Thanks to the Ben Zobrist Trade, the Royals Now Have the Best Odds to Win This Year's World Series
Ladies and gentlemen, your powerhouse Kansas City Royals.
No, these aren't the same Royals we used to know. These Royals, the current American League champions, are hell-bent on returning to the World Series for the second year in a row and winning it this time.
Zobrist had been one of the hottest names on the market, and it's easy to see why. He can play virtually every position on the diamond, and went into Tuesday night hitting .268/.354/.447 with 6 home runs, 39 runs scored and 33 RBI in 271 plate appearances for the A's. He missed the first couple weeks of the season due to an injury, but has been as consistent as ever since he's come back. Zobrist has a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .347 and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 125, good for an fWAR of 1.1.
He is certainly more than just a utility guy.
Calling Ben Zobrist a utility guy is like calling Citizen Kane a movie about sleds.â€” Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) July 28, 2015
And he will certainly be a monstrous upgrade over what the Royals had been running out there at either second base or right field.
Zobrist's nERD of 0.97 means a lineup full of Zobrists would score 0.97 runs a game more than a lineup full of league average players, light years better than Omar Infante's nERD of -2.32. That's a 3.92 net swing in nERD for the Royals at second base alone. In right field, it would be a nERD swing of 1.44.
In other words, if Zobrist becomes the everyday second baseman, they've dramatically upgraded their lineup.
Of course, the beauty of Zobrist is that he can play almost anywhere and everywhere, getting time at all three outfield positions, third base and second base as recently as last year. He's a switch hitter who does slightly better as a right-hander (.866 career OPS) than as a left-hander (.769 OPS), but has more power from the left side (.197 isolated power, or ISO) than the right (.141 ISO). And until this year, he had been an above average defensive player, although his defensive metrics this season, at age 34, have trended down.
Zobrist is a free agent after this season, so there is no long-term financial commitment for Kansas City, although if all goes well he could certainly be re-signed by the team. And while you wouldn't think of it, the numbers show that he has been one of the three most valuable players in all of baseball over the last seven years. Seriously.
So, yes, the Royals landed a guy who is perfect for virtually every contender looking for a bat, but it came at a price. In return, Kansas City sent two more young pitchers, Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea, to the A's.
Manaea is seen as the prize of the haul, rated as Kansas City's second-best prospect, number-85 by Baseball America and number-56 by MLB.com. In 32 career starts, he has a 3.23 ERA averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and 3.8 walks per nine (BB/9). He's reached as high as Double-A this year but only has made two starts, and is seen as a potential star Major League pitcher. He immediately slots in as Oakland's number-three prospect, according to MLB.com.
The 25-year-old Brooks has had a couple cups of coffee with the Royals, and has spent the last two years in Triple-A. In 43 games (40 starts) at Triple-A, Brooks has posted a 3.81 ERA, striking out 6.9 batters per nine while walking 1.8.
The Royals have made themselves a lot better over the last few days. But it has come at a price.
Baseball America ranked Raul Mondesi Jr., Brandon Finnegan and Sean Manaea as #Royals 1-2-3 prospects this yr. Two now gone.â€” Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 28, 2015
But Kansas City is clearly going for it now, before their star players start to get really expensive and the American League lacks a true dominant team. Understanding that the playoffs are usually a big crapshoot, the Royals are the clear favorites to reach the Fall Classic -- no team has higher odds of winning it according to numberFire metrics -- and hope their two new stars can help them take the next step and win the franchise their first World Series since 1985.
The Kansas City Royals, American League powerhouse. You'll get used to it.