Over the past few years, since Alberto Callaspo and Mike Aviles left the Royals, second base has been a black hole in the lineup. Chris Getz, for all of his grit and speed, never was able to contribute enough to be a true starter. Johnny Giavotella had his chances to seize the starting job, but never could produce well enough to take hold of the position. Even with the addition of Emilio Bonifacio in August last season, Royals second basemen produced only a .243/.296/.304 batting line with a .600 OPS. That OPS ranked 28th in baseball, and next to last in the American League. There is little wonder as to why that position was one of the targets in the offseason.
However, the Royals may have finally found the production they have been lacking at second. Yesterday, it was reported that the Royals have agreed to a four year, $30.5 Million contract with Omar Infante to come in and solidify that spot in their lineup. While Infante may not be the power bat that the Royals lineup is seemingly lacking, he has been a solid hitter, with a .279/.319/.402 batting line over his career. Since becoming an everyday player for the Braves back in 2010, Infante has been even better, producing at a .295/.327/.415 rate. Compared to the production that the Royals have gotten from second base in the past few seasons, having that type of production would be like getting an Ichiro in his prime. Ok, maybe not, but it is still a major upgrade.
Where Infante excels offensively is with his ability to put a bat on the ball, striking out only 616 times in 4169 career at bats, making him one of the more difficult hitters to strike out the game. A natural second hitter with his ability to make contact, drop down a sacrifice bunt and hit the ball the other way, Infante could give the Royals the ability to deepen the middle part of their lineup by slotting Alex Gordon in either the third or fourth spot. Having someone that can make contact could also help the Royals take advantage of Norichika Aoki‘s speed, as Ned Yost would be able to put on more hit and run plays and have someone able to protect Aoki should he get a bad jump on a stolen base attempt.
Omar Infante is also a solid defensive second baseman. In 2011 and 2012, he led American League second basemen in range factor, and is among the active leaders in several defensive metrics. Paired with Alcides Escobar, Infante could provide the Royals with excellent defense in the middle of their infield, which could help their pitching staff. Even if he is not the run producing threat that the lineup is thought to need, his ability to take away runs could have just as big an impact on the overall success of the Royals in 2014.
Second base has been a problem for the Royals over the past few years. Now, with the signing of Omar Infante, those problems may finally be over.