The Royals are en route to losing their 23rd game of the year. However, there were some positive things that we saw in the Royals’ first game of the new month, especially on the offensive end.
After all, going into Tuesday, the Royals ranked 29th in batting average, 30th in OBP, and 30th in OPS. Thus, they need some hitters to step up if they want to improve even slightly in any of those categories.
Here are three hitters who could help the Royals perhaps improve at the plate in this upcoming month of May.
Melendez has strikeout issues, and that’s a big reason why he’s only hitting .183 with a .629 OPS in 106 plate appearances this year.
According to Savant, Melendez ranks in the bottom fourth percentile in K rate and bottom first percentile in whiff rate. Add that with a chase rate that ranks in the 29th percentile and Royals fans can understand why he is striking out 35.2 percent of the time this season, which is nearly 11 percent higher than his K rate a season ago.
And yet, there are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Melendez, even with his rough batting average and strikeout numbers.
For starters, the hard-hit rate from Melendez continues to be legitimate.
He is averaging 94.7 MPH on batted balls this year, which is nearly four MPH harder than a season ago, and puts him in the 97th percentile in the category, according to Savant. He also has improved his hard-hit rate to 53.6 percent, a 10.1 percent improvement from 2022. And lastly, his barrel rate is 16.1 percent, which is 5.7 percent higher than his mark in his rookie year.
Against the Orioles on Tuesday, Melendez showed what he can do when he connects with a pitch in his zone, even at the spacious Kauffman Stadium.
The walk rate remains high at 10.5 percent, and Melendez could benefit from the call-up of Freddy Fermin, who is expected to take the bulk of innings at the backup catching position, as long as Salvy is healthy.
In fact, Matt Quatraro in his pregame interview with Anne Rogers of MLB.com mentioned that MJ would be taking a break from catching for a bit in order to concentrate on improving his hitting.
Hopefully, this solid May 2nd game can help MJ turn things around not just for the month, but for the remainder of the season.
Pratto was a controversial call-up, as he was only hitting .159 with a wRC+ of 44 in 81 plate appearances in Omaha this year, according to Fangraphs. However, since getting called up to the Royals at the end of April, the former first-round pick has made the most of his opportunities at the big-league level.
In 20 plate appearances, Pratto is hitting .333 with an OPS of .750. He hasn’t shown a ton of power so far, as he hasn’t barreled a ball yet nor hit a home run so far in his limited stint with the Royals in 2023.
On the other hand, his average exit velocity on batted balls is up to 90.9 MPH, which is 4.9 MPH higher than his mark a season ago. In addition, his hard-hit rate is 55.6 percent, which is nearly 20 percent higher than his 2022 rate as well. Those are positive signs that Pratto is improving his quality of contact in his at-bats at the Major League level.
Furthermore, Pratto has also shown some ability in the outfield, as evidenced by this sensational play in the Minnesota Twins series.
There will still be a lot of strikeouts from Pratto this year as he adjusts to MLB pitching. And unfortunately, that was certainly the case on Tuesday with two strikeouts in three appearances.
That being said, he did draw his first walk at the big league level this season, so perhaps Pratto will start to draw some walks to offset those K’s, which will make his hitting profile a lot more valuable both in the short and long term for the Royals.
Garcia was just called up today in place of Nicky Lopez, who is recovering from an emergency appendectomy that he had in Minneapolis.
Much like Pratto, Garcia is a bit of a surprising call-up as he was in a bit of a slump before being tabbed for the start in Tuesday’s game against Baltimore. He was only hitting .242 with an 84 wRC+ in 112 plate appearances, according to Fangraphs.
If anything, some Royals fans were expecting Samad Taylor to get the call, as Taylor is hitting .337 with a 128 wRC+ in 114 plate appearances this year with the Storm Chasers.
That said, the 23-year-old infielder should not be taken lightly, despite his recent rough stretch in Triple-A.
For the year, Garcia is posting a BB/K ratio of 0.73 in Omaha, which is the second-best mark for Storm Chasers hitters behind only Fermin, who is posting a 1.22 ratio. This Royals lineup lacks hitters who not only make consistent contact but limit strikeouts and maximize walks in their at-bats. Garcia, thankfully, has done all three of those things well in the Minors.
In his first MLB game of 2023, Garcia not only got his first MLB hit, but he made contact on the ball consistently hard in his first three at-bats. Here’s a look at the exit velocity on his batted balls from the night, via Savant:
In his final at-bat, he was able to get an infield single off of Yennier Cano of the Orioles, who has been flat-out dominating this year out of the bullpen. Garcia’s ability to put the ball in play and utilize his speed was a big reason why he was able to finish the night with two hits in his first MLB game of 2023.
The Royals need that kind of ability at the bottom of the lineup, especially considering they have the sixth-highest K rate as a team in baseball, as of Tuesday.
Expect Garcia to do a lot in this month of May at the plate to prove that he can be a mainstay at third base for the 2023 season.
Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images