At the time of writing this, the Royals have played 40 games and sit at 18-22. What an absolute roller coaster ride of a way to get here. The Mamba at Worlds of Fun has fewer peaks and valleys than this team, although my stomach feels upset after both sometimes. With around a quarter of the season in the books, let’s take a look back and hand out quarter season grades. We’ll start with position players today and keep a lookout for pitchers in Part 2 soon. I’ll have the player's offensive splits as well as WAR (Wins Above Replacement) per Baseball Reference. Let’s hand them out!
Salvador Perez - A
.282/.315/.828, 1.3 WAR
Alright, starting off strong. Salvy has been reborn after his year off from Tommy John surgery and is showing last year's shortened season was not a fluke. His durability this season is Herculean when you consider how often he is behind the plate compared to most of today’s catchers and he has come through in the clutch too many times to count this season. He is the best catcher in baseball and the only one you can make a case for is JT Realmuto. Salvy is unreal.
Cam Gallagher - C-
.160/.185/.240, 0.0 WAR
Alright, here is the first dip in the roller coaster. While Cam has only had 27 plate appearances, he hasn’t been effective in those opportunities. A couple of hits will easily bring those numbers up, but he hasn’t given me the confidence that that is going to happen. His defense has been solid and he is a serviceable backup catcher. Pitchers seem to like throwing to him and it makes his poor performance at the dish almost worth it. Tough to give him lower than a C- with the lack of at-bats.
Carlos Santana - A-
.261/.409/.470, 1.5 WAR
Carlos Slamtana has been exactly what the Royals needed. An on-base machine (.409 OBP) with some pop (8 homers). He has lived up to the hype and his great eye has sometimes influenced other hitters as evidenced by a few games this season where the whole team is drawing walks. His ability to always give you a professional at-bat and drive up opposing starters' pitch counts while being a candidate to go deep has been impactful. His defense hasn’t been great, although he has had a game-saving play at first this season. He has been one constant on a team that hasn’t had much consistency.
Ryan O’Hearn - D+
.182/.250/.341, -0.1 WAR
Small sample size alert, but for how great Santana has been, O’Hearn has been the opposite. Throwing up a .591 OPS while playing a lot at DH is not good. In fact, he has been below a replacement-level player in his 44 at-bats. O’Hearn is one of those guys you feel will always turn it around, but it just has never happened. I am not sure how much longer of a leash he is going to get.
Whit Merrifield - B
.261/.326/.405, 1.5 WAR
Merrifield started this season in tremendous fashion, continuing the two-hit Whit monicker before slowing down in recent weeks. While he hasn’t been great, he has still been a solid presence at the top of the lineup. The 12 stolen bases have been nice, as he has been aggressive on the base paths. and his 24 RBI’s out of the lead off spot shows he has been able to come through with runners on. His defense has been fairly poor, although some of the advanced metrics have been kind to him. I fully expect him to cut back on the errors/plays he should make and start getting more multi-hit games as the season progresses. I know that he is tied for the highest WAR on the team, but I expect Whit to be better than this which is why I can’t give him higher than a B.
Nicky Lopez - C-
.227/.323/.300, 0.1 WAR
He has had a good eye and has shown the ability to take walks. That is about where the praise ends. He has struggled to get hits as evidenced by the .227 batting average and the power has been non-existent. While what he has done with the bat is okay as a No. 9 hitter — again, I’m happy with the walks — his fielding has been a letdown. He was supposed to be a wizard with the glove and he has struggled mightily as evidenced by the eye test and the advanced metrics. You can give him credit for playing shortstop while Mondesi is out but I think Lopez is better than this defensively and I was hoping for him to have a little better start than this.
Hanser Alberto - D-
.228/.238/.342, -0.2 WAR
Well, I liked the signing when it happened. He was supposed to crush lefties, but that sure hasn’t happened so far. He hasn’t hit and he has no walks compared to 11 strikeouts. His performance at the plate has been severely lacking. One concerning matter is he isn’t hitting the ball hard, so it is tough to see him all of a sudden turning it around.
Hunter Dozier - F
.139/.202/.339, -1.3 WAR
An unmitigated disaster is the best way to describe the start for Dozier this season. He isn’t hitting, he isn’t walking and he isn’t hitting the ball hard. The bright side (I guess?) is that he has five home runs. That’s not great, but I am trying to be positive. His strong 2019 is starting to look more and more like an outlier as he seems lost at the plate. This could be the reason why the offense has struggled. The Royals desperately need him to return to 2019 form if they want a chance to contend. Also, his defense has been poor. Here’s to hoping he figures it all out and makes that contract he just signed palatable.
Jorge Soler - D
.199/.287/.346, -0.5 WAR
Oh look, it's another player the Royals were counting on in the middle of the lineup who is severely underperforming. Soler has had some extremely hard-hit-outs this season and seems like a good bet to turn it around. One note that seems a bit odd is he isn’t getting under the ball as much as one would like. He is hitting some loud outs, but a good amount seem to be on the ground. Soler has played right field more than I would have thought and has done a little better than I expected although still below average. Soler Power needs to get going as the weather gets warmer.
Michael A. Taylor - C+
.242/.295/.333, 0.5 WAR
A perfect example of the Royals season so far, started off hotter than the inside of a hot pocket, only to go colder than Antarctica in the winter. Taylor started off winning the Royals some games by hitting bombs and playing stellar defense. Then, he came crashing back to Earth. Overall, he has been OK so far, about what you would expect with below-average offense and above-average defense. The splits seem to fall in line with career norms except for the slugging is lower than average, which is no surprise playing in Kauffman. This is probably what he is and that is fine.
Jarrod Dyson - B+
.241/.333/.414, 0.4 WAR
Another addition to the small sample size team, Dyson has performed when called upon in his limited role. With four walks to seven strikeouts and two triples and a double in his seven hits, he’s been doing his job better than expected in his few opportunities. His defense has been solid, as it always has been, and he has swiped two bags even though his speed has diminished from what it once was. Tough to give him anything but a high grade since he has performed at a high level in a minuscule amount of playing time.
Andrew Benintendi - B
.283/.346/.384, 0.5 WAR
Don’t look now but Benny Biceps is getting hot! (At the plate). The dude is starting to rake and is looking like he’s got his old swing back, which produces lots of hits, doubles, and draws walks. The homers won’t be anything to get super excited about, but he is starting to produce like a No. 2 hitter. He’s had some extremely questionable throws in the outfield but he’s getting back to looking like he was back in 2018 at the plate. Get excited folks, the best is yet to come with him.