This Kansas City Royals Roster Preview comes a little out of left-field. The Royals haven’t had to think about left-field for quite some time. Future Royals’ Hall of Famer, Alex Gordon, manned the position for the better part of ten seasons in Kansas City, winning countless gold gloves and platinum gloves. With his retirement, the Royals made a trade to once again cement the starting Left Field role in the lineup.
The position as a whole struggled at times for Kansas City last season. Left Fielders for the Royals posted a season-long stat line of just .257/.302/.415 with 20 home runs and 130 strikeouts. The defense was great, however, culminating with a Gold Glove award for Andrew Benintendi. The Royals will look to boost the production at the plate from Left in 2022 and once again field outstanding defense on the left side of the outfield grass.
The Royals bought low on Benintendi when they traded prospect Khalil Lee (and others) in a three-team deal to acquire the former top prospect. In 2020 for Boston, Benintendi posted a career-low 43 wRC+ with a horrendous .103 batting average and 32% strikeout rate. 2021 was a true resurgence for the Royals’ reclamation project. Last season, he hit .276/.324/.442 for a 106 wRC+, his best season since 2018. His 2.1 bWAR was the second-highest mark of his career so far.
The Royals surely haven’t seen the best of the former top overall prospect. He is entering just his age-27 season and we saw a preview of what he can become in September last season. Over 31 games in the seasons’ final month last year, he hit .342/.398/.570 for a 160 wRC+. He was one of the very best hitters in all of baseball in that span. Did Benny finally click? The Royals sure hope so.
2022 ZIPS Projections : 136 G, .272/.334/.442, 16 HR, 110 wRC+
Royals outfielder Brewer Hicklen played 529 of his 855 innings in left field for AA Northwest Arkansas last season. Hicklen, 25, was drafted by the Royals in the 7th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Alabama Birmingham. He’s posted extremely promising results over the course of his minor league career. Over 375 career minor league games his batting slash is .272/.362/.464. He struggled slightly over 22 games in High-A Wilmington back in 2018, and again in Surprise at the Arizona Fall League in 2019. Since then, Hicklen saw much more promising results in AA Northwest Arkansas last season. He figures to get a chance in AA again to start the season but should make his way to AAA very quickly. He’s a strong depth piece for the Royals behind star Andrew Benintendi.
2022 ZIPS Projections : 111 G, .211/.280/.352, 12 HR, 72 wRC+
Ryan Grotjohn is an interesting depth piece for Kansas City. He was signed as a free agent by the Royals in February 2022 on a minor league contract. Grotjohn is still just 25-years old after being drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 10th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Cal State Bakersfield. He doesn’t bring much power to his game at the plate but does have strong on-base numbers thanks to promising walk totals. He’s got a good eye at the plate. Last season, he played for the Independent League Kansas City Monarchs where he hit .329 and got on base in 21-consecutive games. His on-base percentage for the season was .436. Grotjohn is yet to appear above AA within a major league organization and should get a chance to play for the Royals at AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha this season.
2022 Steamer Projections (ZIPS Unavailable ) : .222/.290/.341
Darryl Collins is an intriguing prospect signed by the Royals as a 16-year old international prospect in 2018, out of the Netherlands. In 2018 Collins hit .418/.510/.532 for the Curacao Neptunus. That was as a 16-year old playing against 25-year old talent. That success has translated for Kansas City. In 134 games as a minor leaguer, Collins has hit .273/.379/.374 with just 85 strikeouts and 74 walks. The power isn’t present in his game but at still just 20-years old, there’s plenty of time for Collins to grow into his power.
Organizational Depth For Kansas City Royals
Deeper in the organization, the Royals still have plenty of left-field depth. Tucker Bradley was an undrafted Free Agent signing by the Royals in 2020. He played all three outfield positions last season, mostly playing the corner outfield spots. He’s still just 23. Over 86 games at the Royals’ High-A affiliate, Quad Cities, he hit .280/.370/.430 with 42 walks and just 77 strikeouts.
Burle Dixon is another Royals prospect who played all three outfield spots. Last season, he played at least 100 innings at all three outfield spots. Dixon was an 18-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft and brings good speed and plate discipline to his game. Last season he posted a .346 OBP over 221 plate appearances for Low-A Columbia.
Henry Ramos is the Royals’ latest international signing, signed as the No. 45 ranked prospect in this year’s international class. He profiles as a good speed/power combination player with the potential to develop into a plus runner at the outfield position.
Read our previous Positional Previews below: