The KC Royals need to make immediate, wholesale changes to their outfield.
Before this season, Kansas City’s outfield had been questionable for several years. Alex Gordon’s glove remained superior, but his bat steadily declined after 2015 and he retired last September; no one staked their claim to center field following Lorenzo Cain’s departure after 2017; and Adalberto Mondesi’s injury-riddled 2021 has derailed the Royals’ dream of permanently moving Whit Merrifield to right, a position that’s been in flux for years.
For a time this season, though, some things seemed to be getting better in the KC outfield. Andrew Benintendi fulfilled the club’s expectations as Gordon’s replacement, and new center fielder Michael A. Taylor surprised with a good bat until it turned bad. Right field, though, remained a revolving door, with Jorge Soler playing there much too frequently.
Now, the outfield is again muddled. Benintendi is out indefinitely with a rib fracture, Taylor isn’t hitting, and right field really belongs to no one.
Stability is an immediate priority if the KC Royals want to keep their fading hopes of contention alive, but it requires an overhaul.
Since Kings of Kauffman’s Aidan Karpin recently and convincingly advocated for replacing Taylor with Edward Olivares, the case for doing so has grown stronger—Taylor is 2-for-14 (.142), and KC’s lost five straight, while Olivares is 8-for-21 (.380) with two home runs at Omaha, where’s he’s blistering Triple-A pitching with a .368/.436/.602 season line and eight homers. Olivares hit .261 for the Royals in three all-too-short visits this season, and .274 for them in 18 games last year, so he can handle a big league bat. He’s also a good defender.
The Kansas City brass, though, has a vested interest in playing Taylor—his one-year contract makes him a potential July trade target, so he should be seen. But because the Royals won’t get much for him anyway, the risk of playing him less is low.
That leaves left and right fields. Left is easy—simply give the job to proven veteran and versatile outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who’s an excellent defender still fast enough to cover all of left and left-center, and leave him there until Benintendi returns. The Royals need the speed and disruption he can bring to the base paths and his ability to bunt. And although he’s not hitting that much at the moment (.242), he can make a lot of things happen.
(Dyson and Olivares are interchangeable parts—Dyson could play center and Olivares left, which might be better considering Dyson’s speed).
And right field? The timeshare it’s become needs to end, and until Mondesi returns and frees up Merrifield for the position, Hunter Dozier may be the player to stop it. His offense (he’s slashing .155/.226/.324) is a problem, but he might benefit from settling into one position for awhile. Dozier in right also makes more sense than continuing to deploy Soler there: Dozier is better defensively and, presuming the KC Royals find a trade partner or they tire of his approach at the plate, Soler and his one-year contract are almost certain to be gone by the July 30 trade deadline.
And because the KC Royals gave Dozier a new $25 million contract before the season started, he’s going to play. It might as well be in right field until Mondesi returns and clears the way for Merrifield to leave second for right, and the Royals won’t search for a trade.