The Royals announced a handful of changes to the coaching staff Monday, most notably firing hitting coach Terry Bradshaw. Senior director of player development and hitting performance Alec Zumwalt will now oversee the team’s hitters and serve as a uniformed member of the team’s big league coaching staff. Special assignment hitting coach Mike Tosar is also joining the big league coaching staff. Assistant hitting coach Keoni DeRenne will remain on the staff and keep the same title.
It’s been a brutal season for the Kansas City lineup as a whole. Hitting just .224/.289/.336 as a collective unit, Royals hitters rank among the game’s bottom-five teams in runs scored, homers, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+. Kansas City hitters do have the game’s lowest strikeout rate (19.2%), but that hasn’t translated into offensive production and the club’s 7.8% walk rate is the fourth-lowest mark in Major League Baseball.
“Baseball is constantly shifting and we have to continue to self-evaluate to make sure we’re giving our players everything they need to be successful at the highest levels of baseball,” said Royals general manager JJ Picollo in a statement announcing the move. “Our results so far haven’t matched what we’re capable of, and w all share accountability in that. We look forward to Alec, Keoni and Mike helping us provide the best possible processes for our players.”
Certainly, as Picollo alluded to, the blame for the team’s offensive struggles is not Bradshaw’s alone. The Royals ranked 24th in the Majors in runs scored last year and 25th in wRC+, yet the team did nothing to address the lineup over the winter. Rather, the hope was that top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. — and, eventually, Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez — would inject some life into what had been a fairly punchless lineup. Kansas City was also hopeful of getting Adalberto Mondesi healthy and of getting bounceback efforts from Hunter Dozier and Carlos Santana.
Witt’s bat has begun to come alive after a slow start, and Dozier indeed is in the midst of what looks like a pronounced rebound at the plate. Mondesi, however, is out for the year following an ACL tear. Santana has been even less productive in 2022 than he was in 2021. Pratto and Melendez, meanwhile, were sent to Triple-A to begin the season. Melendez has since made his MLB debut but has scuffled through 27 plate appearances. Pratto was hitting .253/.320/.483 in Triple-A before falling into his current stretch of 20 hitless plate appearances.
Zumwalt, though his work in the organization’s minor league system, already has a strong rapport with several of the Royals’ up-and-coming hitters. He’s been with the Royals for nine seasons, originally coming aboard as a scout before moving into an advance scouting role for five years. Zumwalt was the team’s director of baseball operations and player development from 2018-19. He’d been in the first season of his current role, which will now shift once again. It marks the continued overhaul of a hitting infrastructure that has had Zumwalt as a key figure, as chronicled by The Athletic’s Alec Lewis last summer.