KC Royals earn good, bad midterm grades

Kansas City's player marks vary widely halfway through the season.
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With the halfway point of the 2024 season recently passed, it’s a good time to offer a midterm assessment of the performance of KC Royals players.

Obviously, the club's performance has been both generally good and dramatically improved from one season ago. The 2024 Royals hit the season’s halfway point standing 43-38 and in postseason contention. A year ago the same team hit late June 23-58 and securely buried in the American League Central cellar.

Here’s how the 2024 Royals grade out on their midterm report cards, with all Win Probability Added (WPA) numbers (current through Tuesday's games) coming from FanGraphs.

The Kansas City regulars

Bobby Witt Jr., shortstop. He’s carrying a team-best .909 OPS, making all the defensive plays at shortstop, has produced a +1.7 WPA, and was a finalist for the starting AL shortstop position for the MLB All-Star Game. If he keeps it up, Witt is a definite MVP candidate. Grade: A+

Salvador Perez, catcher. Perez is producing like his old self of a decade ago. His +1.27 WPA is among the AL elite, he was also an All-Star Game finalist, his .814 OPS is the best in the majors among catchers, and his defensive numbers have been solid. Grade: A+

Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B. Just named the Royals' Player of the Month for June, Pasquantino's ability to step up in clutch moments — he has a positive WPA thus far — balances a pedestrian .247/.320/.431 slash line. Grade: B

Nelson Velázquez, DH. His grade is a clone of Pasquantino’s, a positive WPA offsetting an unimpressive .204/.274/.366 slash line. Kansas City recently optioned Velázquez to Triple-A Omaha. Grade: B

Kyle Isbel, CF. Isbel’s only batting .234 with little power. But his defensive performance keeps his WPA close to positive territory, and that’s good enough. Grade: B

Michael Massey, 2B/DH. A .274 average and .790 OPS added to his positive defense all look good. But Massey hasn’t produced much at critical points, leading to a -0.13 WPA. Grade: B-

MJ Melendez, LF. The most important role of a left fielder is to hit well. At .193 with a .628 OPS, Melendez doesn’t fill that requirement. His -0.43 WPA, while not indictable, needs to be better. Grade: C

Hunter Renfroe, RF. Renfroe is a veteran counted on for offense, including power. Thus far he’s hitting .207 with not enough pop. Grade: D+

Maikel Garcia, 3B. If the Royals can find an upgrade prior to the trade deadline, this is the place. Garcia’s defensive play is barely passable, but his .616 OPS is not. Grade: F.

Kansas City's starting rotation

Seth Lugo. A sensational preseason pickup by general manager J. J. Picollo, Lugo already has 11 wins, best in the majors. His 2.17 is also the majors' best, and he's thrown the second-most innings (116). What’s not to love? Grade: A+

Cole Ragans. Ragans has a 3.33 ERA In 18 starts, and he has lived up to preseason expectations. His +1.65 WPA ranks 11th among all big league pitchers. Grade: A

Brady Singer.  Singer’s turnaround — a 3.05 ERA in 17 starts — has helped fuel Kansas City’s success. Grade: B

Michael Wacha. A free agent pickup, Wacha has been an acceptable fourth starter with a 3.74 ERA in 15 starts and positive WPA. Grade: B

Alec Marsh. The Royals can probably survive with Marsh’s 4.19 ERA as a fifth starter. But with a 1.20 WHIP and -0.01 WPA, the truth is he’s been just adequate. Grade: D+

The KC Royals bullpen

James McArthur. In his second season, McArthur has saved 15 games, although his 4.08 ERA does not lead to feelings of great security. Grade: B.

John Schreiber. A preseason trade pickup from Boston, Schreiber has produced in some clutch situations, thus his 1.02 WPA, fourth best on the staff behind only Lugo, Ragans, and Singer. Grade: A-

Chris Stratton. His numbers, other than a high 5.00 ERA, are ordinary at best, and so is his rating. Grade: C

Nick Anderson. What was said of Stratton is even more true of Anderson. Grade: C-

Ángel Zerpa. His 3.52 ERA in 30.2 innings looks reasonable, but Zerpa’s -0.55 WPA reveals that he’s performed poorly in the critical moments. Grade: D

The rest of the KC Royals

Nick Loftin, IF. Grade: B

Adam Frazier, IF. Grade: B-

Felix Fermin, backup catcher. Grade; C+

Garrett Hampson, utility. Grade: D+

Will Smith, reliever. Grade: F

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