Breaking out, bouncing back and breaking down: 2 KC Royals who fit each category

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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Breakout candidates

Dairon Blanco

Cite his age all you want, but outfielder Dairon Blanco still had a better 2023 than many expected. His 108 wRC+ tied with catcher Freddy Fermin for the third-best in Kansas City, while his 24 stolen bases ranked second behind shortstop Bobby Witt. Blanco filled in all over the outfield while being a valuable pinch runner. By all accounts, he was a solid player on an unspectacular team. But fans chose to overlook his production simply because he was a 30-year-old rookie.

Can the Royals really be picky about who actually produces on gameday?

FanGraphs' Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections slot Blanco for another solid year, thanks to his defense and speed on the basepaths. It is hard to ignore the fact that Kansas City lacks another speedster outside of Witt. Blanco will be a terror on the basepaths in 2024, while his plate approach increases his chances of doing so. He is far from perfect, but with Blanco having more opportunities in 2024, he will shock the fanbase by being a top-three outfielder in Kansas City.

John McMillon

My bullish outlook is unwavering on the Royals' #25 prospect, according to Reliever John McMillon had a meteoric rise through the minor leagues this year after joining Kansas City as an undrafted free agent in 2020.

He pitched only four innings for Kansas City this past season but with stellar results. After allowing a solo home run in his debut, he struck out eight batters in four appearances with no hits, walks, or runs. It was easy to miss McMillon's ten days in the MLB, but watching his appearances come back offers hope.

A right forearm strain ended McMillon's debut season early, but he looked like he belonged every minute he was on the mound. Kansas City added bullpen veterans this offseason but will still rely heavily on the younger relievers in the system. McMillon has the makings of a back-end reliever, thanks to his slider and triple-digit fastball.