Here’s something I’m sure most Royals fans don’t want to hear. Thus far, Jeff Francoeur has had as bad this year as he was in 2012. After today’s 1-5 performance, (though Frenchy did have a double during KC’s three run fifth) Francoeur is hitting .253/.295/.362 compared to last year’s .235/.287/.378. It’s pretty clear that the Royals will have a hard time succeeding with Frenchy hitting the way he is. So what does Kansas City do? The Royals have a couple of options
The first thing Kansas City can do is look in house to fix the problem. With the departure of Wil Myers, there isn’t a top prospect to fill the void, but the Royals do have a suitable candidate in David Lough. At the moment, Lough is hitting .362/.424/.523 for Omaha. There’s not much of a chance that Lough can give Kansas City that kind of production, but he doesn’t need to. Lough has played 391 games at the AAA level, producing a line of .296/.349/.452. This could be regressed a little and still be much better than Francoeur’s line. Calling up Lough and replacing Frenchy with him might not be the best idea, though. This is because Frenchy hits much better against left handed pitchers and Lough is a lefty. For his career, Frenchy has hit .290/.342/.479. This year, Francoeur is hitting .368/.429/.474 versus southpaws. Neither Baseball-Reference nor Fangraphs have data for minor league splits, but lefties generally hit right handed pitching better than left handed pitching. The benefit wouldn’t just be on offense, though. Lough would provide above average range in right field in addition to improved baserunning. Last year, Lough stole 26 bases in 30 attempts for Omaha.
There’s another reasonable alternative. If the Royals are looking for a more proven player, they should consider trading for a former Royal in David DeJesus. For his career, DeJesus has hit right handed pitchers much better than southpaws and carries a .292/.367/.452 against righties for his career. This year, DeJesus has a .284/.346/.537 line. While he won’t maintain that throughout the entire year, he will hit well enough to justify a platoon with Francoeur. Together, the two would combine to provide above average offense in right field.
Rany Jazayerli offers another positive aspect of acquiring DeJesus.
DeJesus actually makes a shocking amount of sense. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, he doesn’t make a ton of money ($4.25 million), and the Cubs are pretty clearly playing for the future. On top of that, DeJesus has a $6.5 million club option for next year…assuming he plays well, he could be the everyday rightfielder again next year on a one-year contract, making him the perfect bridge to Jorge Bonifacio, who if all goes right could be ready by the end of 2014.
If the Royals acquire DeJesus and he doesn’t perform, they can just let him walk. Otherwise, they have a reasonable club option for DeJesus which will last until a legitimate prospect takes his place. Bonifacio is hitting well for the Royals high A affiliate so far and should earn a promotion to AA this year if he continues to hit like this.
No matter what the Royals do, they can’t expect to live up to their expectations if they get this kind of production out of right field for the rest of the year. It’s time for Kansas City to put up or shut up. They can help do that by increasing their outfield production.