KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two hours before first pitch of Wednesday’s game against Cleveland, hitting coach Alec Zumwalt sat on the Royals bench and shared an assessment of several players.
One was outfielder Nelson Velázquez, who hit a long home run in the Royals’ 6-2 win at Kauffman Stadium as they swept the three-game series.
It was Velázquez’s 12th home run in 33 games since being acquired by the Royals in a deadline trade with the Chicago Cubs. He has 25 RBIs in that span.
“He’s been great to work with in the cage. Great to work with on the field,” Zumwalt said. “More than anything, it’s just him just understanding his own swing a little bit differently now.”
Part of that understanding has come from trying to emulate a teammate: shortstop Bobby Witt.
“We were in Seattle and he first mentioned to us about his hands, where he wanted his hands to be at, and it was based off of what he was watching (from) Bobby,” Zumwalt said. “How Bobby anchors his hands so well. And then literally even yesterday in BP he was talking about his posture and how he wants to make sure he maintains his posture.
“In the past he would try to go get a ball with his upper body versus using his lower half. So ... I mean little things, but they’re big things.”
Velázquez has put up eye-popping numbers. His full season projections based on his performance with the Royals this season: 59 home runs and 123 RBIs.
And then there’s this: Velázquez entered Wednesday’s game with an Isolated Slugging Percentage of .366. No one in team history has had a higher IPO (which measures a player’s raw power) while playing at least 30 games.
The highest ISO in Royals history for a player who appeared in 125 or more games is .304 by Jorge Soler in 2019, when he set the franchise’s single-season home run record.
Cleveland pushed two runs across against Royals starter Zack Greinke in the fourth inning and had a runner on first. Manager Matt Quatraro called on left-hander Angel Zerpa, who struck out José Tena to end the threat.
Zerpa allowed just three hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched and got the victory.
What’s next: The Royals on Thursday will travel to Houston and open a three-game series against the Astros on Friday.
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