What team has a track record of "fixing" prospects' hitting issues, could use a defensive-first outfielder, and is not competing in 2023? If you said the Kansas City Royals, you are a winner!
If the KC Royals prioritized outfield defense with the Bradley signing, Pache can deliver similar results with a long-term future in Kansas City.
The 2023 Royals are building toward 2024 and beyond. While that is unfortunate for the win column and will raise complaints among fans, there is individual players' more important progression. Besides wanting to see more from Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, and Vinnie Pasquantino, the Royals will likely look for more young players to build around. Is Michael Massey a viable long-term option at second? Will Nate Eaton succeed in his utility role? What about the starting rotation under new coaching? There are so many questions surrounding these Royals that it is not fair to expect a winning effort from them in 2023.
Waters is one player the team will want more progression from after a strong end to 2022. But he is on the shelf right now with an oblique strain. While Melendez, Kyle Isbel, Eaton, and Edward Olivares all factor into the outfield depth chart, the Royals still signed veteran Jackie Bradley Jr. to a minor-league deal. Despite his laughable struggles at the plate the past few seasons, Bradley remains an elite defender in center field. His outs above average (OAA), outfielder jump, and arm strength all ranked above the 90th percentile in 2022, according to Baseball Savant.
Guess who has similar or better numbers in 2022? The one and only Cristian Pache. His OAA ranked in the 94th percentile, while his arm strength matched Bradley's in the 92nd percentile. Pache is an elite defender in his own right and is eight years younger than Bradley.
The Royals signed Bradley to be outfield depth while Waters was gone. To be fair, Bradley has continued his strong defense and looked good at the plate this spring. His .966 OPS surprised many but is easily dismissed by spring training stats cynics. If his performance carries over past Opening Day, Bradley may be more prominent in Kansas City than fans originally anticipated. He could end up as a cheap trade asset for a contender, or the Royals could ride Bradley for the entire season.
But remember, the 2023 Royals are probably not going very far. Their final AL Central standing will be closer to the bottom than the top. They want to change that in 2024, though. Who would have a better chance to play for the 2024 Royals: Pache or Bradley?