The KC Royals and the curious case of Edward Olivares

After a volatile 2023 season, what will the KC Royals do with Edward Olivares?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 3

Edward Olivares’ 2023 showcased a fundamentally flawed player.

101 games. That is how much Royals fans have seen Olivares this season. Those games have been an absolute rollercoaster, at the plate and in the field. But his troubles in the field leave a bad taste in fans' mouths.

Olivares' career high of three errors in left field this season seems very forgiving. There were stretches when Olivares had the everyday left fielder job and it was painful to watch. Olivares still has one of the worst outfielder jumps in all of baseball, thanks to poor reaction and initial burst. He has above-average speed and a great arm in the field, but the numbers do not lie.

Let's look at the components of the outfield jump measurement. Here is how Olivares ranks among 119 qualified MLB outfielders

Reaction: 116th
Burst: 115th
Route: 51st

All that together gives Olivares the 117th-ranked outfield jump, covering 2.9 feet less than the average outfielder.

In left field alone, Olivares had a -5 outs above average (OAA) this season. Seven qualified MLB outfielders ranked worse, which does not sound terrible. Think about it through the success rate models. Edward Olivares had an 80% success rate on defensive plays. If an average left fielder was in his place, that percentage rises to 84%. Math can be difficult, but the Royals were 4% worse defensively with Olivares in the field. Not great Bob!

Moment of clarity: I did not realize how bad MJ Melendez's metrics shook out this season. I will be talking about that in another article.

Olivares' case for the 2024 roster would be clearer if he was ice-cold at the plate too. The fact is he is not.

Olivares' bat struggled somewhat to start the season. He posted an 86 wRC+ in the season's first half, but his six homers and 15 RBIs in 67 games helped shroud the below-average output. The Royals could have sent Olivares down for the rest of the season after the All-Star break and no Royals fan would have batted an eye. It is his second-half output that has Olivares back in fans' good graces.

Olivares benefited from taking a break from playing in the major leagues. He has only played 34 games in the second half of the season, but he has been outstanding with his batting. He has a batting average of .303, a wRC+ of 136, and an impressive OPS of .871 in 120 plate appearances. This is an incredible improvement, and I believe it's worth noting that his wRC+ has increased by 50 points. Most players would be promising for the next season with such stats, but Olivares is not just any ordinary player.