KC Royals: Offensive Storylines for 2017
By Beau Eastes
Here’s the three most important offensive plotlines for the Royals heading into spring training.
For Kansas City to compete for one of the four American League playoff berths, the Royals must improve offensively from a year ago. Kansas City scored the third-fewest runs in the AL – only Tampa Bay and Oakland were worse – and was second-to last in team OPS (.712) and slugging percentage (.400). And of course, they enter 2017 without Kendrys Morales, their No. 5 hitter for most of last year who hit .263 with a team-high 30 home runs ad 93 RBIs.
That being said, the Royals can and should be better at the plate this year.
Mike Moustakas doesn’t miss a beat after missing most of last year
In 2015, Moustakas finally turned in a performance befitting the second overall pick of the 2007 draft. Hitting primarily from the No. 2 spot, Moustakas was a 4.0 bWAR player at the plate alone, hitting .284 with 22 home runs and 82 RBIs while recording a .817 OPS.
Cheslor Cuthbert, bless his heart, is not Mike Moustakas.
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The 23-year-old rookie filled in admirably after Moustakas blew out his knee less than a quarter into the 2016 season, but his slash line of .274/.318/.413 was a far cry from Moustakas’ breakout season line of .284/.348/.470 the year before.
With Moustakas back at third and likely in the No. 2 spot, the Royals should see an immediate upgrade from last year.
Gordon and Hosmer both return to form after off years
In addition to losing Moustakas last season, the Royals also saw regression from both Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer.
Gordon’s decline was obvious, Hosmer’s less so.
A career .269 hitter entering 2016, Gordon hit just .220 in 128 games last year and posted an on-base percentage of .312 and slugging percentage of just .380. He was statistically one of the worst left fielders in all of baseball, with most of his minuscule 0.8 bWAR coming from his glove.
If Gordon can get back to his career averages of .264/.345/.430 and 3.2 bWAR, it’d be a massive upgrade from the left fielder the Royals trotted out for 128 games last year.
Despite setting career highs in homers (25) and RBIs (104), Hosmer took a step back as well in 2016, in large part because of his steep increase in strikeouts. He struck out a career-high132 times last year, which equated to 19.8 percent of his plate appearences. That’s not only the worst swing-and-miss rate of his big league career, but the worst of his professional career in general outside of his first year of pro ball in 2009 with the Royals A and High A clubs.
The good news is Hosmer just turned 27 and is entering his contract year, both of which of are good signs.
Jorge Soler proves he’s an above-average hitter with power
Here’s hoping Jorge Soler is everything the Cubs thought he was when they signed him to a nine year, $30 million deal in 2012.
Compared to Andre Dawson and Vlad Guerrero, Soler has yet to make those comparisons stick. In 211 big league games over the past three years, Soler has slashed .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBIs. Not exactly numbers to drool at, but the young slugger never received consistent playing time. The Royals are hoping to see the guy that put up 15 home runs and a .340 average and 1.132 OPS in 62 minor league games in 2014. Or the guy that hit .474 with three homers in seven postseason games in 2015.
Next: Options for filling Ventura's spot in the rotation
Soler’s about to turn 25 and is being penciled in as the Royals’ starting right fielder. Ideally for Kansas City fans he becomes the next Yoenis Cespedes – and not the next Rusney Castillo.