How a new KC Royals addition could be one of the club's best

Hunter Renfroe might be a big plus.
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals have high expectations for 2024 despite having one of the franchise's worst seasons in 2023 when the offense was a poignant weakness. Could the acquisition of free agent outfielder Hunter Renfroe help change that shortcoming?

Renfroe has been an impact slugger throughout his career. His five-year streak of hitting at least 26 home runs in full 162-game seasons ended last yea; he still hit 20, but slashed only .233/.297/.416. The Royals are betting he finds his peak form to solidify the lineup; only Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez have reached the 20-home run mark for the Royals over the past two seasons. If Renfroe joins them, the club could be on its way to an unexpectedly good campaign.

Kansas City's offense was poor in most metrics last year, not least of which was tying for 26th-worst in the majors in homers. Renfroe might not be a household name to some Kansa City fans, but if the Royals are going to put together a successful underdog story, Renfroe's power must be a pivotal part of the puzzle.

How will he do?

How FanGraphs projects Hunter Renfroe's 2024 Kansas City season

FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) isn't optimistic that Renfroe will bounce back. The site predicts he'll slash .248/.309/.437 with 16 home runs and 48 RBI in 96 games.

What fans should expect from Hunter Renfroe this year

Renfroe's projections may be dampened by a decrease in playing time and potential decline in ability, but his performance last year still suggests Royals fans should get excited about their new outfielder. His zone awareness and strikeout tendencies have remained steady for several seasons. His bat-to-ball skills remained steady, which is how he routinely provided offensive value despite never being a true on-base threat.

The counterpoint is that his power and exit velocity numbers deteriorated in essentially one season. Most notably, and according to Baseball Savant, his 10.9% barrel rate in 2022 dropped to 6.1% last season. He hit the ball on the ground more than ever, and his batting average against fastballs slid from .303 in 2022 to .265 in 2023. His performance against the heater will be something to follow as the season unfolds.

A revitalized Renfroe can contribute, as he has during his career. If his subpar 2023 output was just an outlier, fans will appreciate his role in the club. Renfroe himself expects a memorable season in his first as a Royal: as he told Associated Press writer Dave Skretta at AP, "The talent they've brought through the minor leagues and who they have in the major leagues right now is pretty spectacular ... and the guys they added this offseason made it a no-brainer for me. The way the [American League] Central is now, there is no doubt we can contend in it."

There are plenty of Royals on the roster right now who could slot into corner outfield roles, but if Renfroe plays in more than the 96 games FanGraphs projects, it will likely be as one of the primary sluggers on the team. He isn't just a marginal signing to provide some veteran depth — Renfroe's addition could leave a lasting impression if he sustains his power throughout 2023.

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