2018 Royals Season Preview – Paulo Orlando

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26: Paulo Orlando
SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26: Paulo Orlando /

Paulo Orlando became a fan favorite with his performance in 2015, blazing around the basepaths and hitting six triples in just 86 games. The following season, he hit even better and left a glimmer of hope that he’d be able to contribute in 2017. Unfortunately, a fractured shin limited his ability to do so. What’s in store for Orlando this year?

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Jorge Soler, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. Soler is looking to contribute either in the outfield or at the DH position this season. A player many anticipated would anchor an outfield spot last season was Paulo Orlando. Bursting on the scene as a 29-year-old rookie in 2015, Orlando stole the hearts of many Royals fans with his triple-hitting prowess and blazing speed.  Batting .249 on the season, Orlando set the bar at a reasonable level for 2016. He surpassed it, at least in some aspects.

Batting .302 with five home runs and 43 RBIs in 128 games two seasons ago, Orlando’s batting average was not an accurate indicator of his overall play. Orlando had 484 plate appearances in 2016, walking just13 times. His 2.7% walk rate was amongst the worst in the entire MLB. Although he provided very good defense in the outfield, Orlando’s on-base percentage was very dependent upon his batting average alone in 2016. It didn’t get any better the following year.

What did he offer last season?

In 14 MLB games in the first month of the season, Orlando hit .149 and drove in two runs. That’s it. He was subsequently demoted to AAA Omaha and fractured his shin on May 12. Orlando returned in July, this time to the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals for a rehab assignment. In 12 games with the team, Orlando hit .341 with an on-base percentage of .426. He would spend the next few weeks back in AAA. Orlando played in 30 total games in Omaha, hitting .293 and clubbing a pair of home runs.

Orlando was granted a September call-up and played in 25 games throughout the final month of the campaign. His numbers improved a bit in his second go-round with the club, hitting .256 with two home runs. In all, Orlando walked just one time in 90 plate appearances last season, good for a walk rate of 1.1%. It’s widely-known that Orlando possesses some of the worst plate discipline in the MLB, but walking on just over one percent of his plate appearances was nothing short of unacceptable. Orlando has got to take more walks in order to be successful.

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer isn’t banking on Orlando holding down an outfield spot nor playing well in 2018:

  • 91 games played (up from 39)
  • Slash line of .263/.300/.377 (up from .198/.225/.302)
  • Walk rate of 4.1% (up from 1.1%)
  • 6 home runs (down from two)
  • 35 RBIs (up from six)
  • Baseball-Reference projects two triples this season (included just for fun)

91 games is a questionable projection. MLB.com’s Royals reporter Jeffrey Flanagan had Orlando penciled in at center field this season when he published his projected starting lineup in January. He referred to Orlando as “a speedy No. 2 hitter who can slash to all fields.” In the same article, he also noted, “Orlando took a nosedive in 2017 after a quality ’16 season.” Both are true statements.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I believe Orlando will be the almost-full-time center fielder for the Royals in 2018. With that said, I don’t expect him to experience anything close to the level of success he had in 2016. I’ll take under on batting average and on-base percentage, but a tad over on slugging percentage. Over on slugging percentage because I’m taking the even on home runs and over on the Baseball-Reference projection of two triples. Under on BA and OBP because Orlando’s walk rate won’t sniff 4.1%, although it’d be nice to see some progression/selectivity at the plate. Flanagan has Orlando batting second in the lineup, so I’ll take slightly over 35 RBIs. Whit Merrifield should be on base more often than others, so he could help Orlando snag a few extra RBIs.

The verdict

Paulo Orlando is a good fourth outfielder to have on the team. He can excel there. He’s got a very good glove, great speed (for now) and can get on base when needed. As a full-time player, though, his weaknesses get exposed. Orlando strikes out at a level a bit above league average and simply refuses to take walks. He relies solely on his bat at the plate, which is dangerous. If he is the starting center fielder (or any other outfield spot) for the Royals this season, he could struggle. The Royals may be asking for a bit too much out of their Brazilian outfielder in 2018.

What do you think, Royals fans? Does Paulo Orlando have another decent year in him? Was he a flash in the pan? Can he stay healthy? Let us know what you have to say!