3 struggling KC Royals players who need to find their groove fast

Melissa Tamez-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals are winning early in the season, a forgotten feeling from the fanbase. This team is winning behind a dominant rotation, solid bullpen, and strong fielding. But, things are not all sunshine and rainbows at the plate. The Royals struggled to put runs on the board against the Chicago White Sox, only recording seven runs across three games. That was still good enough to win the series, but it is afar cry from the 10+ runs Kansas City posted in three of their previous five games.

The KC Royals have some work to do despite their strong start.

Just because the team is winning does not mean fans need to ignore their shortcomings. No MLB team has ever been perfect, but the closer ones are the winning ones hoisting trophies in October. If Kansas City wants to be one such team, they must be blunt and reasonable with themselves. If the Royals want to buck the losing-team tag they have carried since 2015, then these players stepping up will go a long way.

3B Maikel Garcia

How quickly things can change in a short season. Third baseman Maikel Garcia started the 2024 season with a towering home run in Kauffman Stadium, setting the tone and bar at a high level. He peaked on April 3, leaving Camden Yards with a .280/.296/.800 slash line and more home runs (3) than singles (1). Since then, not much has gone right for the 24-year-old Venezuelan.

In his last seven games, Garcia has only had two hits in 28 at-bats as the leadoff batter. That is hardly ideal, leaving Kansas City with a hole for the remaining eight batters to dig through. The frustrating part is that his batted-ball metrics are really good. His expected slugging, average exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard hit rate all rank better than the league's 70th percentile. But those batted balls are just not dropping, and the frustration is getting to Garcia.

The fact is, the 2015 Royals won with a black hole named Alcides Escobar in the leadoff spot. Then-manager Ned Yost couldn't explain the reasoning, but the results were clear. The team was winning with him at the top, and why fix a good thing? That made no baseball sense, and doing the same with Garcia now wouldn't either. The season is still young, but pockets of Royals fans already want a change in the leadoff spot. Only Garcia can prove them wrong and quiet the doubters.

CF Kyle Isbel

There are some positions in which MLB teams tolerate having less production at the plate in exchange for elite fielding. That is exactly how centerfielder Kyle Isbel's role feels right now. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Isbel has never been known for his batting prowess at the MLB level, and that is okay because of his Gold Glove-level defense. But so far this season, he seems like a black hole at the bottom of Kansas City's lineup. I expected him to take a step forward in his age-27 season, but that hasn't been the case. His 58 wRC+ is atrocious so far, and his lack of power doesn't compute with him walking at a career-low 2% rate.

Isbel is near the bottom in every Royals batting metric, but his expected stats aren't saving him either. His plate approach seems rushed, he is not making quality contact, and 15 total bases in 17 games is not acceptable. Unlike Garcia, there are several players that can supplant Isbel on the Royals 40-man roster. His roster spot is not in jeopardy right now, but Isbel's situation feels fluid so far in 2024.

C Freddy Fermin

Is any team's backup catcher a relatively low-impact position? Yes, it usually is. But following Salvador Perez's injury against the New York Mets, catcher Freddy Fermin came under some more scrutiny. All the attention, sudden opportunity, and expectations led to this conclusion: Fermin is not getting it done like he was last year.

Fermin came on strong in 2023, leading the team with a .281 batting average as a rookie. He played in 70 games as a reserve catcher, spelling Perez. He excelled in that role, riding the wave of his Venezuelan Winter League MVP campaign in the 2022–2023 season. Fermin's emergence was a small, moral victory in the terrible 2023 season.

But all of that good will was wiped away once the calendar turned. Baseball, or any sport really, is all about what a player has done lately. Fermin has 33 at-bats this season, producing just six hits and drawing one walk. His .418 OPS and .206 OBP are the worst among qualified Royals players, a far cry from his 2023 marks.

The Royals victory in 2024 does not rest on Fermin's bat. But it could limit the lineup choices for manager Matt Quatraro. Fermin behind the dish allows Perez to take days off or slide over to first base, a newfound spot for the veteran. If the struggles continue, Fermin's backup role could be up for grabs this summer.

More from Kings of Kauffman