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Ten Royals’ numbers to think about this offseason

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Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

These stats will keep you warm this winter. At least some of them.

Baseball is officially over. It was a fun postseason. The Royals did not participate. Because they were bad. The 2022 season was a long one and a bad one. So bad that John Sherman hit the big red button and fired Dayton Moore after nearly 20 years at the helm before overseeing the firings of manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred.

But it was a much more enjoyable bad season than 2018 and 2019 because nearly 50% of Kansas City’s position player fWAR came from rookies. Bobby Witt Jr. was a 2.3 fWAR player as a rookie, which might be underwhelming compared to a guy like Julio Rodriguez, but it is still a formidable rookie season. And we saw what his ceiling could be.

Now we wait. JJ Picollo, Moore’s replacement, recently suggested that it might not be the right time to invest in this team. For the first time in 16 years, it appears that Kansas City’s front office is acknowledging they might not be close to winning.

The front office and coaching staff will continue to be reshuffled. A manager needs to be hired. There are arguably more question marks this offseason than any offseason of this millennium. So as our minds are preoccupied with off-the-field decisions, here are 10 numbers to think about this offseason.

137 | Vinnie Pasquantino’s wRC+

Since 2015, 319 rookies have stepped into the box at least 250 times during their rookie season. Only 16 had a higher wRC+ than Vinnie’s 137. Some of those guys include Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, Fernando Tatis Jr, Shohei Ohtani, Julio Rodriguez, Juan Soto, Pete Alonso, and Ronald Acuna Jr.

Pretty good company.

Pasquantino was drafted to little acclaim, with Bobby Witt Jr. stealing his thunder. Baseball America didn’t have a scouting report for him on the books. In fact, I could hardly find any blurbs about him in draft coverage, other than the Royals Farm Report's updated 2019 prospects list that had him at #73.

Then he started playing and he hasn’t stopped hitting since. He obliterated the Appalachian League, obliterated High-A Central, obliterated Double-A Central, and obliterated the International League to the tune of a .951 OPS in 246 games. Then he was called up in June and just kept on hitting, walking more than he struck out (35 to 34) and finishing his rookie season with a .832 OPS, higher than Eric Hosmer’s .799, Billy Butler’s .794, and Carlos Beltran’s .791 marks.

4.7 | Bobby Witt Jr’s BB%

Meanwhile, the Royals rookie with all the hype struggled a bit more. Witt’s 99 wRC+ ranked 140 out of 319 rookies since 2015. While he finished with 20 homers and 30 stolen bases, along with a team-best fWAR, and saw his wRC+ get as high as 109, he struggled down the stretch with a 2nd half wRC+ of 89.

He finished the season with 57 extra-base hits. As far as I can tell, no Royals rookie has ever topped that number. But only a few times all season did his OBP get above .300. And when it did, it just barely did while his SLG% sat in the mid-to-high .400s for much of the season.

Much of that was thanks to a Salvador Perez-like walk rate of 4.7%. In fact, his OBP/SLG slash for much of the season had a distinct Salvy flavor. Witt was never going to be a high-walk guy. But for him to be a star, he has to get on base more.

We should remember that this season was just his second full professional season. His high chase rate and low walk rate are excusable for a guy who has nearly as many MLB plate appearances (632) as he does MiLB plate appearances (744). But we’re Royals fans. We’ve seen a lot of guys who are unable to command the strike zone and we know how difficult it is to do that and be valuable at the plate.

Exhibit A: 48 home runs in 2021 gave Salvy a higher OPS than Vinnie’s walk-rich 2022 OPS, but not by a lot (.859 v. .832).

98.1 | Nate Eaton’s Throwing Velocity

Aside from the time when Eaton got the heave-ho to make room for the vaunted bat of Hunter Dozier, his rookie season was a pleasant surprise. Another rookie with little acclaim, and boasting just a 35+ FV grade from Fangraphs, Eaton put together a league-average debut at the plate, notching a 101 wRC+.

But it was his arm that made a real impact. Eaton gave the Royals 2.0 arm runs above average, good for 30th in baseball, despite logging significantly fewer innings in the field (294.2) than those in front of him (655 on average, none lower than 298). That is thanks to a league-leading 98.1 average throw velocity. He also had 11 stolen bases and was thrown out just one time. His sprint speed ranked 18th in baseball. He’s a nice projectable bench piece that could flex into a starting role if everything goes right.

11 | Drew Waters’ BB%

When the Royals traded pick #35 for Waters and two other prospects, there was mixed feedback. I believe much of that feedback stemmed from an idea that Carrington Harrison of 610 radio spoke about for much of 2022. The idea was that former GM Dayton Moore had such a low approval rating among fans that anything he did would be hated.

I loved this trade. Not because I loved Waters, but because the volatility of pick #35 was far higher than the volatility of Waters because we have a good idea of what Waters is. With that said, I did not expect Waters to be as productive as he was, specifically in his plate discipline.

Waters is a classic Dayton Moore prototype player. Toolsy and raw. He runs fast, and has some pop, but has some chase problems. His 11% walk rate was the 20th-best mark in Royals rookie history and was nearly double the rate of his 2019 AA season.

131 | Salvador Perez’s wRC+ post-injury

Salvador Perez started 2022 slow, but it came to a screeching halt on May 17 when he left the first game of a doubleheader with a thumb injury. He was put on the 10-day disabled list and then rushed back on May 28.

He came back faster than expected and performed well despite not being fully healthy, slashing .218/.277/.471 during that span with an above-average wRC+. And then the wheels fell off when he re-aggravated a sprain that he was rushed back from, this time requiring surgery.

For the season, Salvy notched a 108 wRC+, a regression from the last two seasons. His OPS dropped by over 100 points. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. After returning from surgery, he came to the plate 237 times and logged a 131 wRC+. He hit 12 homers, a 34-home run pace across a full slate of games.

4.8 | Kyle Isbel’s Feet vs. Avg Jumps in the Outfield

Kyle Isbel was the surprise of 2021 when he broke Spring Training as the Royals’ starting right fielder. He put together a moderate 108 wRC+ in just 28 games, being relegated to Omaha somewhat quickly.

2022 didn’t go as well. A .385 BABIP plummeted to .275 and he logged a 67 wRC+ in nearly 300 plate appearances. He did, however, prove his value by being a tremendous defender. No outfielder got better jumps in 2022 than Isbel. No outfielder had a better burst. Isbel’s bat may never stick, but he can defend.

12.5 | Zack Greinke’s K%

Zack Greinke returning to Kansas City was Dayton Moore’s last good decision. He brought a combination of nostalgia and savvy, the first serving the fans and the second serving a bunch of struggling young arms. He was also productive, taking advantage of spacious outfields and good defenders to the tune of a 3.68 ERA compared to a 4.78 xERA.

He has all but emptied himself of swings and misses, striking out just 12.5% of batters. That ranks 140th out of 140 pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. This Zack Greinke’s stuff looks more like a D-II pitcher than his 2009 self, but he still gets guys out. Maybe he can give one more curtain call in 2023.

47.7 | Daniel Lynch’s HardHit%

Entering 2021, Daniel Lynch was the Royals’ #2 overall prospect according to Baseball America and #25 overall. He had a 70-grade fastball, a 60-grade slider, a 55-grade changeup, and a 50-grade curveball. In other words, “potent stuff”, as BA described it.

Two years into his career, he can’t miss bats. In fact, he is hitting bats harder than any pitcher in baseball. Among the 140 pitchers that logged at least 100 innings, none of them had a higher HardHit% than Lynch’s 47.7%. His struggles, along with several other top pitching prospects, were a key factor in the Royals cleaning house at the end of the 2022 season.

5.6 | Brady Singer’s BB%

In stark contrast to Lynch’s underperformance is Brady Singer’s overperformance. The Royals walked batters at a higher rate than every team but the Reds. Three of the top 30 pitchers in baseball according to BB% were Kansas City arms. Singer, meanwhile, was in the bottom 40. Only noted strike thrower Zack Greinke walked fewer batters for the Royals, by just 1%.

He entered 2022 with a career BB% of 8.9%. He cut that mark nearly in half, while increasing his K%. That’s a pretty good formula for success!

3 | Significant Royals people fired so far

Dayton Moore, Mike Matheny, and Cal Eldred are no longer employed by Kansas City. Matt Quatraro, a Tampa Bay and Cleveland product, is in at manager. Yes, the Royals gave Ryan O’Hearn another contract. But things seem to be changing.

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