Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals Need a Center Fielder

I love the idea of Lorenzo Cainstarting center fielder.  Cain hits with occasional pop, runs the bags hard, and may be the best defensive outfielder in the game.  At his best, he’s a poor man’s Amos Otis.  Not bad.  Thing is, he’s rarely at his best.

Cain just can’t stay on the filed, and there is no reason to expect change.  After coming to grips with this fact, where are the Royals left?  Jarrod Dyson is a fine weapon off the bench, but would be exposed as an everyday starter.  Justin Maxwell doesn’t slug enough to justify any starting role, and is not an acceptable every day guy in center due to his defensive inadequacies,.  Nori Aoki is a fine right fielder, a below average center fielder, and only on a one year deal.  The Royals are looking very talent thin in the outfield now, and will be downright anorexic next season.

The Royals only have two outfielders among their top ten prospects.  Neither presents an upgrade over the collection of fourth outfielders now on the big league club.  Bubba Starling is still only in Hi-A Ball, and yet to put up anything resembling impressive numbers.  He may  “click”  in a couple of years, but that does nothing for the Royals this season or next.

Jorge Bonifacio, the other ranked outfielder, is in his second year of AA Ball.  He may be closer to making the bigs, but he’s shown nothing that suggests he’ll be a starting center fielder.  Right now, he is  a no power hitting guy with a low on base percentage.

This year, the Royals need Cain to play in more games than he misses, and pray the Dyson-Maxwell platoon goes well.  How’s that feel?  Long-term, the Royals need a new center fielder, preferably one that can hit the ball over the fence.

The Dodgers have two guys that can play center, with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  Not so long ago, the Pre-Magic Dodgers had Kemp as the face of the franchise.  He was one of the best players in the game in 2009 and 2011.  He got paid too.  Kemp is signed through 2019.  That would be a fourth outfielder for 8 years / $160M.  Only in Hollywood. He  saw just 290 at bats in 2013, and is now part of a crowded, and expensive outfield.  Kemp, now 29, is looking to prove he can still be an All-Star level player.  He needs to be moved.

The steady Ethier, 32, has a nice thing going as well.  He is signed through 2017 for  6 years / $95.9M.  Ethier’s career OPS of .828 is very strong, but he still seems horribly overpaid for what he provides.  That said, Ethier’s lighter contract and better health makes him an attractive keeper for LA.

Obviously, the Royals can’t trade for either of those contracts.  Would the Dodgers eat a large portion of one of these contracts for the right trade?  Even if that answer is yes, what do the Royals have that the Dodgers don’t?  No way Yordano Ventura or Salvador Perez can be dealt for Kemp.  The Dodgers have the unmovable contract that is Adrian Gonzalez at first base, so Hosmer is likely out.  The Dodgers may have the inventory the Royals need, but the Royals can’t likely deal with them.

This issue is not critical to this season right now.  This issue quickly becomes a very large priority if the team falls out of contention at any point this season.  Royals fans, pay close attention to center fielders around the league this season, and hope the Royals are as well.


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Tags: Kansas City Royals Lorenzo Cain Matt Kemp

  • jimfetterolf

    J’Rod’s career splits v righties:


    And he is a pretty good CF. Have you checked Omaha? Eibner is a CF, not sure of Fletcher, Orlando used to be. There was some talk of Eibner coming up but they chose Ciriaco instead.

    • Ed Connealy

      I was focusing on high ranked prospects..high upside. Good point though. That said, don’t think many see those cats in AAA as mlb answers for CF. Nothing there excites me. This could be a real problem soon.

      • jimfetterolf

        Eibner is moving up, former pitcher, Bubba-type tools, the switch got flipped and he’s hitting now. Quite a bit more advanced than Bonifacio at the moment. But agree it’s a problem, first thing I would do is extend Aoki ASAP. He’s doing what was expected, need him for at least two more years.

        • Ed Connealy

          Time to start tracking Eibner. Aoki is a great fit for the K, agree on inking him.

          • Jen Nevius

            Eibner is off to his best start ever. He has cooled down to .303 and seen his K’s mount over the last few days (16 total), but has on OBP of .395 and seven of his 20 hits are for extra bases. Plus he is a Gold Glove caliber outfielder.

          • jimfetterolf

            Jen, how is Eibner’s speed? I’ve heard he has an absolute gun for an arm. Any idea of the adjustments that he’s made with the stick?

          • Dave Hill

            Not sure about Eibner’s swing, but his speed was considered average based on scouting reports that I found.

          • Jen Nevius

            I had a chance to see him everyday in Wilmington 2 years ago and since he rarely got on base, I didn’t have a chance to really see his speed on the bases. But Frawley Stadium is huge and he showed great closing speed on balls in the gap.

            I didn’t notice major adjustments with his swing during spring training, but he just looks more comfortable and relaxed.

  • Ed Connealy

    Author typo…Ethier is 22, not 32

  • Brandon

    Ethier is 32 for the record

  • moretrouble

    You’ve posted a fine article today, Ed … and you’re right, one likes the “idea” of a healthy Cain patrolling CF for KC. The reality, of course, is far different. You’re also correct that Dyson is something of a fourth outfielder. And, neither Maxwell nor Aoki, despite the analysis of some commenters here, are capable of playing the superior defense needed for CF at Kauffman.

    • jimfetterolf

      Aoki’s defense was questioned at the time of the trade by those who watch these things. But he is a lead off hitter, so the defense is accepted.

  • unclejesse40

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the royals had Cain as their 4th OF’er! I completely agree that if you are going to play CF at the K you better be able to cover a lot of ground and be a defensive stud. The pitching staff that we have put together depends on it.

  • Blake Molina

    Besides the Dodgers OF’ers, what are some more viable options?