The Kansas City Royals finished the month of April with the second worst record in Major League Baseball. Only the Oakland A’s, who are actively tanking, had a worse record, just one game back of the Royals. Luckily for Kansas City the A’s come to town for a three-game set this weekend and then the third worst team in baseball, the Chicago White Sox, are in town for four games at the start of next week. Should be a real playoff atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium for the next week or so.
The team’s record isn’t the only thing that sucked in April. Bobby Witt Jr. currently has a worse wRC+ than Nicky Lopez. Michael Massey has been by far the worst regular hitter in baseball. MJ Melendez’ strikeout rate rivals that of his infamous 2019 performance in High-A. Kyle Isbel is almost completely unplayable on offense. Dylan Coleman was so bad they shipped him back to Omaha. Jordan Lyles, Zack Greinke, Ryan Yarbrough, and Brady Singer all have an ERA over 6.00. Kris Bubic, the lone bright spot on the pitching staff, had Tommy John Surgery. Seriously, the only bright spots on this team right now are Vinnie Pasquantino, Edward Olivares, Aroldis Chapman, Amir Garrett, and Josh Staumont.
I tweeted out a thread yesterday about some of the Royals hitters and whether I was worried about them long-term or not. For Melendez, I’m kind of just waiting to see him settle in. He’s making great contact when he does in fact make contact, but his approach is way out of whack right now. It needs a major adjustment, quickly, but I think it’s a legitimately easy fix. Just takes time.
For Bobby Witt Jr., I’m a little more concerned about how easy his fix will be. His swing is not great right now. He is getting absolutely abused by fastballs and his approach has never been his strong suit. Witt’s -6 Run Value is the second worst mark among all big league hitters according to Baseball Savant. Witt’s 5.6% BB% is the 36th worst mark of 205 qualified hitters so far. Witt showed some promise early on, and it is a 1000% correctable issue, I just don’t know how quickly he can make the adjustment. Swing plane corrections can take months of the offseason to correct. Asking Witt to fix his on the fly, in the middle of the season, would be a pretty tall order. Over the next few years, it’s not THAT concerning, yet…it’s just something that may suck for 2023.
I was going to dive into the Royals pitching issues but I’m not sure it’s worth it. They stink, man. I’ll get into process and why I’m high on Sweeney and Bove at a later date. For now, just understand that this is a talent issue. Not a coaching issue…I think. The good news, seriously, is that the Royals starters are 14th in Major League Baseball in innings pitched and I think that includes Taylor Clarke’s opener appearance. That is 90% of the battle for the 2023 season. Just eat innings so the younger guys don’t have to. We’ll reevaluate the arms themselves when they start getting younger. If…they start getting younger.
Minor League Players of the Month
- Freddy Fermin
- Fermin is currently hitting .304 with an organization leading 181 wRC+ in Omaha this season. He also has an org leading 1.22 BB/K ratio and is second to Logan Porter in ISO. He’s absolutely crushing baseballs right now and it might be time for the Royals to find him a spot in the big league lineup a couple of times a week. Get Melendez in the outfield and let him figure out how to fix his offensive issues for a while.
- Nick Wittgren
- Wittgren is BALLIN’ down in Omaha and his contract necessitates a big league call-up today. Wittgren has 12.2 IP for the Royals AAA affiliate this season with an ERA of 0.71. He’s got 13 K to just 3 BB and should be able to help out the big league bullpen starting tomorrow.
AA Northwest Arkansas
- Peyton Wilson
- I was really intrigued to see how the 23-year old second baseman would handle AA pitching this spring, and he has exceeded all expectations to this point. Wilson is currently slashing .351/.407/.468/.875 with a 133 wRC+ for the Naturals and has really played a great second base as well. The peripherals suggest some regression is on the way, so we’ll see how he handles the roller coaster of a MiLB season at the upper levels, but I’m encouraged at the start he’s had nonetheless.
- Anthony Veneziano
- He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Veneziano has a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings to begin the season with a K:BB ratio of 31:3. He’s attacking the strike zone like he never has and the results are reflecting that. I’m still not sure that he’s a starter in the big leagues, but I do think he’s made a jump that could allow him to pitch for Kansas City by the end of this season.
A+ Quad Cities
- Cayden Wallace
- Cayden Wallace is having the single most encouraging start of anyone on the farm in my opinion. He’s currently slashing .306/.414/.542/.955 for the River Bandits with a 0.72 BB/K and 170 wRC+. Perhaps the single most encouraging thing about his start is the fact that he’s increased his walk rate by 6% from Low-A last season. My biggest concern with Wallace during the draft last year was his approach, and he’s shown marked improvement in that regard to begin 2023. I cannot wait to see if he gets a bump to AA at some point this season.
- Luinder Avila
- I know I was kind of early on the Avila train, but even I didn’t expect him to make THIS kind of leap at High-A. The dude has been absolutely sensational. Avila has 17.1 IP for the River Bandits and has yet to give up a home run. His ERA sits at a tidy 1.56 and his FIP is an org leading 0.98. That’s the 4th best FIP in all of Minor League Baseball at the moment and BY FAR the best FIP among pitchers who are 21 or younger. I’m trying not to get too excited about Avila right now, because he has a ways to go, but I am floored by how he has started 2023.
- Brett Squires
- I’m not even going to try to lie to you all, I don’t know who Brett Squires is. He’s currently playing first base for the Fireflies and Baseball Reference says he played his college ball at Oklahoma. Signed as an UDFA in 2022. Did not appear professionally last season. However, he’s currently got a 147 wRC+ and has easily been the best hitter in that Fireflies lineup this spring.
- Frankie Mozzicato
- No lying necessary here. Mozzicato is absolutely shredding Low-A hitters right now and he is yet to turn 20 years old. His 1.42 ERA is second only to Nick Wittgren in the Royals system right now and his 16.11 K/9 (!!) is second only to Christian Chamberlain. Mozzicato was kind of a wildcard pick back in 2021, but it seems to be paying dividends here in 2023.