Hamate Break Halts Jorge Bonifacio’s Breakout Season

If you knew Emilio Bonifacio’s younger brother was an outfield prospect in the Kansas City Royals’ farm system, you might assume the two are roughly similar. But Emilio — a speedy, switch-hitting, utility man for the Toronto Blue Jays — and Jorge have little in common, at least when it comes to their games. Jorge, the younger of the pair, is a burly right fielder with a strong arm. He was enjoying an excellent campaign as a 19-year-old in the Carolina League when he broke his hamate bone Tuesday during batting practice. Reports suggest he’ll miss six to eight weeks.

It’s difficult to say how the injury will affect his development. Even after returning to the field, the alleged power-sapping effects of a hamate break can linger. Whether appropriate or not, the injury will cast a shadow over the rest of his season.

As always, context is important when peering into the small, 34-game sample of Bonifacio’s 2013 season. To start the year, he has a triple-slash of .325/.404/.425, but Wilmington is home to the worst hitter’s park in the league.

According to Statcorner.com, Frawley Stadium suppresses right-handed offense by a whopping 16% and home runs by 35%. The drastic effect may be explained, in part, to left field’s unnatural border — an elevated branch of Interstate 95 that runs parallel to wall.

Bonifacio’s .127 Isolated Slugging Average can be partially attributed to his home park, though he isn’t the slugger his body suggests he should be.

The Royals’ right-handed hitter is listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, but there’s no doubt he’s taller and heavier. His frame is thick and unprojectable with the majority of his bulk concentrated in his upper legs, in his rear and in his midsection. At his best, Bonifacio has a controlled, hands-driven swing with natural loft that could produce between 15 and 18 home runs, along with a good batting average without selling out for power.

Of course, he has the size to hit for more power and, at times, he does sell-out; he drops his back shoulder in an effort to yank the ball into the air.

An additional mechanical quirk  — one I’m not uncertain I’ve seen before — is his backwards stride. As you can see in the video below, his stance begins with his feet apart — which creates a stiff, wide base. As his hands load, his left foot strides slightly inward. It’s an awkward movement that appears to hinder his weight transfer. When Bonifacio returns from his injury, I’ll follow up with scouts in Wilmington.

As he matures, Bonifacio’s swing will too. And so will his body. Right now, he’s easily an above-average runner, but whether he will retain his speed is a major question. Given his present size and his age, it’s easy to see him outgrowing right field should his athleticism dissipate.

Unfortunately, Bonifacio will miss valuable development time while he rehabs from his broken hamate. But the hindrance will be minor. He’s an advanced hitter who couples a selective approach with good hands and natural strength. He’ll never be an asset in the outfield, but so long as he remains there and doesn’t move to first base, he’ll be an intriguing talent.

He has to be better than Jeff Francoeur, right?

We hoped you liked reading Hamate Break Halts Jorge Bonifacio’s Breakout Season by JD Sussman!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

newest oldest most voted

It’s hard to see how he generates power with that stride, but I’m sure many coaches have tried to change it at this point and either the results weren’t there or Bonifacio just wasn’t comfortable.