KC Royals: Key bats must wake up at two different levels
The KC Royals play their fourth game of the season this afternoon. Owing almost exclusively to fine pitching, they won their first two games against Cleveland, then lost 17-3 Sunday when that pitching collapsed. For what little it means this early in the season, their 2-1 record ties Chicago’s for best in the American League Central.
Omaha, Kansas City’s long-standing Triple-A affiliate, is off today after losing four of its six season-opening games at Indianapolis. The Storm Chasers’ 2-4 record puts them in a next-to-last-place tie in the International League West.
Despite the difference in their first week performances, however, the Royals and Chasers share an unfortunate fact.
Too many of their key hitters aren’t hitting.
Four KC Royals batters need to improve their performances at the plate.
So fresh are the memories of Salvador Perez’s 2021 season, one of the most spectacular campaigns in Kansas City baseball history, that it’s hard not to assume 2022 will bring more of the same. Perez enjoyed the best season of his career—he chased down Johnny Bench’s single-season record for home runs by a primary catcher and broke it with 48, a total that tied him for the major league lead and the Royals’ club record. Perez’s 121 RBIs were, bar none, the most in the big leagues, and his efforts at the plate earned him a team record fourth Silver Slugger.
But heading into today’s game, Kansas City’s seven-time All-Star is still searching for his first hit of the new campaign; in fact, he has yet to reach base. Perez’s 12 at-bats haven’t produced a thing, not a single, a walk, or even a sacrifice.
First baseman Carlos Santana, upon whose power and historic ability to get on base the Royals must rely until they inevitably move him, was, until he doubled in the ninth inning Sunday, also hitless, although he’s walked twice. He has no RBIs and is hitting .125.
Then there’s leadoff man Whit Merrifield, one of the club’s most reliable hitters. He’s 1-for-12 (.167) so far and hasn’t had a hit or been on base since singling in the third inning of the Royals’ first game. And he hasn’t driven in a run.
Like Merrifield, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi has only one hit (he’s 1-for-10), but unlike Merrifield has an RBI and a walk.
Also not hitting well is rookie Bobby Witt Jr., whose 2-for-12 start can be excused (so far) not only because he is a rookie, but also because one of his two hits—an eighth-inning Opening Day double—accounted for Kansas City’s winning run, and the other—another double—drove in two of the club’s three Sunday runs.
A trio of top KC Royals minor league prospects are slumping at Omaha.
It’s no secret that Kansas City holds in high esteem MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, and Vinnie Pasquantino. Not only does MLB Pipeline rank them as its second, third and fifth best Royals prospects respectively, but they each had eye-popping 2021 minor league seasons—Melendez led the minors with 41 homers, drove in 103 runs and hit .288 with a 1.011 OPS, Pratto had 36 homers, 98 RBIs, a .265 average and .385 OBP, and Pasquantino clubbed 24 home runs, drove in 84 runs, and batted .300 with a .394 OBP.
But despite excellent springs—Melendez hit .412, Pratto .333 and Pasquantino .391—a roster crunch and their needs for more seasoning meant each started this season at Omaha.
And other than Pratto’s three home runs and seven RBIs, the three haven’t made much noise. Pratto’s homers account for all but one of his four hits, his average is .167 and his OBP .200, he’s been held hitless in half of Omaha’s six games, and he’s struck out 10 times in 24 at-bats.
Melendez is 3-for-19 (.158) through Sunday. He has a homer and two RBIs.
Pasquantino hasn’t homered yet. He’s hitting .190 (4-for-21) and hasn’t homered; like Pratto, he’s hitless in three of six games.
The season is young, both in Kansas City and Omaha, but seven important players need to get on track. They almost certainly will, and the Royals and Storm Chasers will be more than happy when they do.
Several Royals and Storm Chasers need to wake up at the plate.