Judging the Royals

Soler eclipsed: Royals outfielder outplayed by Bonifacio

Jorge Soler
Jorge Soler jsleezer@kcstar.com

Jorge Bonifacio is currently batting .288 and is on pace to hit 21 home runs; Jorge Soler is currently batting .164 and is on his way to Omaha.

When presented with the opportunity, Bonifacio outplayed Soler.

Teams and the men that manage them do not like to make pronouncements: If Ned Yost said Jorge Bonifacio was the Royals’ right fielder and then for some reason Bonifacio didn’t play right field, we’d be happy to point out Ned’s inconsistency.

But it certainly appears Bonifacio is the Royals’ right fielder – at least for now.

And for now it appears the Chicago Cubs got the better of the Wade Davis-Jorge Soler deal; after all Wade is currently 2-0 with 12 saves and an ERA of 0.89, and Soler is headed for the minor leagues.

But it’s worth remembering Soler is signed through 2020, so the Davis-Soler deal might look very different a year from now.

Billy Burns and versatility

If you don’t play you can’t get better, so Soler was sent to the minors to get playing time. If Soler didn’t start he was a hard guy to get into a game; he isn’t a base stealer or a defensive replacement, and he wasn’t swinging the bat well enough to pinch-hit him in crucial at-bats.

Meanwhile, Billy Burns is back in the big leagues and brings versatility along with him.

Burns is a switch hitter, can steal a base, get a bunt down and provides a defensive replacement when necessary.

Some guys are in the big leagues because they do one thing great; some guys are in the big leagues because they do a lot of things well. So Burns does not have to crush it in any one category as long as he provides Ned Yost options, and those options will come in handy when the Royals play interleague games in San Diego and San Francisco.

Home runs vs. scoring runs

On Saturday afternoon the Royals beat the Indians 12-5, and two of those 12 runs were provided by a Lorenzo Cain homer with Mike Moustakas on base.

The Royals are still on pace to break the team record for home runs, but they’re also on pace to score 582 runs — 142 fewer runs than the “keep-the-line-moving” offense of 2015.

Home runs are nice, but too many of the Royals’ home runs have been solo shots.

When a hitter puts a fly ball in play and it doesn’t leave the premises it’s very likely to get caught; big-league outfielders cover too much ground.

When the 2017 Royals put a fly ball in play they’ve batted .146; when the 2015 Royals hit a fly ball they batted .149. And the 2017 Royals are hitting more fly balls than the 2015 team: 32 percent to 28 percent.

And the 2017 Royals strike out more often than the 2015 team: 22 percent to 17 percent.

Home runs are seductive – instant offense with just one swing – but they come at a price; more strikeouts and lower batting average.

If you’ve wondered why the Royals’ batting average with runners in scoring position is so dismal, watch for a fly-ball out or a punch-out and you’ll have part of the answer.

Baseball IQ

Some players have it and some players don’t, and if you watch closely, you can tell which is which without much trouble.

In the fifth inning Eric Hosmer struck out swinging, but the ball got away from catcher Yan Gomes and went to the backstop. Hosmer took off for first base but swung wide into foul territory.

If you’re trying to beat a throw to first base, why not run a straight line?

Because Hosmer’s route put him between Gomes and the Indians’ first baseman, Carlos Santana. That meant Gomes had to throw around Hosmer and Santana was not going to get a good look at the ball being thrown to him.

The ball got away from Santana, and Hosmer was safe at first.

It’s the kind of play that might have very little impact on a game, but it’s also the kind of play that scouts look for; it tells them how well or poorly a player understands the game and, over the course of a career, that will have a lot of impact.

Bad April and an OK May, so June will probably decide things

The Royals started off poorly with a record of 7-16 in April and followed that up with a 15-14 record in May.

After Saturday’s win against the Indians, Ned Yost said the Royals were still in it.

That’s because nobody in the American League Central is running away with the division; the Royals are still only five games back of the Minnesota Twins. The Royals will face nine teams in June, and five of them currently have a losing record.

This is one of the reasons people around the Royals have hope of avoiding a fire sale.

Today the Royals go for a series sweep against the Indians, and Eric Skoglund will face Trevor Bauer.

Enjoy the game. 

Lee Judge: 816-234-4482, @leejudge8