Bonifacio balancing contact with power

Bonifacio balancing contact with power

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals outfielder Jorge Bonifacio has tried it both ways, offensively.

Bonifacio, 21, has waited back on pitches, driven balls the other way and hit for average -- .298 combined among three Minor League teams in 2013. But he wasn't satisfied.

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Bonifacio, the No. 16 Royals prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has spent the last year trying to increase his pull power, pouncing on pitches that are up and in and yanking them to left field. In 2015, he hit a career-high 17 homers and 30 doubles for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. But his average suffered, as he hit .240.

Now, both Bonifacio, the younger brother of former Royals infielder Emilio Bonifacio, and the Royals are hoping he can find a happy medium between power and average.

"I want to work on both this season," Bonifacio said. "I think I can."

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Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo sees this season as a chance for Bonifacio to put it all together.

"He's still just 21, and he's still developing," Picollo said. "He was a guy who when we first signed him [at age 16], he only drove the ball to right field. He rarely pulled the ball.

"So we've actually tried to get him to jump on pitches a little more. We know he has that pull power, and he showed it last year. Now we're hoping to get something more in the middle."

Bonifacio, in his third Spring Training camp, is off to a good start, belting a double and a homer in six at-bats.

"I like what I see of him," manager Ned Yost said. "He's got really nice power. Good in the outfield. I've liked him for a couple of springs now.

"He seems to have filled out a little bit, too."

Bonifacio is listed at 6-feet-1, 195 pounds. But he looks bigger than that this spring, perhaps in the 210-215 range.

"He's always been built in the upper body," Picollo said. "But now you're seeing him get a little more bulk in his lower body. I think that will help him."

Bonifacio, as of now, is still in the group of outfielders competing for one or two backup spots behind Paulo Orlando in right field. Projected starter Jarrod Dyson is out for five or so more weeks with an oblique strain.

Bonifacio isn't likely to break camp with the big league team, but he is learning a great deal, he says, just being in the presence of the World Champions.

"Oh, yeah, it's a great (group) of guys," Bonifacio said. "They teach me a lot. I'm just trying to do whatever I can do to help."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.