The Kansas City Royals are knocking on the door of Spring Training, and the storylines to follow through this February and March are numerous. Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, the full squad reports next Wednesday and Spring Training games begin on the 27th. Of all the noteworthy non-roster invitees coming to camp this year, Jorge Bonifacio already stands out as one of the most intriguing.
I’ve already discussed him as a serious power hitter in-the-making, but today we’re looking at how he may be tested this spring. Many scouts herald Bonifacio as the best hitter in Kansas City’s entire farm system, and at only 20 years of age, he’ll most likely be starting his first full year at the double-A level this year.
In no way has his in-game production matched his talent as of yet, but when it does, Jorge could impress at even the highest level of professional play. His 105 games in class-A yielded 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 61 RBIs with a .282 average. Since then, his average has improved and his power numbers have remained consistent in limited time with high-A and double-A affiliates.
Bonifacio already boasts remarkable bat speed, and some conservatively project him to hit .270 or better in MLB when he fully matures. Thing is, that maturation may never take place if Jorge doesn’t learn some important lessons at the plate. He is extremely aggressive and continues to struggle with off-speed pitching. Possible future at-bats against lefty hurlers like Chris Sale and C.J. Wilson could help in telling just how far Bonifacio is from being ready for the big leagues.
Regardless of how he responds (read: how hard he gets embarrassed by major league junk), I’m excited to see it. Even with older brother Emilio Bonifacio now gone, Jorge’s rise to the majors is important for KC, and the players who recognize that will make him very comfortable in Surprise.
Skipper Ned Yost could be more gentle with Jorge and only test him against marginal talent, or he could challenge him with the aforementioned higher-profile guys. Even making that decision presents its own fair share of drama. Just chalk it up as another reason to eagerly anticipate the return of meaningful baseball.