Royals may have ascending player in Orlando

Outfielder enjoying breakout season as surprise .300 hitter

Royals may have ascending player in Orlando

KANSAS CITY -- When the Royals were holding their organizational meetings last winter and trying to construct the 2016 team, outfielder Paulo Orlando wasn't a prime conversation topic.

"We thought Paulo would be a fourth or fifth outfielder," manager Ned Yost said.

That has changed after Yost and the Royals have observed Orlando register a .305 average in 449 at-bats this season. Orlando went 0-for-3 in a 7-2 loss to the Indians on Friday night.

Expectations about Orlando also have changed.

"Yes," Yost said, "they have."

The Royals now view Orlando, 30, as a late bloomer and a potentially ascending player, with a career path and a skill set similar to Lorenzo Cain's.

Cain didn't figure out his offensive game until his late 20s. Cain was 28 when he hit over .300 for the first time. And Cain was 29 when he finally reached double-digits in home runs (16).

Orlando will hit .300 or better in just his second season in the Major Leagues -- he would have to go 0-for-9 in the final two games, and the Royals will shut him down if he gets close to losing the .300 mark.

"Is Paulo starting to come into his own? Yeah, I think so," Yost said. "No doubt [Orlando is a late bloomer]. Paulo is definitely one of those guys.

"You look at the difference between him last year and this year, it's night and day in terms of consistency."

Orlando hit .249 last season with a poor .269 on-base percentage. This season, he has a .334 on-base percentage.

Orlando's solo homer

Still, if Orlando wants to cement a spot in the Royals' outfield, Yost would like to see improvement in the power numbers. Orlando hit seven homers in 2015, and has five this season.

But the Royals see power potential in the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Orlando.

"He's got more power than he exhibits," Yost said. "[You see that] in batting practice. But his focus is just putting the ball in play up the middle or going the other way. He doesn't take advantage of certain pitches.

"[Batting coach] Dale [Sveum] is talking to him about picking spots to use that power early in the count. He's a player that's going to continue to grow."

And possibly Orlando could grow into an everyday player.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.