KC Royals pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in a little over a week (February 18). One unanswered question for the 2016 season is who will bat second in the lineup?
If Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost goes with what has worked in the past, he’ll leave shortstop Alcides Escobar at leadoff and tap third baseman Mike Moustakas for the two-hole. Moustakas hit second most of the first four months of the 2015 season, until the KC Royals acquired Ben Zobrist in a deadline deal. Zobrist then hit second for the balance of the season, and through the playoffs.
We certainly know that Mike Moustakas can succeed as the no. 2 hitter from his performance last season. Moose slashed .280/.341/.418 in 408 plate appearances in the two-hole. Moose reverted to the slugger he was as a prospect in August and September after Yost moved him to the no. 6 position.
Over those two months, Moustakas hit .286/.356/.562 while slamming 12 of his 22 home runs for an OPS of .918. If Moose can come anywhere close to those numbers over a full season, Yost will be tempted to keep him in a “run producing” position further down in the KC Royals lineup.
The player that makes the most sense as a no. 2 hitter is lefty Alex Gordon. Gordon is a productive hitter who takes walks, which is a handy feature for a guy hitting behind the free-swinging Escobar. Gordon has also thrived as a no. 2 hitter over his career slashing .349/.425/.538, though he only has 120 plate appearances in the two-hole (which means small sample caveats apply).
At the very least, Alex Gordon’s strong career slash line while hitting second shows that the position doesn’t throw him off his game for psychological reasons. Certainly, Gordon’s career .348 On Base Percentage and 112 career OPS+ makes him a guy you’d like getting the second most At Bats on the team.
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I suppose Yost could decide to move first baseman Eric Hosmer to the no. 2 position, to follow the right-handed hitting Escobar with a lefty. Hosmer is more of a line-drive hitter with home run power in the high teens, rather than the 20+ teams who aren’t the Kansas City Royals expect from their cleanup guy. Yet, I doubt Yost moves Hosmer out of the cleanup spot after the KC Royals won a World Series with Hoz no. 4.
If Ned Yost decides to go with two right handed hitters atop the lineup, rather than alternate righty/lefty, he could use Lorenzo Cain at no. 2. Cain possesses speed, base-stealing ability, and has hit over. 300 the last two seasons. While he’d seem like a great candidate for a “classic” no. 2 hitter, Cain added power to his game after becoming a no. 3 hitter in 2015.
I seriously doubt Yost messes with this success.
When spring training ends, I think the KC Royals will open the season with Alex Gordon in the two-hole.