The outfield of the Royals this season has been one of the more pleasant portions of the team to discuss. With a steady trio of Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur the Royals have received solid power and good defense as well. The group has a league leading 33 outfield assists on defense, Gordon leading the American League with 13, while Cabrera and Francoeur are tied for third with 10 each.
After saying this past off-season that he was going to dominate, Gordon has hit to the tune of .296/.367/.473 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI through 91 games. Including an OPS+ of 135, all are career numbers for the 27-year-old from the University of Nebraska.
Currently eighth in the league in doubles (24) and seventh in hits (109), Gordon's key negative issue still appears to be strikeouts. With 80 strikeouts on the year, Gordon is tenth in the American League in that category.
With career best numbers in 2011, Gordon's certainly gets an UPGRADE in my book. At this point Gordon may not have had the career we all envisioned when he was drafted in 2005, but the future certainly looks bright for the Royals left-fielder.
On December 10th, the Royals signed free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a one-year contract for $1.25 million. I'll admit I groaned when I first saw the signing, however at the same time I was also intrigued. Cabrera had once been a hyped Yankees prospect, and within five years he was the goat of the 2010 Atlanta Braves team.
Cabrera has rebounded nicely with his return to the American League, batting .294/.332/.451 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI. I will also give Cabrera an UPGRADE as he has been much better than I expected at the plate. He is fourth it the league in hits (118) and 10th in offensive WAR (3.2). Cabrera is also tied for eight in doubles with Gordon (24).
Though Cabrera has 10 outfield assists, his defense isn't as good as that number may lead you to believe. While his offensive WAR (3.2) leads the team, defensively his WAR is -1.5, leading the team as well. That is one key reason I wouldn't be opposed to trading Cabrera, if Dayton Moore can find the right deal. A small-market team is generally built on defense, and Lorenzo Cain at AAA Omaha has a much better glove in center field than Cabrera.
Moving to right field, Kansas City also made another free-agent signing in the off-season bringing in Jeff Francoeur from the Texas Rangers. Many Royals fans long speculated about the Royals acquiring Frenchy and after a few years of speculating, it finally happened on December 8th when he signed a contract with the club.
Francoeur started off the season red hot and has settled in at .264/.310/.447 after 93 games. Those numbers include 13 home runs and 58 RBI. The statistics seem right in line with his career numbers as he is a .267/.310/.427 career hitter. He has added 1.3 offensive WAR to the team, while his defense rates as a -0.2. Frenchy is well known for his glove, but at times I've noticed he takes bad routes to baseballs and can misread a ball hit off the wall. Overall I will give Francoeur a PUSH as his numbers suggest he is having another Francoeur-like season. His power is up slightly, but his hitting lines has leveled off to near career averages. One addition Francoeur has made this season is losing weight has helped him steal a career high 15 bases.
I feel it's a bit unfair to rate reserves Mitch Maier and Jarrod Dyson as neither have played much this season. Maier has been a positive bench player in his few chances this season. After starting 103 games last season, Maier has just 55 at-bats in 30 games this season. He has hit at the clip of .273/.385/.382 after a sizzling start to the season. Of his 15 hits the season, five were for extra-bases.