The KC Royals had a rotating outfield for most of the 2020 season with a couple of standouts, a KC legend, and the beginning of the future in the outfield.
Our Kings of Kauffman writers have reviewed the 2020 season and graded the KC Royals. In this third installment of a series covering each position group, Trey Donovan assigns grades to the club’s outfielders.
Whit Merrifield: A
As per usual, Whit was again really good even with a cold streak in the middle of the season where he went 2-for-32 in a week’s worth of games, but outside of that, he was the same old Whit. The biggest thing that came from Whit this season was the fact that he found his power swing as he had nine home runs which is on pace for 24 home runs in 162 games. While there was a slight dip in OBP and slugging, they are very similar to his 2018 season, he was still the best bat on the KC Royals this season.
Brett Phillips: C
I loved Brett Phillips’ play this season and it looked like he was starting to turn the corner, but was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Lucius Fox. Phillips’ batting stats were not the greatest as they were still below league average at .196/.305/.392 with an OBP of .697, but the big improvement for him was he got on-base more often by .06 points better than last year and struck out less.
Another thing Phillips did very well at is fielding as always since that was one of his calling cards. For me, I hoped that Brett would get a better chance this year to prove he can be better at hitting, but it just was not in the cards for him with the KC Royals and I hope he can reach his potential with the Rays.
Edward Olivares: B-
The KC Royals found a stud in Olivares when they traded Trevor Rosenthal. In his first seven games as a Royal, he was on fire with a slash line of .386/.386/.679 which was the best stretch for him this year. After that he cooled off and finished the season with a .274/.292/.419 with an OPS of .711. The reason he does not have a higher B grade is solely because of his OBP of .292, but outside of that Olivares has positioned himself to be a big part of the KC Royals outfield for years.
Bubba Starling: F
To say the least, Bubba Starling was terrible this year. It was apparent from the first series of the year against the Indians that he was not going to progress like everyone wanted him to. To make things worse, he had a worse year compared to last year, seeing major drops in batting average, slugging, and K%. Injuries may have caused this as he was on the IL twice this year, but he was by far the worst outfielder for the KC Royals this season. With that, the Royals need to DFA him as the youth revolution is right around the corner.
The Royals acquired Franchy Cordero a week and a half before the season started and in his time, albeit short, he was productive. Even in only 16 games played, Franchy played well enough to get a chance next year at an outfield spot with a .211/.286/.447 slash line and an OPS of .733. Franchy also hit for a lot of power as his ISO was .231, which is above average in the league. If he hadn’t broken his hamate bone, we would have seen if he could continue to progress, but as I stated he should get a chance next season.
Jorge Soler: C
This season was not one you would expect for Soler as he regressed from a stellar 2019 season in which he was the American League home run leader and an elite bat in the Royals’ lineup. This season was different, though, as Soler had slight trouble getting on base compared to last year and his slugging was lower by a point. The biggest problem for Soler was that he struck out more and that led him to struggle as it seemed at some points he could not see the ball correctly.
I will let this season pass for him, though, as we have seen how great he can be and I believe this year was a fluke year. Although he only played eight games in the outfield, I graded him here because we did not have a DH category.
Alex Gordon: D
It is very sad to see a player I have watched since I started watching the Royals, back around 2008 or 2009 when David DeJesus was one of my favorites, and watching him forge a legacy worthy of being forever Royal, retire. Alex Gordon’s season, as most of his recent ones after the 2015 World Series run, minus the 2019 season, was pretty bad. Gordo only hit .209/.299/.307 which is a steep regression from his 2019 form.
As always, though, Gordo was an elite defender and added four outfield assists which led to 102 career outfield assists. Even though Gordo is far from the player he once was, he will forever have a place in all KC Royals’ hearts; whether it was the clutch hits or his work off the field, Alex Gordon is, and always will be, a KC Royals legend.
That’s it for the Kansas City outfielders. Next up: the catchers.