC+ (Vinnie P.)
  • Ian Happ: 120 wRC+ (Melendez)
  • Seiya Suzuki: 116 wRC+ (Witt Jr.)
  • Christopher Morel: 108 (Salvy)
  • Nico Hoerner: 106 (Olivares)
  • Patrick Wisdom: 104 (Massey)
  • PJ Higgins: 97 (Pratto)
  • Rafael Ortega: 96 (Waters)
  • Alfonso Rivas: 83 (Dozier)
  • Frank Schwindel: 78 (MAT)
  • Yan Gomes: 73 (Isbel)
  • Nick Madrigal: 70

So, anyway. I don’t know. I was just curious what an average top-10 offense looked like and whether or not the Royals could accomplish that feat this year. If you gave me a free $100 bet, I’d bet against it, settling somewhere between being ranked 14th-17th, but I CERTAINLY think it’s possible. It’s really not even that crazy if you squint at it. They’re just going to need a bit of good luck, to stay healthy, and have at least one, maybe two young guys step up and make a surprise impact (Gentry, Garcia, etc.).

6 thoughts on “Building a Top-10 Offense

  1. This is an interesting way to break it down. The thought of Vinnie being that good could not be more exciting. Yet at the same time, the thought of MAT in the lineup next year sends me into convulsions. Is he a part of the next winning Royals team? No! Well then no ABs for you, MAT.

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  2. I don’t think MAT is in spring training with the team, and Mondi won’t last until the break. Either Eaton and or Nicky get the lion’s share of 3rd, and Waters gets a whole season to see what he can do in CF. wRC+ is an interesting way to look at building a winning team but I think this team hits well enough to be competitive, it’s the pitching that’s the worry.

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  3. Pingback: Royals Rumblings – News for January 18, 2023 - Balance Sportscast

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