Baserunning was one of the most exciting parts of the Royals' World Series runs in 2014 and 2015. Eric Hosmer's run from third to home against the New York Mets still induces chills, while Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson made for a memorable duo on the basepaths. The Royals were great at getting the most out of a situation, while being one of the league's better base-stealing teams. Despite some pretty down years overall, the Royals rank 11th in FanGraph's BSR score since 2017. FanGraphs has the full definition of the stat on their website, but the Royals ranking that high is somewhat surprising. Kansas City ranks in MLB's bottom half in all other scored stats, but remains a plus team on the basepaths.
The 2023 KC Royals will feature some of baseball's fastest, and slowest, players. How will this help their baserunning attack?
There are multiple factors that contribute to a successful baserunning attack. Know when to try stealing a base, when to tag up, or when to make the improbable dash from third to home. But, speed is the best tool a player can have when trying to steal a base. Fans during the World Series certainly wanted to see Gore jump from first, but cringed if Kendrys Morales would try the same thing. They both could be in the same situation, but the speed difference would determine the attempt's outcome.
Focusing on that tool, the Royals have two players ranking among the 30 fastest in MLB. On the flip side, two Royals are further down and the slowest in the league. Who are these players, and how could their speed affect the Royals in 2023?
Bobby Witt Jr. - 30.4 feet/second
Royals fans knew shortstop Boby Witt Jr. was fast, but maybe not this fast. His 30.4 ft/sec ranks second in MLB, trailing the top spot by only .3. That raw speed makes Witt the fastest Royals player since 2015, according to Baseball Savant. His raw speed transitioned well to him stealing bases and FanGraphs' BSR score.
Witt's 6.8 BSR is tied for fourth in MLB due to his 30 stolen bases and 81% stolen base percentage. Opposing defenses did catch Witt stealing seven times in 2022, showing the then-rookie has room to grow in his base-stealing game. That is normal for any rookie player, and Witt's impact on the basepaths should increase in 2023. If the Royals want to return to their small-ball roots, utilizing Witt's speed is a great start.
Salvador Perez - 25.3 feet/second
On the flip side, no current Royals player is slower than catcher Salvador Perez. Honestly, that is not surprising or a bad thing. His 25.6 ft/sec does rank below 500th in the MLB, but Salvy has never been a burner on the basepaths. He has stolen six bases in his career in 1,254 games and has been caught stealing once in that span.
FanGraphs has never given Perez a positive BSR score. His career BSR scores add up to an abysmal -35.5. Salvy's lack of speed makes getting from home to first base a concerning part of the Royals lineup. It takes Perez 4.75 seconds to get to first base, making infield hits or stretching a single into a double nearly impossible. Hopefully Salvy is mashing balls so well that he can just trot into first or second, but do not expect him to be a positive player on the basepaths this decade.
Nate Eaton - 29.7 feet/second
If Royals fans want a running mate for Witt on the basepaths, outfielder Nate Eaton could make that jump in 2023. His 29.7 ft/sec is second among current Royals players and ranks him 29th in MLB overall. Eaton's jump to the MLB after barely being a top-30 Royals prospect is exciting, but raw speed plays well anywhere on the baseball diamond.
Eaton earned an impactful 3.1 BSR score from FanGraphs in 2022. Defenses caught Eaton stealing once, but his 11 stolen bases give him an efficient 92% stolen base percentage. Eaton's speed also enabled him to stretch out a play, with 73% extra bases taken, according to Baseball Reference. All in all, the 26-year-old was very aggressive on the basepaths, and it paid off. Hopefully, his success will continue in 2023, a season that could be the year of the baserunner.
Vinnie Pasquantino - 25.6 feet/second
First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino could be the 2023 Royals star with his infectious personality and amazing performance at the plate in 2022. His 25.6 ft/sec in 2022 will not likely win over fans on the basepaths, though. His slogging speed ranks 497th in the MLB among qualified players.
Pasquantino was marginally better than Perez on the basepaths and earned a -2.1 BSR score on FanGraphs. He did steal a base in 2022, at least, good for a 100% stolen base percentage. That certainly doesn't make Pasquantino the Royals' premier baserunner, though. Like Perez, Pasquanitno brings value to the Royals by getting on base or advancing runners. Don't expect the former Old Dominion Monarch to outrun a double play anytime soon, though.