The Kansas City Royals made yet another splash during the 2020-21 offseason: A trade bringing Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Franchy Cordero, Kahlil Lee, and two players to be named later. The Kansas City Royals have been a bottom feeder in the division since their Division Crown and World Series Win in 2015. New owner John Sherman aims to accelerate the process of winning in a small market by taking aim at free agents and trades to help the team win now. With the addition of Benintendi in an offseason that already includes the signings of Carlos Santana, Mike Minor, and Michael A. Taylor, the Royals look ready to avoid the bottom of the division. But just how good can Benintendi be?
The data compared between Alex Gordon and Benintendi will be the seasons of 2015 and 2019 for Gordon in comparison to the three healthy years in Benintendi’s career(2017-19). A simple glance at the Baseball Reference page of both players shows some of similarities right off the bat. The following bar plot shows the comparison of K%+, pBB%+, pwOBA+, and pwOBAcon+. The similarities across the board – the dotted line – give an idea of what I think can be expected from Benintendi in 2021. In 2015, Gordon was named to the All-Star game, posted an OPS+ of 119, and posted only the third season of his career with an .800 OPS or higher. While Benintendi has yet to make his first All-Star Game appearance, the now 26-year-old posted his best season in 2018. In comparing the 2018 season of Benintendi to the 2015 season of Gordon, both the pwOBA+ and the pwOBAcon+ tab Benintendi as the better player. If he can continue to build off the three years of health in his young career, Andrew Benintendi could soon be a favorite in Royal blue.
The losses of Franchy Cordero and Kahlil Lee may worry some though. Cordero was acquired in a deal with the San Diego Padres last year sending Tim Hill to the Friars. Cordero in the Pacific Coast league in 2017 posted a .326/.369/.972, causing some to be very high on Cordero. While those statistics may be similar to MLB stars Javier Báez and Adam Jones, the adjustment has not been there for Cordero at the Major League level. In parts of three seasons in the majors, Cordero’s line of .236/.304/.737 is massively disappointing. Khalil Lee on the other hand is currently ranked as the #8 prospect in the Royals system. I, unlike some others, are much more skeptical of his ascent. After posting a slash of .264/.363/.735 during his 2019 season in AA Northwest Arkansas, the 22-year-old is beginning to lose a bit of gleam that made him look so promising just two years ago. What concerns me the most though, is that for a guy known for his top end speed, he struck out at a 32.8% clip in 2019. In order for Lee or Cordero to have an impact in the majors, major changes must take place. This developmental path was something the Royals simply couldn’t continue on anymore. By trading the outfield pair, the Royals have taken a step forward in the Majors without losing much at all.
While Andrew Benintendi may not be the defensive wizard in left field that many Royals fans have come to love, in the recently-retired Gordon, he will fill a role that was much needed at the top of the order in 2021. If he can reclaim his 2017-19 form, there is no reason for Royals fan to be anything but ecstatic for the future.