KC Royals: Look who’s staking a solid 2022 roster claim

Welcome to the next installment of Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals player projection series for 2022. Up today is Edward Olivares, who’s making the most of his spring training appearances.

While the Chiefs stole Kansas City’s sports spotlight by trading star receiver Tyreek Hill Wednesday, outfielder Edward Olivares busied himself in Arizona making certain no one completely forgot the Royals.

And made his already noticeable blip on the Royals’ radar even bigger.

Olivares, who agonized Triple-A pitchers last season by hitting 15 homers with a .313 average, .397 OBP and .956 OPS in 67 games but couldn’t stick in eight separate call-ups to Kansas City, slammed two solo home runs in Wednesday’s contest against Colorado, including a sixth-inning shot that gave KC its fourth run, a mark the Rockies couldn’t exceed in the Royals’ 8-4 win.

Olivares’ 2-for-3, two-RBI day continued his torture of opposing pitchers since the delayed exhibition season started last week. He’s sizzling at the plate with a .700 average (7-for-10) and 2.300 OPS in four games, and has a double and triple to complement his pair of homers and four RBIs. He’s also stolen a base. That he’s staking a claim to a roster spot—so far—is clear.

The performance, which must of course be at least partially qualified by the traditional “It’s only spring training” disclaimer, isn’t surprising considering the display Olivares put on at Omaha last year. Olivares probably won’t sustain his current pace, but it’s an effort the Royals can’t ignore.

But will enough of it carry over into the regular season?

How Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project Edward Olivares’ Royals season.

Baseball Reference and FanGraphs apparently believe Olivares will return to Kansas City this season but won’t play regularly. Baseball Reference predicts he’ll hit 10 homers, drive in 31 runs and slash .242/.302/.402 in 283 plate appearances; FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) projects three home runs, 11 RBIs and a .258/.313/.423 line in 23 games.

How will Edward Olivares actually perform for the KC Royals in 2022?

No one will be surprised if Kansas City doesn’t keep Olivares on its roster all season. After all, the Royals bounced him back and forth between KC and Omaha eight times in 2021, which likely had much to do with his big league numbers (.238/.291/.406 and five home runs) paling in comparison to what he did at Omaha.

Unless they’re not as high on Olivares as they used to be, a possibility we examined late last season in this space, the Royals should try hanging onto Olivares this year. Knowing he isn’t just taking short trips to Kansas City can only help him—he could benefit from some stability. And a major league team needs at least one backup outfielder; two would be better considering the club’s plan to return Adalberto Mondesi to shortstop and move Whit Merrifield to right field—if injuries befall Mondesi again, Merrifield will be back in the infield and right will open up again.

Unless the Royals prefer and commit exclusively to Kyle Isbel, who’s also in the outfield picture, Olivares seems a good candidate to serve as a reserve outfielder, late-inning defensive replacement, bat off the bench and occasional pinch runner, especially if the club decides it’s better off with Ryan O’Hearn in Omaha than in Kansas City.

Expect a good performance from Olivares if he gets to stick around this year. Playing two or three times a week, 10 homers and a .260-.270 average aren’t out of the question. But if his big league time is limited to short stints again, he’ll be good in Triple-A but not so good in Kansas City.

Edward Olivares won’t hit .700 all spring. But if he performs well, he might stay in Kansas City this season.