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Do The Royals Have A Problem Behind The Plate?

Do The Royals Have A Problem Behind The Plate?

Since winning the 2015 World Series, the Royals have been on a downward trajectory. The went 81-81 in 2016 and have been below .500 in the five seasons after that. After rebuilding the farm for a few years, the club has been trying to return to contention over the past couple of seasons by giving out some aggressive contracts, at least by their modest standards. It hasn’t worked out, with the past two seasons resulting in a fourth and fifth place finish in the weak AL Central.

A significant factor in the club’s results has been that many of their top pitching prospects have struggled in the majors. Brady Singer seems to be front of the pack now, despite posting a 4.91 ERA in 2021 and getting demoted to the bullpen to start 2022. He wound up back in the rotation and finished the season with a 3.23 ERA. Daniel Lynch was a 34th overall pick in 2019 but he has a 5.32 ERA in 199 2/3 innings thus far in the big leagues. Kris Bubic was taken 40th overall in 2018 but has a 4.89 ERA in over 300 MLB innings thus far. Jackson Kowar was selected 33rd overall in 2018 but has only been given 46 innings of action so far, in which he has a 10.76 ERA. Those are just a few examples of many.

For a team that doesn’t usually spend on marquee free agents, developing their own prospects into useful major leaguers is essential to their success and this is something they will need to get to the bottom of. Finding an explanation for all this likely won’t lead to a simple answer. It’s possible it has something to do with the scouting that led to those players being drafted in the first place, although public prospect evaluators have liked each of those players quite a bit. Perhaps it’s related to coaching or development in the minors. But it’s also possible the club’s major league catching is playing a role.

Salvador Perez has been the club’s catcher for over a decade now, having debuted in 2011 and firmly securing the job in 2013. He was the primary backstop as the club went to the World Series in consecutive years, winning the second trip in 2015. As much of that championship core moved on, he remained as the face of the franchise and unofficial captain. While he’s been above-average at the plate in each of the past three seasons, his defense is another matter.

Defensive Runs Saved has placed Perez at -5 in 2021 and -4 in 2022. Baseball Prospectus’ Catcher Defensive Adjustment gave him a -14.8 last year, which was last in the majors, and -14.1 this year,…

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