Jorge Bonifacio Could Be the Right Fielder of the Future
By David Hill
Right field has been a revolving door for the Kansas City Royals over the past few years. The adventures of Jeff Francoeur not withstanding, the Royals have cycled through David Lough, Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain, Jose Guillen, Jai Miller and a host of others since 2010. For as much as second base has earned a reputation for being a black hole, right field may not be far behind.
This year, right field will theoretically be filled by Alex Rios. However, Rios is on a one year deal, albeit with a mutual option for 2016, but he is obviously not the long term answer in right. Therefore, the revolving door will likely continue for another year or two. Yet, that may not be the case for long, with Jorge Bonifacio being close to making his presence felt at the major league level.
A quick look at his 2014 statistics would not appear to be promising. For the season, Bonifacio produced a .230/.302/.309 batting line, hitting four home runs and 20 doubles for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. While Bonifacio walked 50 times, he also struck out in 127 of his 566 plate appearances. Just based ont eh raw statistics, it would not seem likely that Bonifacio would be the answer.
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Yet, delving deeper into Jorge Bonifacio’s numbers, it appears as though his batting line is not as bad as it would appear. Bonifacio hit the ball fairly hard, with a 20.3% line drive rate, slightly above the 18.2% average of the Texas League. The strikeout rate of 22.4% was a bit higher than average, but Bonifacio did offset that with a higher than average walk rate at 8.8%. It may well be that his strikeout issues were more due to being overly selective at the plate instead of being overmatched.
Likewise, his raw batting numbers may not be everything that they would seem to be. While Bonifacio hit the ball well, he only had a .295 batting average on balls in play, slightly below the league average of .302. A bit more luck with the batted ball, and an attacking approach at the plate, may have those numbers turn around rapidly.
Jorge Bonifacio likely will return to Northwest Arkansas to begin the 2015 season, but if his numbers turn around, he could be in Omaha by the middle of the year. If that happens, it may not be a surprise to see Bonifacio make his debut as a September callup in 2016. Of course, this is entirely contingent on seeing those numbers trend in a positive direction.
The Royals need a long term answer in right. If everything goes well next season, Jorge Bonifacio could be on the cusp of being just that.