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MLB Rookie Profile: Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals

Seeking a boost for their languid offense, the Kansas City Royals turn to young outfielder Jorge Bonifacio. Is he the solution?

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You can have fun with a thesaurus finding words to describe the Kansas City Royals offense. Languid. Sluggish. Sickly. Supine. Torpid. Limp. Feeble. Infirm. Underwater. Underground. Chthonic. Well, the last two are a stretch, but I was reading H.P. Lovecraft yesterday and wanted to use the word “Chthonic.” The bottom line is that the Royals struggle to score runs because they have bad hitters, as Matthew LaMar points out at Royals Review.

Seeking to bolster the lineup, the Royals promoted outfielder Jorge Bonifacio to the majors this afternoon. Can he be part of the solution?

Bonifacio ranked fifth on the pre-season Royals Top 20 prospects list for 2017 with the following brief comment:

5) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, hit .277/.361/.466 with 19 homers, 51 walks, 130 strikeouts in 495 at-bats in Triple-A; has finally learned to tap his raw power more consistently but contact and batting average are going to be issues when he reaches the majors; right now looks like a .240-.250, 20 homersish hitter but still young enough to develop further; 60-grade outfield arm and average range make him a right fielder. ETA: 2017.

Fleshing that out a bit, Bonifacio was signed by the Royals out of the Dominican Republic back in 2009. Scouts have liked his raw power all along but he had a hard time getting to this power in games. He hit for average at the lower levels: .282 in Low-A, .296 in High-A, but without much isolated power.

The theory was that he would hit for more power as he matured physically, but that theory looked questionable when he reached Double-A in 2014 and hit just .230/.302/.309. He improved the power production in 2015, hitting .240/.305/.416 with 17 homers in Double-A, but it remained an open question how this would project for the future.

I saw him play several times over his two seasons in Double-A and he frankly looked like a confused hitter, his swing mechanics seeming to change drastically from game to game. At times the ball would jump off his bat for distance, but at other times he’d turn over the ball and hit weakish 6-3 grounders, lost trying to pull everything.

He moved up to Triple-A in 2016 and improved, hitting .277/.351/.461 with 19 homers, showing sharper plate discipline and a more consistent approach. He was off to a fast start in 2017, hitting .314/.386/.608 through 51 at-bats.

While he’s clearly made progress compared to a couple of years ago, Bonifacio’s power is still almost entirely pull-side and it will be interesting to see how quickly MLB pitchers find holes in his approach. Projection systems view him as a .240ish hitter with an OBP around .300. You need a lot of SLG to compensate for that.

Will he produce enough power to be a viable regular with a BA/OBP that low? He has a strong throwing arm but has lost speed with age and is limited to right field, so Bonifacio has to hit to hold a roster spot for a good team.

All this may sound negative, but keep in mind that Bonifacio is just 23 years old and there has been real improvement recently. He still has a shot at being a productive regular, but he may need significant adjustment time before it happens.

Bonifacio is promising long-term, but it isn’t fair to expect him to be an immediate savior.

Here’s a winter ball bomb: