With Spring Training games underway, the Kansas City Royals will be seeing a few new faces in the lineup. Along with those new faces comes a new philosophy; The Royals appear to plan to hit the ball for power in 2020.
Kansas City Royals new third baseman Maikel Franco conducted an interview with the Associated Press. During the interview, there was a discussion about about a “new look” with the free agent the Royals signed after he was let go by the Philadelphia Phillies. The new look included a haircut that made him unrecognizable to his new teammates.
After digging into the article a bit more, there was a “new look” that really stuck out that had nothing to do with the outside appearance of a ball player that the Royals signed to a bargain $2.95 million one-year contract. It was a few of the comments he made that kind of makes a long-time Royals fan do a double take.
Franco openly admitted that his offense production declined because he became more of a “groundball hitter” last season; This coming from someone that hit 22 home runs or more in three straight seasons. He went on the say that the Royals and Manager Mike Matheny are encouraging him to trying to get him to “hit the ball in the air”. This is a vast contrast to the Royals approach over a generation.
Kauffman Stadium has been known – since it was built in 1973 as Royals Stadium – as a pitcher friendly park. This is solely based on the pure dimensions of the stadium itself. Currently, Kauffman boasts 330 feet down the lines, 387 feet to the alleys in right and left center, and 410 feet to dead center.
The Royals only hit 162 team home runs in 2019 despite having the AL home run leader in Jorge Soler; Only 62 of them were at the K. This was down from the 2018 campaign where the Royals only hit 88 bombs at home.
The shift in the approach that the Royals are encouraging Franco to take could happen with other players in the lineup. Theoretically it should cause players like Hunter Dozier and Salvador Perez to increase their home run numbers this upcoming season.
But if this is indeed a change in the team approach, let’s hope it doesn’t change the way players like Whit Merrifield dig in at the plate. Merrifield’s ability to “lock in” at the plate was said to be equivalent Albert Pujols according to Mike Matheny.
With the change in approach also comes a higher risk for striking out and that was something the 2014-2015 teams didn’t do often. It was the cornerstone of the team’s idea of keeping the line moving. By keeping the line moving, they scored runs, which ultimately was the reason they were able to with a championship. It somewhat went against the grain of other teams in the league, and it worked.
This is a risky approach for the Kansas City Royals to take if they plan to do so throughout the entire lineup. It is a complete 180 degree turn from the teams we’ve been accustomed to seeing year in and year out.
With a new manager comes a new philosophy that might produce some more exciting offensive baseball this upcoming season at the K.
Let’s just hope we can get some pitching output to complement this offense.