The Royals’ Guessing Game With Outfielder Edward Olivares Needs To Stop

It's one thing to option a player who isn't performing well or isn't ready. It's another to not even give that player a fair chance in the first place.
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It was somewhat understandable back in early-to-mid June when the Kansas City Royals would call outfielder Edward Olivares up, then option him back to Triple-A shortly thereafter. Then, the team was one hot stretch away from a .500 record. Now, with the losses piling up, the up-and-down game is getting old. 

Since May 30, Olivares has been promoted and demoted five times. In 20 games and 60 plate appearances with the Royals, the 25-year-old is posting a .246/.283/.456 line with an OPS of .739. Those numbers are far from horrible, but they certainly aren't great either. With that said, it's hard to draw many serious conclusions from such a limited sample size. The context resides in Olivares' performance in Omaha.

With the Storm Chasers in Triple-A, Olivares has been fantastic. His .321 batting average and .958 OPS are excellent, and his 13 home runs in just 53 games serve as a prime example of his raw power. A .566 slugging percentage is the best on the team (among qualified batters). He's clearly too talented to be stuck in the minor leagues, but is he good enough to stick at the highest level?

The short answer: who knows. The long answer? Well, since you asked, here we go.

There's only one way to find out whether Olivares is capable of being a productive, full-time MLB outfielder. The process is simple: give him consistent at-bats and opportunities. 25 isn't particularly young for a player in today's game. Olivares should soon be entering the prime of his career. He's long overdue for an extended look, especially on a club that is relatively bereft of top-shelf talent in the outfield.

Outside of Andrew Benintendi, the Royals haven't gotten solid offensive contributions from outfielders. Heck, even Benintendi has struggled with injuries and a bit of inconsistency throughout the season. Jorge Soler is no longer with the team, Hunter Dozier has been one of the worst hitters in baseball in 2021, and — despite how good he is defensively — Michael A. Taylor's bat simply doesn't play well long-term. 

To be fair, roster shuffling is easier said than done. Putting players like Emmanuel Rivera at third base promptly shifts Dozier into right field. Olivares likely isn't a strong enough defender to play in center field and with Benintendi occupying left field, the options are limited. That presents a second problem for the Royals. If they want to play Olivares while still assessing other young players, who gets taken out of the lineup?

As the 2021 season comes down to the final third, it would be nice to see Olivares get regular playing time with the Royals. He may not be a long-term outfield solution, but it's impossible to figure that out when he isn't with the team. Players like Taylor, Dozier and Jarrod Dyson are static factors and two of those three are on expiring contracts. If the Royals want to truly prepare for the future, for better or worse, finding a way to get their young outfielder into the lineup consistently is much-needed.

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