What KC Royals trends you should believe, not believe after MLB's first month

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The MLB season is still young, but the KC Royals are certainly off to a great start. The April showers have been kind, growing May flowers to the tune of 18-13. That is one of the best starts in franchise history, outpacing two championship teams and several winning iterations from Kansas City's golden years. This team is far from perfect, but the on-field product is vastly improved from 2023.

Let's talk about these KC Royals trends one month into the season.

Any baseball fan knows a season is a marathon, rather than a sprint. Royals fans could celebrate the fact that this team would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. But, many will remind themselves of 2024's 131 remaining games and Kansas City's propensity for error down the stretch.

Knowing that, I took stock of who is and isn't powering Kansas City's hot start. Here are my trends that I believe will last the entire season, and those I believe will wilt in the summer heat.

What to believe

1. Royals base-stealing aggressiveness

If the Royals were more aggressive in stealing bases against the Toronto Blue Jays, the series would have swung their way. Looking at the current season, Kansas City has been very aggressive on the basepaths. The Royals roster three of MLB's fastest players, with Bobby Witt Jr., Dairon Blanco, and Garrett Hampson all ranking in the league's top 20 fastest runners.

Kansas City attempts to steal second base 13% of the time, good for the third-highest in MLB. Being so aggressive is one thing, but being the third-most successful team at stealing second is another. The Royals have swiped 30 bags as of April 30 and have only been caught four times. That 88% success rate ranks third in MLB, thanks to the combination of situational awareness, and raw speed on the basepaths.


2. MJ Melendez's improved defense

We were all pretty hard on MJ Melendez for his glove in the outfield last year. Sure, we all knew it was his first year playing the position, and the transition happened at the MLB level, but wow, it was bad at points. Likewise, Royals fans should celebrate his turnaround in left field.

His 2 Defensive Runs Saved rank eighth among all MLB left fielders and contribute to Kansas City being tied for the most Defensive Runs Saved this season. His 1 Out Above Average is an improvement, but his arm value, which ranks in the 99th percentile, has been a revelation. He is more comfortable and sure of what he is doing in the field in left. That doesn't just disappear overnight.

3. Nelson Velázquez's slow start

This spring, Nelson Velázquez earned his fair share of doubters. The outfielder came to Kansas City at the trade deadline and was absolutely electric in limited action. But he was ice cold in Arizona. Which version would Royals fans see following Opening Day? Sadly, Velázquez's performance so far resembles the latter all too well.

His 88 wRC+ in 26 games is below expectations for a player whose value primarily comes from batting. His expected stats do not offer a solution, his .333 BABIP is more than acceptable, and his 33.3% strikeout rate is a noticeable jump from 2023. He will have a hot streak here and there for Kansas City, but this slow start is setting a negative tone for Velázquez's season.

4. Hunter Renfroe's negative value

Fans should absolutely talk about the positives during Hunter Renfroe's debut month in Kansas City. The production with runners in scoring position is decent. The arm strength is still there. He is walking more than expected. But all of that is ignoring one overwhelming fact: Renfroe is not producing, considering his contract or not.

Nearly every one of his batting statistics, even expected ones and rates, are nearly the worst in his career. Despite his reputation for power hitting, Renfroe's career lows in exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard hit percentage raise concerns about his ability to drive the ball effectively. That doesn't even begin to touch on Renfroe's negative defensive value. His two-year contract worth $13 million continues to look like a terrible move, a smudge on general manager J.J. Picollo's offseason.