Kansas City Royals: Predicting the Spring Training stat leaders

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 14: Alcides Escobar
KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 14: Alcides Escobar /

With Kansas City Royals spring games beginning Saturday, the anticipation is mounting. Last year, the club finished with the fourth-best record in the Cactus League at 17-15. Who will lead the team in each category this spring? 

To build off the last post published, we’re going to take a trip back in time to help build some context for the present. Instead of looking at the 2015 World Series team, the 2017 spring training team is our subject. 2017’s spring training saw the Royals finish with a record of 17-15, just behind the Giants, Mariners and Angels. With some major players departing this offseason, it’s difficult to get a read on how well the team will play in the regular season. That doesn’t mean we can’t think about the spring, though.

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Spring training is a whole different ballgame, literally. The players who receive in-game reps over the next month may not see major-league action again this year. Having a great spring isn’t always an indicator of how your season will go (paging Hunter Dozier and Raúl Mondesí). With that said, it’s time to take a look at who led the team in a few major stat categories and predict who’ll do so in 2018’s spring training.

Batting Average: Whit Merrifield

2017 ST Leader: Brayan Peña (.469)

Chase Vallot technically led the team in BA, but only played in two games (Peña played in 20). Regardless, the holder of the best average in the spring will be passed down to Merrifield. He hit just .262 last spring but is hands down one of the most consistent hitters on the team. I’m not counting on Dozier, Mondesí or Jorge Bonifacio replicating their performances from a year ago, but I do expect Merrifield to start off his year on a good note.

Home Runs: Jorge Soler

2017 ST Leader: Peter O’Brien (7)

Soler’s 2017 did not go how he wanted it to. Instead of carving out a role with the Royals, he spent the majority of his season either injured or in the minor leagues. With that said, rumor has it his offseason was insane and with a new mindset, Soler is ready to make the leap to becoming an everyday player in 2018. Perhaps he can tap into his immense power potential that has always been touted as his most impressive skill. What better place to do so than spring training?

RBI: Jorge Bonifacio 

2017 ST Leader: O’Brien (14)

Bonifacio’s 2017 spring training stats were very impressive. The Dominican outfielder hit .414 in 16 games, adding a trio of home runs and seven RBIs as well. He’s in line for increased playing time this spring and as a result of that, more RBIs should be in the cards. It’s possible he also challenges for the HR title. Keep an eye on Bonifacio when the month of March rolls around.

ERA: Kelvin Herrera 

2017 ST Leader: Mike Minor (.064 in 14 innings)

Despite the high expectations surrounding him, Kelvin Herrera had a rough 2017 season. His spring was still solid, though. Appearing in 10 games, Herrera’s ERA was 2.70. With four of the nine arms ahead of him from last spring no longer with the team, Herrera’s chance at finishing spring training with the lowest ERA on the team is even higher. Throw in the fact that he’s looking to quiet his doubters in a contract year and you’ve got plenty of reason to expect Herrera to have a great spring.

K: Ian Kennedy

2017 ST Leader: Nathan Karns (30 in 23 innings)

This one is a toss up. It’s so difficult to predict how much playing time each player will get in spring training, so any of the pitchers on the roster could lead the team in strikeouts. Karns could end up doing it again, for all we know. Ian Kennedy did finish second to Karns a year ago with 22 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. There are not many leading candidates for this one, but Kennedy could be primed for another great spring after such a rough 2017 regular season.

Closing remarks

This spring training is a special one for the Royals. Not only will the team get a look at some of the young talent the farm system has to offer, but there are plenty of veterans looking to rebound in 2018. With the club heading in the opposite direction it was in the past few years, this next month is huge for every invite. Despite the reasoning behind these predictions, there very well could be another Peter O’Brien waiting to make his mark in spring training. We never truly know until we watch these men take the field.

Next: Will Ned Yost return after 2018?

What do you think, Royals fans? Will an unexpected player emerge from the fog and have a huge spring? Let us know what you have to say!