No matter how this Eric Hosmer saga plays out—I’m personally of the opinion that he has no contract offers whatsoever and Scott Boras is just stringing us along, no different than George RR Martin continually claiming, “I have pages!” for the next Game of Thrones installment—the balance of power is shifting at Kauffman Stadium.
Not the power of who is in control, who owns the collective heart of the fan base or even who holds sway in the clubhouse—although, given everything that may or may not happen in the five weeks until pitchers and catchers report, all that is still in the balance as well.
No, I’m speaking of raw, searing, Giancarlo Stanton-esque, 160-swattage power.
It’s time for the Two Jorge’s to step to the forefront.
In exchanging Wade Davis for Jorge Soler last offseason, the Royals made a calculated gamble that Soler was the sort of low-risk, high-reward masher that could take some of the pressure off Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and others in the middle of the Kansas City order while low-key becoming groomed for a clean-up slot down the road.
And despite everything you may have seen out of Soler last season, that guy still exists. For starters, his .203 BABIP in 2017 was absurd; it was the sixth-lowest out of any batter with more than 100 plate appearances last season, and while that’s got nothing to do with his all-too-concerning strikeout rate (32.7 percent, 23rd among batters with 100+ plate appearances), it seems fairly impossible to imagine that he’ll be that unlucky again. His line-drive rate (18.0 percent) and hard-hit ball rate (31.1 percent) are just three percent off his career averages; I’m cautiously optimistic about a bounceback.
No bounceback is necessary for Jorge Bonifacio, who may have defied some expectations in a truncated, 113-game effort as a rookie. He could draw a walk (8.3 percent), swinging at 75 percent of pitches in the zone which I understand is a pretty good ratio, and particularly for a rookie.
Thank goodness the Royals traded for Melky Cabrera. Oh wait, that’s terrible news; Bonifacio, already sort of Cabrera-esque in the field, possesses slightly more power and was already on the roster. They could’ve just kept AJ Puckett, but I digress. Sometimes you just want to flip assets for poops and grins I guess.
My point, if I have one, is that losing Hosmer, et al., may not completely sap the Royals of their ability to put the occasional run on the board. Bonifacio is 24 years old, Soler 25. The collective prime should be coming up. Paired with Salvador Perez (assuming he’s still around by the time this gets posted) and given a chance to play every day, and with Whit Merrifield occupying a spot near the top of the order, the Royals are a solid top-of-the-order bat from having a half-competent one-through-five in 2018.
The next four are a whole other, less-than-inspiring story, with Raul Mondesi Jr. and Alex Gordon as main characters. Not a best-seller, that one.
The Jorge’s have a lot of potential, both now and in the future. It’s become chic to consider next season’s Royals, should all the free-agents depart, to be quite devoid of anything worth building around. If dos Jorge’s have slipped so far in the public consciousness, it’s for good reason—Soler was clearly not what was envisioned last season, whether by injury, bad luck or some combination thereof, while Bonifacio was criminally underrated and put in some particularly unfortunate situations as a rookie (outlined by Lesky’s piece here). It’s not hard to see a scenario that involves both becoming, if not cornerstones, then certainly pieces that can be useful to a future contender. Four years from now, with proper development, they’re the kind of low-cost, mid-yield players who form the backbone of a contender.
(Unless somebody stupid elects to give one of them $15 million a year someday. Which I won’t rule out. Even though that would be insane.)
The last thing either can afford is to be buried again. When Cabrera arrived last year, that essentially spelled the end for Bonifacio as a regular, while Soler’s curious combination of injury and inefficiency left him no more than a bit player. Even if neither ever become what once they might have been, it would be a disservice to not use this upcoming year to figure out what you’ve got in the duo.
What the Royals need is a clean break from the past and a clean sheet with which to start over, thereby greasing the skids for the next wave of prospects (specifically, Michael Giggliotti, Hunter Dozier and Nick Pratto) to eventually slide into defined roles. If you don’t enjoy the notion that two guys drafted less than seven months ago loom so large in future plans, with no more than placeholders envisioned in the interim, means you’ve likely pushed every memory from 1986 to 2012 out of your mind. And hey, who’s to blame you? Thirty years of incompetent boobery should be forgotten as soon as possible. I prefer brown liquor, but you do you.
To bridge the gap between now and Pratto and Co., what’s more fun from a fan perspective: one-year show-me contracts to veterans, or playing intriguing youngsters with upside like the Two Jorge’s and watching them navigate the bumps in the road en route to becoming serviceable ballplayers? I know what side I’m on. Give me Jorge’s or give me death.