Grading the 2023 KC Royals: Speedster has good season

Here's a rookie who had a pretty nice year.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's offseason series analyzing the 2023 performances of various KC Royals players. Today, we focus on outfielder Dairon Blanco.

Back in the summer of 2019, when the Royals were struggling through what became a 103-loss season and, although he hadn't yet announced it, Ned Yost was managing his last big league campaign before retiring to his Georgia farm, Oakland found itself in the thick of a playoff race. The second-place A's trailed first-place Houston by only five games in the American League West in late July and, like most clubs with a legitimate shot at the postseason, were looking for help.

So they put in a call to Kansas City, the Royals answered, and the teams swung a trade deadline deal that sent Jake Diekman to Oakland and brought outfielder Dairon Blanco and pitcher Ismael Aquino to the Royals. Chances are good that neither new Royal rang a bell with KC fans.

Everyone around the Texas League, though, knew exactly who Blanco was. That was especially true in Midland, where he was hitting .276 with seven homers, 44 RBIs, and 27 steals in 78 games for Oakland's Double-A affiliate. (Swiping bases was something he did quite well — he'd stolen 22 in 24 attempts for High-A Stockton the year before).

The Royals didn't give fans a regular-season glimpse of Blanco until last season, when in late May they called him up for his big league debut. He went 2-for-7, including a single in his second at-bat, and stole a pair of bases in five games before they DFA'd him and then outrighted him back to Triple-A Omaha in early June.

But the Royals brought him back this June, and there was no DFA, and no return to the Storm Chasers. He played well enough to stick for the rest of the 2023 campaign.

Just how well, though, did he perform?

Dairon Blanco had a nice season for the KC Royals

The season he was having at Omaha — a .347 average, .444 OBP, and an eye-popping 47 steals in 49 games — made calling Blanco back easy. Not surprisingly, his bat cooled when he returned to the majors, but manager Matt Quatraro gave him a good look the rest of the way, and he hit a serviceable .258, homered three times, and stole 24 bases in 69 games.

And his glovework was good. Blanco handled 41 chances in right, 37 in left, and 24 in center without making an error.

What grade should Dairon Blanco receive for the 2023 season?

Blanco showed the Royals he can run, hit, and field in the big leagues. We'll give him a B+ for his first lengthy stay in the majors.

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