5 Royals Already on Thin Ice Through 40 Games

The Royals don't have time to wait on some of their struggling players if they're serious about winning the AL Central
Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals outfielder Nelson Velazquez (17) has been awful to open the 2024 season.
Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals outfielder Nelson Velazquez (17) has been awful to open the 2024 season. / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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Nelson Velazquez 

It’s hard to make any sort of argument for keeping Velazquez in the lineup right now. 

He’s playing worse than replacement level (-0.5 WAR) and there’s no aspect of his game that points to a turnaround coming anytime soon.

He’s batting .204 with a .274 on-base percentage and striking out every third at-bat. He isn’t better-than-average in a single offensive category except for base running, and has just one stolen base.

There’s no track record to suggest that will change. Velazquez is a career .216 hitter and has had just one season with an on-base percentage over .300. 

The Royals need to stop wasting time with Velazquez and cut bait unless his power returns.

MJ Melendez

If you thought Velazquez’s offensive stats were bad, wait until you read just how bad Melendez has been at the plate.

He’s hitting .182 with a .244 on-base percentage through 110 at-bats and is striking out in roughly one-third of his at-bats.

However, his barrel percentage and exit velocity do give some room for optimism. He’s in the 74th percentile in both categories, according to MLB Statcast, and has 11 extra-base hits, including four home runs.

He’s a valuable fielder, with an arm strength in the 95th percentile in baseball. That means the Royals should keep him but in a lesser role, like as a defensive replacement. Manager Matt Quatraro has been pinch-hitting for him recently with mixed results.

Hunter Renfroe 

Renfroe was an offseason addition that fans were excited about, but he’s not living up to the hype. 

He has just six extra-base hits (3 HRs) and is batting an abysmal .146 with a .221 on-base percentage.

Renfroe should be afforded a little more time to improve than other hitters struggling, considering that he has a track record to fall back on. 

He’s hit 20 or more home runs in his last six full seasons (not counting the shortened 2020 campaign) and that’s desperately needed for a Kansas City team that ranks 17th in home runs per game. 

When you consider his $5.5 million salary for this season, it further strengthens the case to let him figure it out, but this slump can only go on for so long before his playing time is impacted.