2018 Royals Season Preview – Jorge Bonifacio

DETROIT, MI - July 24: Jorge Bonifacio
DETROIT, MI - July 24: Jorge Bonifacio /

Jorge Bonifacio has lived in the shadow of his older brother and former Royal, Emilio, for his entire life. Last season, the younger Bonifacio made his debut in an April contest against the Texas Rangers and never looked back. After an offseason of rest (hopeful) improvement, can he become a full-time player for the Royals in 2018?

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Paulo Orlando, 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. Orlando spent a lot of last season injured and was never able to create any momentum when healthy. Although Orlando’s injury was unfortunate, it may have been a blessing in disguise for Jorge Bonifacio. After hitting .277 with 19 home runs and 86 RBIs in AAA Omaha two seasons ago, many thought Bonifacio was ready for the MLB. He got his chance to prove so early in 2017.

What did he offer last season?

Bonifacio made his debut on April 21 in Texas against the Rangers, going 0/3 in the process. It wasn’t the start he wanted, but it certainly wasn’t any indication of what was to come. In the first half of the season, Bonifacio hit .250 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs. Despite seeing his playing time cut a bit in the second half, Bonifacio still managed to hit .263 and added another six home runs. His final stat line for the season was .255/.320/.432 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs. Bonifacio was good for 0.9 offensive WAR (wins above replacement), which was definitely a positive sign for the then-rookie. His defensive struggles were well-documented but overall, it was a promising rookie season for the right-handed outfielder. He struck out a bit more than an ideal figure, but also walked at an acceptable rate and offered good power.

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer isn’t projecting a “sophomore slump” per se, but an ever-so-slight drop off in 2018:

  • 128 games played (up from 113)
  • .250/.313/.417 slash line (down from (.255/.320/.432)
  • 17 home runs (same as 17)
  • 58 RBIs (up from 40)
  • 25.3% K rate (down from 28.0%)

Pretty close to last year’s stats, minus the RBIs. Jeffrey Flanagan has Bonifacio slated to start in right field this season, with his competition (Jorge Soler) spending time at DH. I can see that. If Soler does see time in right field, it’s possible Bonifacio would be the DH on some of those days. I’ll take a bit over 128 games played. Bonifacio’s batting average improved in the second half of last season, so I fully expect him to become a bit more comfortable with facing major-league pitching. I’ll take slightly over on his entire slash line. With increased playing time, Bonifacio hitting a few more home runs than last season is also a possibility. I’ll take a couple over 17 home runs, and the same with RBIs. Even on the strikeout rate.

The verdict

Jorge Bonifacio was solid in 2017. Although it was difficult to watch him in the outfield, his monster home runs relieved a lot of the pain. If his defense and plate discipline both improve in 2018, we could be looking at a starting outfielder for years to come. If the sophomore slump does rear its ugly head, next year’s preview will feature many more negatives than positives. Nonetheless, a full season of playing time and less pressure should help Bonifacio contribute at an even higher level this season.

What do you think, Royals fans? Will Jorge Bonifacio experience a sophomore slump? Can he improve over his solid rookie season? Let us know what you have to say!