KC Royals: Michael Massey's rollercoaster season

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The KC Royals are now the worst team in baseball, after the Oakland Athletics' win against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 13. This new low leaves a ton of questions for a roster with a lot of potential that hasn't come to fruition yet. One of those players who has the potential to become a solid ball player, but hasn't quite gotten there yet is Michael Massey. In fact, his season has been polarizing, to say the least.

KC Royals rookie Michael Massey has had mixed outcomes this season.

Let's start with his slash line before heading into some interesting splits for Massey. So far this season, Massey is slashing .221/.276/.320 with an OPS of .596 which is down from last year with a similar number of plate appearances. Compared to last year, Massey's OBP is down 30 points and his Slg% is down 50 points. Not exactly great, but some of his splits could explain this, specifically his monthly ones.

In layman's terms, the first month of the year was just downright bad for Massey. In the games in March and April Massey had a slash line of .167/.173/.179 for a whopping .352 OPS. You typically don't want your slash line numbers to be within 12 points of each other. If we look into how he got his OBP and SLG% that low we can look at his ISO. Massey's ISO was worse than Nicky Lopez's last year at .013 through the first month, that is kind of amazing. Massey also only had one walk in the first month of the year, in the last game of the month.

April was not kind to Massey, but once the calendar flipped over to May Massey came back in a big way. His slash line in May was .319/.412/.528 with an OPS of .940. He got the illustrious 3/4/5 slash line you would want superstars to consistently get. Add in that he was walking at a 10.6% rate in May and slugging at a .208 ISO; you could see the potential.

Now we head into June and Massey is closer to his April form than his May form with a slash line of .129/.182/.194, numbers as of June 13. It is a small sample size, but there are still some concerns in some of his other splits.

The main split we shall look at is his L/R splits because Massey has a reverse split cooking with one constant that is holding him back this year. Against lefties, Massey is hitting for more contact and getting on base more often with a slash of .275/.340/.325. Against righties, he is struggling more with a slash of .206/252/.319. The issue for Massey this year, outside of just being inconsistent in the on-base numbers from month to month, is his power.

As noted earlier, his ISO has fluctuated a lot this year and overall his ISO is worse than noted power bat Nicky Lopez (who has an ISO of .110, though Lopez has a way smaller sample size) at a .099. This is where things get weird for Massey, because a lot of the advanced numbers tell a different story.

Looking at the expected numbers for Massey shows that he could be getting unlucky. His expected batting average and expected slugging are .246 and .423 respectively. It gets worse when we get into his wOBA and xwOBA. Massey currently has a wOBA of .265 which is in the bottom 5% of the league, but his xwOBA is more in line with the league average at .317. So what is the issue with Massey?

What about Michael Massey's strikeout rate this season for the KC Royals?

It isn't his batted-ball profile, which is similar to his profile from last season with some steady improvements this year. The key issue lies in his high strikeout rate. To start with the simple stuff, Massey strikes out too much at 29.1%. This is in part due to his chase contact% dropping nine points from last year. To get even more analytical, the answer is in his swing/take values.

To quickly explain swing/take, the strike zone is split into four regions (heart, shadow, chase, waste), and from that it measures the frequency of pitches thrown in those regions and gives those a run value based on the outcome whether it is hit or taken. Massey has a clear issue with the shadow
which is just outside the strike zone, of the plate with a value of negative 12. That is very bad and it is backed up by his zone charts as well.

Massey's approach at the plate is the key issue in his up-and-down season, but if he can figure out how to lay off or make more contact with pitches outside the zone he could become a very solid piece for the Royals. He already has the glove with 3 Outs Above Average (although DRS isn't kind to him).

Massey is a couple of tweaks to his approach from being a key part of the future for the Royals as a solid player. He is a solid defender who could have an average to slightly above-average bat. He won't be a superstar, but you need players who can give you 2-3 WAR seasons and Massey potentially has that.

Next. 3 trade mistakes. 3 trade mistakes KC can't make. dark