May 17, 2017
Let It Eat
The Worst Hitter From Each Team Who Could Start for the Royals
OK, let's get this out of the way: we have a complex relationship with Royals fans here at Baseball Prospectus. If you've been with us for a while, you know that our projection system, PECOTA, was pretty down on the Royals when they were really, really good.
Before the 2014 season, which would prove to mark Kansas City's ascension, PECOTA projected they would go 79-83. They went 89-73 instead before losing in Game 7 of the World Series. Fair enough: the Royals were a surprise that year, and while a 10-win miss isn't great, it's not altogether unheard of in the world of projections. But 2015 ... 2015 was the real problem. PECOTA doubled down on its Royals blinders, projecting them to go just 72-90. That ended up looking even worse: the Royals went 95-67 en route to winning it all.
Some Royals fans, well, let's just say they didn't take too kindly to those misses, even if PECOTA never reflected the opinions of BP writers (but admittedly, we whiffed on the Royals, too). With all that said, let me be clear: this article is not meant to serve as any sort of revenge. Rather, it stems from the last episode of TINO, in which Craig Goldstein suggested that it'd be fun to look at the worst hitter for each team who could start for the 2017 Royals.
And why would that be fun, you ask? Because the 2017 Royals are very, very bad at hitting. How bad? Well, through Monday's games, the Royals are:
Why is that the case? Because these are the Royals' everyday(ish) batters, along with the league-average production at their respective positions:
For those of you scoring at home, that means the Royals have as many regulars with an OPS south of .500 as north of .800. It's not great.
"Sure, but plenty of good teams start a scrub or two," you think. And that's true. But what's especially damning is that only three Royals regulars have an OPS above league average for their position. This isn't the 1931 Yankees with Alcides Escobar at shortstop. It's a bad, bad offensive team. That being said, before we begin the "how low can we go" game, let's try to make this a little more fair to the Royals.
First, we're going to build out the best offensive Royals lineup we can. No penciling in new Marlin Christian Colon at second base or the demoted Paulo Orlando in right field. We'll give the Royals as much of a fighting shot as possible. Second, since Jorge Bonifacio has the fewest plate appearance of any "regular" I've picked above with 66 (through Monday), 66 plate appearances will be my baseline for all players on other teams. I won't pick the random utility infielder with a .950 OPS in five plate appearances and try to tell you he's better than Mike Moustakas, even if the mean part of me did want to include Nick Franklin.
Another advantage the Royals have here: their two highest-OPSing players are their catcher and their center fielder. That's pretty odd, considering those are the third- and fourth-worst positions by OPS in the game so far in 2017. It means that, if nothing else, we'll be spared bummy backup catchers. Does that seem like an apologetic few paragraphs to you? Probably, and that's because things are about to get a little ugly.
Without further ado, here are the worst hitters on every other MLB team who could be starting for the Royals right now, listed at the position they'd play to best fit on the 2017 Royals:
Nothing to see here. These guys would start for lots of teams around the league, even if a few of them are playing slightly out of position here to meet the needs of Kansas City's odd roster. It's not necessarily great when guys like Hamilton, Kiermaier, and Russell (to this point) would be considered offensive assets for your squad, but still, this is fine. Moving on ...
Listen, there's nothing wrong with giving everyday playing time to guys like Anderson, Buxton, Renfroe, and Swanson. They're all young, talented players who have chances to be impact guys for a long time. You let them take your lumps, and you hope that they live and learn. But the Padres, Braves, and White Sox were all in full rebuild mode this season, and the Royals, nominally, were not.
Plus, the title of this article is not "acceptable youngens who the Royals could let play." This piece is about the worst player for each team who could start for Kansas City, and it's not a great sign that a bunch of as-of-now-crappy kids are still outpacing the highest-paid player on the Royals and their 30-year-old shortstop. As for Granderson, well, he's been atrocious but we've seen him start slowly before and he was good as recently as last year. Can't be too harsh there, but don't get used to that charity.
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20
Welp. Moving on ...
THIS IS PRETTY BAD
There are not a lot of good things to say here. Davis and Hardy were fine players in their days, but they are both OPSing below .600 and are both about 400 years old. It's fairly embarrassing that both should serve as substantial offensive improvements for the Royals thus far. Hechavarria and Iglesias have reputations as glove-first shortstops who can't really hit. So too does Alcides Escobar, and yet Hechavarria and Iglesias are both proving to be much better at the plate than the Royals' incumbent option. Pearce and Jaso are the MLB versions of bay leaves: they add something to the end product but shouldn't be a main ingredient. Yet the former has a better OPS than or is within 20 OPS points of four Royals regulars, while we can up that to five regulars for the latter.
OK. Are you ready? You might not be ready.
OH, DEAR GOD
Look, we're probably entering a recurrence of the Dark Ages for the Royals. They're currently just 16-22 and in last place in the AL Central. Hosmer, Moustakas, Escobar, Cain, and Jason Vargas could all be free agents when the season ends. The core of this team will probably be blown to smithereens in the next 6-10 weeks, and while the Royals can get some nice building blocks for the future by trading a few players, it's likely to be a long haul thanks to their poorly-ranked farm system.
But let's not dwell on the unpleasant present or the uncertain future or the names above who'd somehow still represent upgrades over who the 2017 Royals are trotting out every day. Let's remember summers past instead. The Royals won 184 games between 2014 and 2015. They went to back-to-back World Series, and they won it all.They were athletic. They were relentless. They were fast. And they were fun.
They'll be gone soon, their two-year success as fleeting and impermanent as a 2017 Alex Gordon at-bat in the grand scheme of things. But they brought us joy, and that's just another thing that, unlike offensive output, PECOTA can't yet measure.
Oh, and the no. 1 takeaway from all this? Rachel St. John-Gilbert didn't know shit about Gorkys Hernandez.