KC Royals: Predicting the 2022 Opening Day lineup

(Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports) /
4 of 9
KC Royals, Andrew Benintendi
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Batting fourth and playing left field for the KC Royals: Andrew Benintendi.

Some skeptics may not believe in Andrew Benintendi as Kansas City’s cleanup hitter and probably prefer Salvador Perez in that spot. They might be right.

But don’t sell Benintendi short.

Yes, he started slowly in 2021 after joining the Royals in an offseason three-way deal with the Red Sox and Mets—he hit only one home run in April and ended the month hitting .225. But when May turned to June, his average had jumped to .288 and he’d added three homers.

Benintendi then posted uninspiring numbers from June through August, batting just .228 with eight homers and 26 RBIs. The performance was disappointing, yet attributable at least in part to the rib fracture that forced him out of action for three weeks.

The Benintendi the Royals sought and traded for, and showed itself in May, fortunately reappeared again down the stretch. On the way to wrapping up his first Gold Glove, Benintendi slashed .342/.398/.570 with five homers and 29 RBIs in his last 31 games.

That Benintendi and the Royals are headed for arbitration shouldn’t affect the six-year veteran’s performance. But do his final 2021 stats—17 home runs, 73 RBIs and a .274/.347/.437 line, warrant batting him fourth? Time will tell, but don’t bet against it. After all, he hit .291 and five homers, and drove in 33 runs, in 49 games from that spot last year.