Grading the KC Royals: A good mark for Edward Olivares

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Edward Olivares faced an uncertain future when he came to the KC Royals as part of the 2020 trade deadline deal that sent closer Trevor Rosenthal to San Diego. The Royals immediately assigned Olivares, who’d already played 13 games with the Padres that shortened season, to its Alternate Training Site, where he worked alongside other club prospects.

What Kansas City had planned for Olivares wasn’t entirely clear. Adding him to an outfield picture muddled by the presence in the organization of Alex Gordon, who hadn’t yet announced his retirement, Bubba Starling, Whit Merrifield, Franchy Cordero, Nick Heath, Khalil Lee, and others, seemed a bit curious.

The Royals, though, mixed Olivares right into that crowd with an early September callup, and the .274 he hit in 17 games made him a candidate for the club’s 2021 Opening Day roster, especially after Gordon retired, Starling hit .170 in 35 games, Heath struggled to a 15-game .154 average, and the club traded Cordero to Boston and Lee to the Mets in the three-team pre-2021 deal that landed Andrew Benintendi in KC.

But instead of fitting in, Olivares spent the 2021 campaign making round trips between Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City—eight times the Royals recalled him, and eight times they sent him back to the Storm Chasers, where he finished the campaign with 15 homers and a .313/.397/.559 line.

Exactly why Kansas City didn’t give Olivares a sustained opportunity to crack its starting outfield remains unknown.

Would 2022 be different?

Despite adversity, KC Royals outfielder Edward Olivares was good this season.

Olivares’ spring training performance extinguished any notion he was better suited to start the season in Omaha than in Kansas City—he won a spot on the Royals’ Opening Day roster by going 17-for-34 with three homers, a .526 OBP and a 1.497 OPS in 13 Cactus League games.

He stayed hot, hitting .371 through early May, but a left quad strain forced him to the Injured List for 45 days beginning May 9. His bat cooled a bit when he got back, but he was still hitting .303 with a .358 OBP when he injured his right quad in late July and missed another 56 days.

Olivares returned Sept. 17, played 17 more times, and slashed .258/.292/.371 the rest of the way.

Through it all, including over 100 days on the Injured List, Olivares finished with a .286/.333/.410 line and 110 OPS+ in 53 games. He played every outfield position and made one error in 78 chances.

Time will tell where Olivares stands with the Royals, but it’s hard to believe they won’t give him a solid shot at right field next year.

And this season? Olivares fought through tough times and played well. Give him a B for 2022.

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Edward Olivares overcame injuries to have a good season for Kansas City.