I wanted to try something and run through new Royals as they join the club. Hopefully, this will be useful for giving you an idea of just what the Royals are getting themselves into. I’ll start off by discussing newly-acquired Royal Joaquin Arias.
Arias is a 26-year-old native of the Dominican Republic. He was originally signed by the Yankees in 2001, but was famously a part of the Alex Rodriguez trade that sent Arias and Alfonso Soriano to Texas in 2004. Interestingly enough, the Rangers selected Arias for that trade rather than Robinson Cano. Oh, what could have been. Two years later, Arias made his big league debut at the ripe age of 21. Then, in a somewhat notable move for you Jeff Francoeur lovers out there, Arias was sent to the Mets for Francoeur during the 2010 season. He was just placed on waivers by the Mets and the Royals jumped all over him, picking him up on Thursday. Arias hasn’t had a huge history of missing time for injuries, but he did miss all but 5 games in 2007 because of problems with his throwing shoulder.
Even though he was just picked up Thursday, the Royals brass are already pegging him as the future Willie Bloomquist. That’s disappointing to me because there are so many potential utility guys in Omaha (Lucas, Falu, etc.). Nonetheless, there’s not much we can do about that decision. So, the question to answer is this: is it a legitimate move?
Well, he’s played at first (5 games), second (70), shortstop (10), third (2), and left field (1) in his limited major league experience. In the minors, there’s been first (4 games), second (83), shortstop (665), and third (2). He seems to be a middle infielder primarily, and the Royals may again be mistaken about defensive prowess. He’s never had a positive UZR in the bigs, though it often hovers close to 0, and neither his range factor (4.45 in the minors at shortstop) nor range runs above average (RngR: -1.3 at shortstop and -1.0 at second) numbers are flattering. Still, those numbers are better than Bloomquist compiled over his career, so we’re on par with what the Royals said regarding his role. It’s worth saying that until we see him in person more often, we just won’t know what to think.
On the offensive side of the board, Arias presents a not-unreasonable line for a utility player. In the majors, he’s hit .274/.315/.362 (Bloomquist: .264/.317/.336). In the minors, he produced at a .285/.317/.378 clip. Arias has a lifetime .324 BABIP in the big league, so he’s been a little on the lucky side. He hits more grounders than fly balls (1.36 GB/FB) and strikes out far more than he walks (0.32 BB/K). He has hit no home runs in his major league career and 28 in 789 games in the minors. It’s clear from his sub-.100 ISO that he isn’t a power hitter, but that’s not why the Royals wanted him.
I just wanted to throw these in here to give you an idea of his plate discipline. This charts the location of the pitches Arias swung at and their type (in the majors):
And the pitches he takes:
Objectively, we can look at these and instantly see that, while Arias’ discipline is decent, he does have a couple weaknesses. Sliders down or down and outside, changes down, and fastballs in/up are the most common outside pitches that draw a swing from him. Really, this isn’t too bad. A great slider like the legendary Greinke slider of 2009 will baffle hitters, but it would be nice if Arias could specifically lay off those fastballs. He seems to take a ton of pitches in the zone, as shown by his 40.6% take percentage in the strike zone. Outside of the zone, Arias takes 63.9% of pitches he sees. This explains the low walk rate.
Some rates I want to make clear:
All of this just takes us right where we expected to be: another variety of Bloomquist. Arias hits at about average, but not for power. He gets on base, but not well. He fields, but not at a great level. Basically, the Royals just gained a younger Willie Bloomquist when they seem to have players with the same talent level in Omaha. Why they decided to make the move is not yet clear, but, as usual, it could be part of a greater plan to move some other guys. Only time will tell, but we can be sure that Arias will be the role player that I hope to see for less than 250 PAs this season. Knowing what we know about Yost and the Royals, it will likely be more.
Joaquin Arias, welcome to Kansas City. Now would be a great time to spark your career.
*Data from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Data and charts from Texas Leaguers.