This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position. You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview), first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and center field.
First, as usual, we’ll take a look at the players who got the lion’s share of playing time in right field, and how they hit when they played the position.
Prior to his injury, David Dejesus was having a great year at the plate. He was getting on base at a high clip, but not hitting for a ton of power. He was a valuable offensive and defensive asset. Mitch Maier filled in well when his number was called as well. He was roughly an average offensive right fielder and from what I saw he was a good fielder taboot. Willie Bloomquist was Willie Bloomquist, subbing in whenever and wherever he was needed and held his own in the amount of time he was given. Jose Guillen was surviving his final, very expensive season with the Royals in 2010. Finally, the Royals realized he no longer had the range to play in the outfield regularly and he only got 21 games at the position.
The first thing that jumps out at me is that the American League right fielders are a pretty good hitting group. A wOBA of .344 would be good for 7th place among left fielders, but it’s 11th for right fielders. That seems to be a drastic difference. The Royals right fielders as a unit were in the lower half of offensive production in the American League, but they were pretty close to being average. Slugging was a concern, particularly for a corner outfield spot. Usually, teams like to get some pop from right and left field.
After looking at all of the different fielding positions now, it is clear that the outfield is clearly an area for improvement. Center field and right field both were below average offensive positions for the Royals in 2010 and were mostly manned by players who likely don’t have a long future with the team. With that in mind, obtaining an upgrade at one or both positions in free agency is likely a quick way to improve the team. In fact, that’s exactly what Dayton Moore did at the winter meetings, by acquiring both Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera.
Francouer, however is actually an offensive downgrade from what the Royals did in 2010. His career wOBA is .314 which would only have been better than the Athletics as a team last year. It seems pretty likely that Francouer will get the bulk of the playing time in right field in 2011, and while he may be a decent glove, he is an offensive downgrade.
Melky Cabrera will likely be put in center field, but he wasn’t signed when I wrote that review so I’ll just comment on him here. Offensively, center field was very anemic for the Royals in 2010, so nearly any player would be an upgrade at that spot. The Royals signed Melky Cabrera to fill that role in 2011 and if he is better, it’s marginal. In 2010 the Royals center fielders put up a .211 wOBA and Cabrera’s career wOBA is .312. Cabrera has been inconsistent though, putting up wOBAs in excess of .330 twice (2006, 2009) and sub .300 twice (2010, 2008). If Cabrera is closer to the .330 than the .300 mark, then he could be a real upgrade offensively at center field in 2011.
The outfield is one of the weaker positions in the Royals minor league system, particularly impact corner outfield bats. The closest to Major League ready is likely David Lough, who could make a September call up or might make the team sooner if there is an injury or other moves.