KC Royals Getting More Than Expected From Paulo Orlando
The Royals are getting more than they ever expected from second-year outfielder Paulo Orlando. A guy they considered a career fourth outfielder has excelled in the starting lineup.
Paulo Orlando wasn’t supposed to become a starter for the Kansas City Royals. Heck, he didn’t break into the big leagues until he was 29-years-old. No one thinks a 29-year-old rookie will develop into an everyday player.
Paulo Orlando is fast. He can play all three outfield positions. He can steal a base and has great range. But, no one expected him to swing a stiff enough stick to play every day.
So much for expectations. In 476 plate appearances and 125 games in 2016, Paulo Orlando has slashed .307/.335/410 with 23 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs, and 14 stolen bases. While his runs created remains slightly below average (98 wRC+), it’s good enough for him to have accumulated a solid 1.9 fWAR in 2016. Baseball-Reference rates him even better, considering him worth 2.6 bWAR.
That’s pretty good when you understand that an average position player puts up around 2.0 WAR per season.
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Can Orlando Win A Staring Job In 2017?
Now, the question becomes whether Orlando can repeat his 2016 performance. Orlando’s unusually high .384 Batting Average Balls In Play causes the biggest question about his ability to sustain his production going forward. However, even when Fangraphs.com strips away the “luck”, he still has been worth 1.9 fWAR.
The best KC Royals career that resembles Paulo Orlando’s late start is Raul Ibanez. While Ibanez lost his rookie status at age 27 with Seattle, he didn’t get 500 plate appearances in a season until age 30 with Kansas City in 2002. He was a part time player with the KC Royals in 2001, accumulating 312 plate appearances in 104 games.
Ibanez went on to produce 18.4 bWAR over the next 12 seasons.
Orlando doesn’t have anywhere close to the pop that Ibanez possessed. Ibanez spanked 24 dingers with an .883 OPS in his breakthrough age-30 season. However, Ibanez lacked Orlando’s defensive prowess and speed on the basepaths. Despite hitting .138 OPS points less than Ibanez in 2002, Orlando’s 2.6 bWAR easily outstrips Ibanez’s 1.5 bWAR in a similar amount of playing time.
Orlando achieved much of his value with defense and base-running. Further, 2001 was right in the middle of the steroid era run scoring bonanza. Thus, the average hitter of Ibanez’s day put up much bigger numbers than in 2016. However, defense peaks earlier than offense. Orlando is unlikely to enjoy Ibanez’s longevity unless he can develop power.
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However, Orlando now has a chance to hold down an outfield job for the next couple of seasons. He is unlikely to ever land a large free-agent contract since he won’t be eligible until 2022. But, he might last long enough to earn some well-paid arbitration years.