Testing THT’s Fan Experience Index in Kansas City: Part 1

In late June, as a regular Fangraphs reader, I stumbled across the Hardball Time’s Fan Experience Index, which rated the fan experience of every team in Major League baseball. The ratings didn’t show the Royals in the most positive light, as Kansas City ranked 27th overall in fan experience, according to THT’s ratings. I wasn’t necessarily sure how I felt about this at first: I didn’t grow up in Kansas City, so a lot of my fandom comes from a more recent lens. However, here’s a list of the ballparks I have been and seen games at over my lifetime:

  • Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals, obviously)
  • AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants)
  • Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland A’s)
  • Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  • Petco Park (San Diego Padres)
  • Coors Field (Colorado Rockies)
  • The Kingdome (Seattle Mariners, pre-Safeco Field)
  • Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)

I have visited the grounds of Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs) and Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), but never actually seen a game there, so I didn’t list them. While the amount of parks isn’t numerous, some of the parks I have listed were highly ranked in Asa Beal and Michael Wentworth’s rankings (San Francisco, Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego ranked 1, 4, 5, and 6, respectively). And to be honest, while a lot of those parks were great, I didn’t necessarily feel that their fan experiences were 20+ spots better than Kauffman Stadium and the Royals.

So, I decided to make a two-part series post where I respond to the supposed “fan experience index”. In this first post, I am going to look at the rankings directly, and either confirm or refute their ratings based on my own experience as a Royal fan. Since I follow the Royals regularly, as well as go to games, I feel I have a pretty good accurate view of what the Royals fan experience is like, and whether or not Beal and Wentworth are spot on, or are letting their “West Coast” and “bigger city” biases get the best of them (which they admit in the article that they’re based in the West Coast).

In part two, I am actually going to recap an experience of a game at Kauffman Stadium on July 25th against the Tigers (a day game). This will be “actual” experience, and based on this recent visit, not only can I examine Beal and Wentworth’s claims of Kauffman even further, but also examine my own, and see where I was on, and where I may have let my own biases as a Royals fan come through.

So, let’s begin part 1 of this “Royals Fan Experience” analysis by directly responding to the late June article posted on the Hardball Times.


THT’s Fan Experience Index Criteria

I really admire what Beal and Wentworth are trying to do with this “fan experience index”. In reality, only one team can win the World Series, so while winning is important, winning is not the only reason fans come to the ballpark. There are a variety of factors and reasons that sway a baseball fan into deciding to pay for a ticket and come to a game in person instead of just watching it on their couch or laptop (because nobody likes to pay for cable these days). Thus, Beal and Wentworth come up with nine criteria that in their words ” judge the experience of being a baseball fan outside of your team’s World Series chances in a given year.”

Here are the nine criteria they list:

  • Affordability (18 percent)  — is attending your team’s home games financially feasible?
  • Ownership (18 percent) — is ownership committed to creating a positive on-field product while also maintaining an atmosphere in which a wide variety of fans feel welcome?
  • Game Day Experience (18 percent) — how enjoyable is seeing your team in person?
  • Ballpark and Broadcast Accessibility (15 percent) — how easy is it to get to games? To hear a broadcast in your native language? To feel welcome at the stadium? To access insider information?
  • Broadcast (15 percent) — how good are the TV and radio broadcasts of games?
  • Spring training facilities (9 percent) — how is the experience of seeing your boys in spring?
  • Laundry (5 percent) — how stylish are their jerseys and hats?
  • Social Media (1 percent) — do the franchise’s social media and marketing team add any fun?
  • Mascot (1 percent) — because why not?

I think those criteria are pretty fair, though I’m sure you could argue the weights they give to each individual category. Some may say affordability should be worth more, while others may argue that Spring training facilities should be less, if not inconsequential. Nonetheless, in this post, I will share Beal and Wentworth’s ratings, and whether I think the Royals rating from them should be higher or lower and why. All their ratings are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. And thus, their aggregate rating (an average of all the criteria) is a number out of 10.


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Affordability: 6. My rating: higher, but barely.

THT rated their affordability as a 6 out of 10, which I can understand if you’re not in the Kansas City area. If you simply buy tickets off the Royals website, the deals aren’t great, and it probably does merit a 6 rating, maybe lower. The cheapest seats at face value are around 11 dollars, which for a team that is near the cellar of Major League Baseball, seems like a steep price to pay.

That being said, the Royals are the master of specials, and also not “enforcing” the specials. What do I mean? I can buy student night tickets for “student” prices (which are $5, which I did for the Tigers game tomorrow) without having to actually prove I’m a student (i.e. not use a student email, id, etc.). It’s a loophole, but I think the Royals don’t go too hard in enforcing it because they need to get rid of tickets, especially this season where they aren’t quite the “hot item” they were from 2013-2017 (Now if you try to buy it at the box office, that’s a different story, as you will have to show ID). Also, you can find deals aplenty out there on StubHub or other coupons, as I was gifted a “season discount” package where I could get 4 free games (albeit with a $3.50 service charge per ticket) and 8 1/2 price tickets. And scalper prices are pretty reasonable as well, as you can get tickets in the $5-10 range in the parking lot the day of.

In terms of concessions, parking etc., I will probably go into more details about those items in my second post. That being said, I never found the prices too egregious when it came to concessions or parking (it’s $15 day of but you can get it cheaper if you buy it online), and again, much like tickets, there are plenty of days where there are concession sales. Fridays are dollar nights, where certain items like hot dogs and peanuts are only a buck each, which is something I know AT&T would never dream of doing.

If I had to rank the affordability of Kauffman (pregame of course; this is subject to change), I would probably rate it a 7. It’s gotten more expensive as the Royals have gotten better, but they don’t sell out every game, which means you can get cheap or fairly price tickets the day of. Hell, you can even get a good selection of tickets from the box office the day of a game, which is something that would be difficult to do at AT&T or Dodger Stadium. I think that counts for something, and I think there will be even more deals and affordable ticket deals in the second half as the season winds down.


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Ownership: 4. My rating: lower.

4 is pretty low, but I still think David Glass merits a lower rating. The guy was on the cusp of making the Royals the premier professional sports organization in Kansas City. He has the advantage of playing during the best season in the Midwest (the Summer, where everyone in the Midwest wants to do shit outside because they know what winters are like), and other than Sporting KC, they actually have a championship title to boast (unlike their NFL neighbors the Chiefs). And yet, not only did he and management fail to capitalize on this run, but they also have made things more expensive, a drag considering the Chiefs are already such an expensive product in the Fall and Winter months.

I appreciate that Glass didn’t go full Jeffrey Loria and totally blow it up after their run. That being said, he definitely could have done more to maintain the competitiveness of this squad so they wouldn’t have bottomed out three seasons after their first World Series title in 20 years. Another key aspect of this rating is also how the organization maintains an “environment in which a variety of fans feel welcome.” I struggle a bit with this one, as it is similar to the Chiefs, in terms of they cater to the traditional White, middle-class family in the KC Metro area. You don’t see a whole lot of cultural nights, or even a whole lot of diversity in fans to be frank (my friends made note of this once when watching the Royals game, remarking “You know, if everyone just judged KC based on Kauffman alone, they would think we were the whitest city in America”).  Now, I will say that I think the Royals do a much better job in this regard than the Chiefs: they don’t have the racist props; they really embrace Kansas City’s Negro League roots, especially when it comes to Buck O’Neill; and they do a great job with the KC Urban Academy. But compared to other ballparks and other organizations? Glass and the Royals still have a long ways to go. I give them a 3.


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Gameday Experience: 7. Accessibility: 3. My ratings: TBD

I’m going to go into these ones more in-depth in tomorrow’s posts. I feel a fresh experience in response to these categories would be more relevant anyways.


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Broadcasters: 5. My rating: higher.

The Royals television team consists of Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler in the booth, with Jeff Montgomery and Joel Goldberg as pre and post-game hosts (Montgomery does fill in on occasion in the booth). The radio team consists of Denny Matthews, Steve Physioc, and Steve Stewart. I tend to listen to more radio than television, as I do not have cable, I subscribe to the At-Bat radio (it’s not blackouts and only $20 for the year), and I like to do a lot of things while following games (the life of a teacher, I guess).

I enjoy the radio broadcasts for the most part. Matthews is a vet who has been with the Royals since the organization started in 1969. Matthews reminds me a bit of Jon Miller for the Giants, though he doesn’t have the pizazz for big moments like Miller. But I respect Matthews for his balanced, unbiased, and no-nonsense approach to the game, which makes the Royals games enjoyable to follow on the radio. Believe me, if you listen to some of those Yankees broadcasts on WFAN, it will make you sick how “homer” they are. Physioc and Stewart have their moments on the show, but Matthews is really the star of Royals Radio broadcasts.

As for TV, I have grown to like them more year by year. Lefebvre is fine, but it’s the combo of him Hudler that really make the broadcasts worthwhile. Lefebvre plays a great straight man to Hudler, who will go on tangents and have a lot of “catchphrases” that already have become the stuff of legend amongst Royals fans today. I know Hudler had a tough time initially, as he is a relative Royal outsider, and many people, especially the older generation, felt he was just off his rocker. Thankfully, Kansas City has warmed up, especially 35 and under fans, who seem to appreciate his goofy style more so than old-school Royals fans. Tonight, KC showed their appreciation for the duo with a special T-shirt night for fans, as evidenced in the tweet below:

As for the pre and post-game team, Goldberg has become something of an icon for Royals baseball and it’s easy to see why: he’s always there when Salvy is dumping water on players. I’m kind of lukewarm on Goldberg. He’s perfect for his role, has great energy, like Guy Fieri on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” But like Fieri, if you get anything more than a few minutes of Goldberg at a time…well…he just doesn’t hold up well.

Overall, I would rate the Royals broadcast team a 7. I don’t think they’re elite (there are a lot of better broadcasts teams out there; as much as I hate the Dodgers, they’ve had some of the best), but they’re definitely better than the middle of the road grade they were given by THT.


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Spring Training: 10. My rating: lower, barely.

I have only been to Surprise once. I was in high school on Spring Break playing in a baseball tournament of my own and from what I remembered, it was a nice ballpark and a fun experience (Ruben Gotay hit a game-winning home run, and we heckled the hell out of the Padres’ Robert Fick). Plus, it is in Arizona, which is infinitely better than the humidity of Florida Spring Training spots. That being said, I remembered it being a pain in the ass to get too (I remembered we got lost going there and went to the wrong stadium by accident initially; this was pre-GPS days and there are a ton of MLB facilities around the Surprise area). Furthermore, it was a nice ballpark experience, as nice as a good Triple-A park, but nothing noteworthy. So, I would probably give it a 9.

Maybe the Royals Spring Training facility in Surprise is my trip for Spring Break in 2019?


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Laundry: 7. My rating: higher.

I love the Royals uniforms. I like the hats and the uniforms, and that they don’t try to do too much. I get that their look resembles the Dodgers, but people only say that because they both have blue and white. The Cardinals and Reds both have red and white, but you don’t see people complain or complain about it, right?

I also love the Royals powder blues, which they wear for Sunday games. I do wish they would go full boar with the powder blues and also have powder blue pants, a cry to their old school days in the 70’s and 80’s when they were a powerhouse in the American League and had a legitimate rivalry with the Yankees. I also liked their gold outline jerseys and hats, which they wore primarily in 2016 after they won the 2015 World Series (which most teams do anyways). However, I feel the Royals could get away with the gold more often, just because of the “Royalty” motif of their nickname.

The dark blue road uniforms are the only ones I’m down on and prevent me from going higher than a 9. They just look like Spring Training uniforms, and if they wanted to do a solid blue look, I felt they could’ve gotten a bit more creative with the jersey design. Overall though, I think the Royals uniforms are underrated and don’t get as much love as they deserve, mostly because they always get compared to the Dodgers.


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Social Media: 2. My rating: higher.

I admit: the Royals twitter handle is really positive. Like overly positive. I’m pretty sure the Royals twitter is handled by an intern who doesn’t want to piss off Dayton Moore and have to sit through another “anti-porn” seminar, or is a retired mother from Overland Park who has nothing better to do than tweet how much she loves her Royals. I do think though that 2 is pretty unfair. They are pretty responsive to tweets, and they seem pretty active on social media, even if it is a bit vanilla.

If it’s just based on the Royals social media, the rating probably would be around 4. However, I’m giving it a couple of more points (6) due to the affiliates who are just great, especially the Wilmington Blue Rocks, who post GIFs like a madman possessed by Four Loko. Yes, Wilmington’s only the High-A, Carolina League affiliate of the Royals. But that doesn’t stop them from being turned up on Twitter to the 100th degree, which merits a follow from Royals fans who are active on the Twitter-verse. Now if the Royals Twitter can get some help from these guys in Delaware.


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Mascot: 8. My rating: higher.

It’s a lion, who is considered “Royalty” of the jungle. He’s dressed in a Royals uniform. The hairs on his head look like a crown. He loves to wave the Royals flag, especially after a victory. And his name is Slugerrr…that’s right, with not one, not two, but THREE R’s. (That’s how we do in Kansas City! F your spelling!)

Look at the Giants’ mascot. A seal. The A’s? An elephant. The Rockies? A deformed, deranged Barney.

The Royals have a lion…lions were the stars of “The Lion King,” which kicked ass. Barney sucked. Nobody watched Operation Dumbo Drop. And you think people would go watch a movie called “The Seal King?”

I rest my case. Give Sluggerrr a 10.


ALCS - Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals - Game Four

Aggregate rating: 4.99. My rating thus far: 7.28 (with 7 categories)

So, my rating of the Royals is about 2.29 higher than THT’s ratings. Now, I didn’t weigh them just yet, so this is simply a raw average for now. If they took my rating, that would put the Royals fifth in between the Dodgers and Rockies. I like Kauffman and the Royals better than both those teams and their ballparks, personally, but I know I am a Royals fan, which colors my view a bit (plus my family cheers for the Giants so that also colors things as well).

Of course, this rating isn’t totally complete. I still have two categories to consider (ballpark experience and accessibility) so this rating could change after tomorrow’s game (which is why I didn’t weigh it; I feel those two categories are weighed so heavily that including the weights with this initial rating would be unfair, not to mention complicated). I do worry about accessibility since I definitely prefer the “mass transit to the ballpark” options of San Francisco and Oakland which Kansas City is devoid of. However, I can tolerate driving and parking if the commute is tolerable, which will be interesting to see during a day game during the week.

Let’s hope Kauffman Stadium and the Royals have a good one in store for Wednesday afternoon.

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Can the Royals’ youngsters spark this lackluster offense?

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Hunter Dozier (left) and Jorge Bonifacio are two Royals players who can help the offense in the second half.

June was a rough month for the Royals, and that’s putting it lightly. After a respectable May, where they went 13-15, the Royals nosedived the next month, going 5-21 and getting outscored 136-58 during the 26-game span. Yes, you read that right: the Royals only managed a measly 58 runs for the ENTIRE MONTH.

The putrid month warranted a piece from Fangraphs from Jeff Sullivan on July 3rd, who analyzed the Royals’ historically bad offensive month. Sullivan had this to say about the Royals’ lack of production over the last 30 days:

The Royals are in last, having managed a team wRC+ of 48. To be more precise, 47.6. The nearest team is the Tigers, with a wRC+ of 72. Over this span, the Royals are the only team to have batted under .200. They’re the only team with an OBP under .250, and they’re the only team with a slugging percentage under .300, and so they’re the only team with an OPS under .550. The Royals have been caught in an offensive tailspin, and the only thing that’s allowed them to avoid too much attention is the fact they were expected to be bad in the first place

I don’t think there’s much I can say that Sullivan has not said already about the Royals’ offense, so if you want to read about it more (because you’re a masochistic SOB), check out Sullivan’s piece, especially worthwhile thanks to the data graph he provides of team hitting wRC+ for all 30 teams (surprisingly, Cincinnati ranks third; goes to show how bad their pitching has been). That being said, as an optimistic Royals fan, I would like to think that Royals can’t possibly duplicate their horrid numbers for the rest of the year (though fingers crossed; this year has been bad enough). But let’s face it: the Royals are not going to turn it around in the second half without some change in the lineup.

With a 25-60 record as of July 4th, the Royals have already begun the rebuilding process thanks to some trades last month (Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks and Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals), resulting in some of the younger Royals’ younger players cracking the lineup. However, with the trade deadline looming on July 31st, it’s only a matter of time before some veterans are traded for assets (Mike Moustakas and Whit Merrifield are prime candidates), meaning the youth movement in the Kansas City will most likely be in full force by August.

So, which Royals younger players can have an impact on this club during these last few months? Which ones can help make the Royals’ offense respectable again?

Let’s take a look at youngsters on the Royals’ 40-man roster who are likely to make an impact, and which ones may leave some left to be desired during the second half of the Major League season.

Don’t expect all that much

Abraham Almonte, OF; Ramon Torres, 2B/SS; Bubba Starling, OF

Almonte is nearly 30 and hasn’t really done all that much at the Major League level, as he is posting an awful slash of .186/.264/.295 in 47 games and 145 plate appearances this year. Considering his age and his lackluster production at the Major League level, Almonte is most likely a “Four-A” player at best who’s probably too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.

Torres is a bit younger at 25 years old, and has the versatility to play second and short (much needed should the Royals bite the bullet and designate Alcides Escobar for assignment so Ned Yost can’t play him; I think Dayton Moore’s loyalty will get in the way of this happening), but in 42 career games and 108 plate appearances, Torres hasn’t provided much with the bat as evidenced by a career .229/.269/.265 slash and 43 wRC+. Even in Triple-A, Torres isn’t showing much promise in Omaha, with a slash of only .226/.281/.332 and a .613 OPS in 53 games and 208 AB this season in the PCL.

As for Starling, the former Gardner, Kansas high school sports star and bonus baby has failed to resemble a Major League player at any point in the Minors since he was drafted and received the largest draft signing bonus in team history in 2011 (it was $7.5 million). The best campaign he had was in 2015 in Double-A in Northwest Arkansas where in 366 plate appearances he hit 10 home runs and posted a slash of .254/.318/.426 and an OPS of .744 as a 22-year old. That being said, due to the combination of injury and ineffectiveness, Starling really hasn’t built on that campaign nearly three seasons ago. This past season in Omaha, in 303 plate appearances, he hit only .248 with a .685 OPS and only added 7 home runs and 21 RBI. While Starling will get a chance to get some playing time when the roster expands in September (hopefully he will be healthy by then), it is unlikely that former first-round pick will have much impact at the MLB level this season.

Not totally sure…but some upside

Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B; Adalberto Mondesi, 2B/SS; Rosell Herrera, 2B/OF

Cuthbert is a former top prospect who has yet to capitalize on his “prospect hype” at the big league level. His career slash is .252/.303/.378 with a .681 OPS. That’s fine for a middle fielder with good speed and a good glove, perhaps, but not for a corner infielder. His wRC+ this season before he went to the DL with injury this year is 62, barely an upgrade over the 59 he posted a season ago in 153 plate appearances and 58 games at the big league level (he struggled with injuries as well a season ago). I’m not totally giving up on Cuthbert. With Moustakas holding down third, it’s been hard for Cuthbert to get an extended chance when Moose was healthy. He actually did okay when Moose struggled with injuries in 2016, as Cuthbert hit 12 home runs, posted a .731 OPS and a wRC+ of 95 over 510 plate appearances. It’s not great by any means, but it shows that he can be an average hitter in the lineup (when healthy), something the Royals have been sorely missing this year. Should (or perhaps when) Moose gets traded, and when Cuthbert is healthy (he is raking so far on a rehab assignment in Omaha), it’s possible that he may be able to rebound at the plate with regular playing time.

I have already talked about Mondesi before on this blog, who oozes with potential, but still hasn’t realized it at the Major League Level. Mondesi is still young (he’s about to turn 23 in less than a month), but he’s already shown some progress in his Major League call-up this year, which is 42 plate appearances and 13 games. His strikeout rate is down (from 36.7 percent to 25.5 percent) and he is showing more power as well (his .143 ISO is a career high thus far). Granted, his numbers aren’t pretty by any means: 55 wRC+ (actually the highest mark as a Royal thus far) and .214/.233/.357 slash with a .590 OPS. But, he is a middle infielder, he is showing progress and he’s still over three years away from the “plateau” mark for prospects (age 26 is considered the point where prospects are what they are). With Escobar not being much better (37 wRC+), it may be worth it for Yost to see if Mondesi could handle an extended look at SS in the second half (or at least splitting duties with Escobar).

Herrera has always had a soft spot with me as a prospect, as I was a big fan of him when I was covering the Giants and prospects more closely in my Optioned to Fresno days. I wrote a couple of pieces for Seedlings 2 Stars (now called Call to the Pen), including a piece profiling the top Latin American prospects in the NL West back in 2012, which listed Herrera as a top SS prospect in the Rockies system. (It looks bad now, as I said I liked Herrera more than Trevor Story, who is now the Rockies starting SS; can’t win them all I guess). While Herrera hasn’t turned into the stud I foresaw him as during his NL West days, I felt the Royals getting Herrera off waivers was a low-risk, high-reward move. Herrera isn’t killing it at the MLB level, but he’s doing much better in his limited 15 game stint with the Royals than his 11 game-13 plate appearance stint with the Reds (who designated him for assignment). As a Royal, his slash is .271/.279/.407 and his wRC+ is 80 (much better than the -25 mark with the Reds). This is Herrera’s first year playing at the Major League level, so some growing pains are to be expected, but right now Herrera is a nice utility type player who could help the Royals down the stretch, especially if he gets his base-stealing together (he stole 36 bags in Double-A in 2016; he’s 1 for 3 this year with the Royals). His plate discipline still needs major work (only 1 walk in 72 plate appearances at the Major League level), but he could fill the Merrifield role nicely should Merrifield get dealt by the deadline. He’s mostly risk and upside, like Mondesi, but unlike Mondesi, he doesn’t have age on his side (he’s 25). However, he could provide some decent production from multiple positions if given an extended chance in the Big Leagues.

For sure worth giving a look to

Hunter Dozier, 1B/3B/OF; Jorge Bonifacio, OF; Jorge Soler, OF

Dozier, the Royals’ 2013 first round pick (and 8th pick overall) is finally getting an extended look thanks to injuries to other players (first to Lucas Duda and now to Soler) and the team currently in “rebuilding” mode. Dozier’s an interesting player because he played shortstop in college and really doesn’t have a “position” yet, but he’s a polished player who flashes a lot of tools and really has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. The KC Star also recognized that this may be a chance for Dozier to “prove himself” considering the circumstances of this season, as evidenced in this quote from writer Vahe Gregorian:

With the Royals losing routinely, with their more-established players being subject to trade as the franchise seeks to replenish its farm system, Dozier’s audition is one of the more compelling tales to follow this season.

Dozier has certainly got an extended chance, as evidenced by his 156 plate appearances and 43 games played thus far. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t look impressive, as he is only posting a .222/.282/.354 slash with a 73 wRC+ and four home runs and 11 RBI. That being said, Dozier has the size (6’4, 220) and the power potential (graded a 60 for raw power from scouts) to be successful, and he has proven at the minor league level that his power is for real (.238 ISO in Omaha last season). The big question for him will be plate discipline, as his strikeout rate is over 30 percent and hovered around 38 percent in Omaha a season ago. If he can lessen than K’s, up the walks, and turn some of his groundballs (41.2 percent) to line drives and fly balls, then it is possible that Dozier can live up to his first-round pick status as soon as this season at the MLB level.

Bonifacio is a polarizing outfielder in the Royals system. The younger brother of Emilio Bonifacio, and a top prospect in the Royals system just a couple of seasons ago (he rated as the 10th best prospect in the Royals system by Fangraphs as of 2016), Bonifacio looked like he was on his way to being something special, as evidenced by his stint with the big league club where he posted a slash of .255/.320/.432 with 17 home runs, 55 runs scored, an OPS of .752 and a wRC+ of 99 in 113 games and 422 plate appearances last season. In fact, it looked likely that Bonifacio would be a shoe-in for a starting outfield spot out of Spring Training, especially considering Soler’s troubles at the plate in 2017, and Lorenzo Cain leaving in free agency. However, in March during Spring Training, Major League Baseball suspended Bonifacio 80 games for testing positive for PEDs and either he became forgotten by fans or an object of vitriol for trying to “cheat” and “deflower” the game.

However, recently Bonifacio’s suspension finally came to an end, and his presence has been made known early on. While it’s only five games and 18 plate appearances, Bonifacio is posting a slash of .313/.389/.375. In his rehab assignment in Omaha, the Dominican outfielder hit .392 with a .442 wOBA and a 167 wRC+. Considering how lackluster the Royals’ bats have been this summer (especially in June), Bonifacio is a welcome surprise who may be the centerpiece of this Royals offense if/once Merrifield and Moustakas are traded. Granted, it’s a small sample size, and Bonifacio has a long way to go to endear himself to Royals fans after the suspension (if there’s one thing KC sports fans don’t like its players with controversy; though they get over it if the players produce; hence Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs), but Bonifacio getting to a hot start is a good sign for a player who’s looking to build upon a promising campaign in 2017.

Soler is an interesting player because he won’t be back for a while. As of June 15th, doctors said he’d probably be out for at least another six weeks due to a broken foot. At this point, the Royals most likely will only get a month and a half of Soler in the lineup at best. That being said, this is less about Soler’s production now, and more what he means to this Royals roster in the future. A former Cubs top prospect who came over in the Wade Davis trade, Soler shut up his critics somewhat early on in the year with a strong start to 2018 to make up for a disappointing Royals career leading up to this season. In 257 plate appearances, Soler was posting a slash of .265/.354/.466 with a wRC+ of 125 to go along with 9 home runs and 28 RBI. Considering his wRC+ was 32 a year ago, many Royals fans reconsidered the Cuban prospect whom they figured to be a bust at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The nice thing about Soler is he has two years left on his deal after this year, and he comes relatively cheap at $4.667 million per year. While it’s unlikely that Soler will have a major effect on the Royals in the W-L column in 2018, if he can come back from injury and finish the year strong, it could have a beneficial effect not only for him personally going into next year but also the Royals organization as a whole, as the club can depend on him being a starting OF in Kauffman for 2019 and 2020 at the very least.

At 26 years old, and only 307 MLB games under his belt, there is a lot of upside to Soler as an athletic, strong-hitting outfielder (though he does have some lapses on the fielding end). A solid finish on what has been his best MLB season so far would be a nice cap to a surprising and reaffirming season not just for the outfielder, but Royals fans overall who are looking for hope on the offensive end of things for the future. This year showed that Soler has potential to live up to his ballyhooed Cubs prospect hype in the near future in the KC blue and white.

As long as he stays healthy of course.