Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Yesterday, the Royals announced that they had acquired outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Padres, in exchange for left-handed pitcher Kyle Bartsch. Fuentes is a 23-year old who was a part of the massive trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston before the 2011 season, and who also happens to be a cousin of former Royals great Carlos Beltran.
As a left-handed batter, Fuentes has a .275/.346/.378 batting line in more than 2,500 career plate appearances in the minor leagues, and he also had a cup of coffee with the Padres in 2013, although those 36 plate appearances didn’t go very well (.152/.222/.152). In 2014, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A, combining to hit .294/.363/.416, with 5 home runs and 25 total extra-base hits in 372 plate appearances.
You can see from the numbers that Fuentes is not a power hitter. He’s never hit more than 6 home runs in a season, and his best isolated slugging percentage was just .122 this season. However, he does have some other offensive skills that appealed to the Royals. Fuentes stole 25 bases in 28 attempts in 2014, and for his career, he’s stolen 187 bases at an 80% success rate.
That speed is made even more valuable by Fuentes’ plate discipline. In the last two seasons he’s posted a cumulative walk rate of 10%, while striking out in just over 17% of his plate appearances. This means that Fuentes seems to have solid contact skills, and he can get on-base at a very respectable clip. He also tends to post above average BABIPs, likely a testament to his speed. Add all of that together, and you can see part of why the Royals would be interested.
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From what I’ve read, Fuentes grades out as a plus defender with great range, although his arm is not quite as flashy. But he takes good routes and can handle center field with ease. Obviously the Royals are set at that position right now, but quality outfield depth is always welcome, and Fuentes will certainly be an asset for Omaha until the big league club needs him.
In Bartsch, the Royals are losing a talented arm with high-leverage relief potential. He’s struck out more than a batter per inning since being drafted in 2013, while finishing 44 of the 62 games in which he’s appeared. While you don’t like to see capable pitchers leaving the organization, the Royals have proven they know how to build a bullpen, so this was an area in which they could surrender a bit of depth.
In other roster news, the Royals added Jorge Bonifacio and Orlando Calixte to their 40-man roster to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Bonifacio is ranked as the Royals’ 9th best prospect after a rough 2014 in which he hit just .230/.302/.309 for Northwest Arkansas. Calixte has fallen out of the top 10 rankings in the last couple of years, as he saw his OPS decline to .663 this summer.
While neither player performed as well as the organization hoped, they both still have enough talent that they were deemed worthy of protecting. Calixte has a great defensive reputation, and as a middle infielder, he does have a little bit of pop in his bat, shown by a breakout 2012 in which he hit 14 home runs and 52 extra-base hits. He’s regressed since then, but at 22 years old, the Royals clearly are not willing to give up on him.
Bonifacio entered 2014 as a top 100 prospect in baseball, but thanks to his struggles, it’s safe to assume he won’t be finding himself on those lists before next season. However, he just turned 21 earlier this year, and he’s shown good contact skills in the past, along with average defense in right field. Had he been left off of the roster, another team surely would have bet on his bat coming around, especially since jumping to the major leagues wouldn’t be an enormous stretch, considering he played for Triple-A Omaha in their playoff run.
All of these transactions leave the Royals’ 40-man roster with 2 empty spots. The team can also clear a few more spots by non-tendering some players prior to next month’s deadline. They may not need a ton of vacant space on the roster, but with so many free agent and trade targets floating around, it would be wise to maintain some flexibility, so the Royals will be able to add the players they need before they head to camp in February.