The worst part about the free agent signings last off season was not the abysmal performance but the roadblocks to current Kansas City Royals.
I previously wrote about the Kansas City Royals signings of free agents the last couple of years have not produced at the plate and have certainly not returned any value in trades. The worst part, however, is the fact that younger players did not get as much experience in the big leagues as they should have.
Specifically the Billy Hamilton acquisition stunted the growth of Bubba Starling. Even though Starling did not explode at the plate, he easily matched Hamilton in defensive prowess and has decent speed as well. Hamilton’s OPS+ of 46 from his time with the Royals is worse than Bubba’s and Starling managed to record more outfield assists in fewer games.
Starling began to turn things around his last fifteen games producing an OPS that was 100 points higher than his overall .572 number for the season. With an additional 100 to 200 plate appearances it is not hard to imagine even better results when you consider his performances in 2018 at Northwest Arkansas and they way he blistered the ball at Omaha this season before the call up.
Nicky Lopez was blocked at the beginning of the year by the misguided signing of Chris Owings. A strikeout rate of 40.7% and an OPS+ of 10 that Owings contributed could have easily been replaced by a cardboard cutout of Buddy Biancalana.
While Lopez initially struggled mightily at the plate once he figured things out the ball started jumping off of his bat. He closed out the last 30 games with a .293/.320/.424 slash while driving in 14 runs, not to mention an OPS+ 49 points higher than Owings for the year.
Lopez was no slouch in the field either beating the league average at second base by 9 points and at shortstop by 22 points in limited action.
One request going into 2020 is that the Kansas City Royals invest more playing time in the future, or even potential future, so we have clear vision heading into 2021 of free agents to sign or trades to make. It is possible the answers to our questions will be in our own minor league system.