Kansas City Royals Omar Infante Battles For Second Base Job

Jun 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) is forced out at second base by Kansas City Royals second baseman Omar Infante (14) in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) is forced out at second base by Kansas City Royals second baseman Omar Infante (14) in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Do I have to write about Omar Infante?

As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the projected starting lineup.

So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Wade Davis, Salvador Perez, and Eric Hosmer

Today, we will be looking at Omar Infante

All statistics provided by Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball

"2015 stats – .220/.234/.318, 2 HR, 44 RBI,  2.0 BB%, 44 (!!) wRC+, -0.9 fWAR2016 Steamer – .253/.284/.352, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 4.0 BB%, 71 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR"

Projected Role – Starting Second Baseman/Backup Infielder

2015 Results

Of all of the player previews I have written thus far, this one is the only one that will be extensively negative. Omar Infante was very, very bad in 2015. In fact, he was historically bad.

According to Baseball Reference’s Play Index, of hitters with at least 455 plate appearances, Infante’s 2015 OBP of .234 was the 7th worst of all time. That’s out of 13,808 such seasons

Note: If you don’t subscribe to Baseball Reference, you won’t actually see his name. But you will see his .234 OBP, confirming that it is indeed Infante.

Of those 13,808 seasons, Infante’s nine walks is the 13th lowest total of all time. If we narrow it down to just 2015, Infante was the worst hitter in baseball according to OPS, wRC+, OBP, BB%, wOBA, and Offensive fWAR.

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In Omar’s defense, he was nicked up for the majority of the season. He’s really been nicked up for the majority of his Royals career. Just days into his Kansas City Royals career, Infante was hit in the face with a Heath Bell fastball. Headed into 2015, Infante contemplated surgery on his elbow, but opted to wait, ultimately having surgery in November. Before that surgery, Infante’s season ended with an oblique strain in September.

There was one positive from Infante in 2015, however, and that was his work at second base. Infante’s Defensive fWAR of 6.5 was the second best in the American League, trailing only Ian Kinsler. His defensive work was good enough to push his fWAR out of the negative, to 0.1, a minor miracle given just how bad Infante was at the plate.

With the Royals lineup being as balanced as any team in the league, it was easy for Ned Yost to trade Infante’s brutal results at the plate for his above average defense up the middle. The baseball world is still trying to come around to the value of defense, and as bad as Infante was at the plate, you can’t overlook his defense at a borderline premium position.

2016 Outlook

With that being said, defensive value is still viewed with skepticism because it is so hard to quantify. It’s also a lot tougher to justify Infante getting a spot due to defense when he is on a team that is stacked defensively. Despite ranking second in the AL in defensive fWAR at second base, he ranked as just the fourth best defender on the Royals.

However, even with back-to-back seasons of being an offensive black hole at second, however, the Royals are still confident with Infante. Here’s what Ned Yost had to say about Infante, according to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.

"“Do I think Omar is going to bounce back? Yes, I do.”"

Yost went on to say this, as well.

"“What he did defensively last year, I thought, was just a little under spectacular,” Yost said. “He just struggled so bad offensively. But the year before, he had his career year in RBIs and was a really nice offensive player for us. You combine those two things, when it’s right, it’s a pretty good player at second base.”"

This is your typical Ned Yost comment. He’s going to defend his players, and that’s a good thing.

What do these quotes mean? Who knows.

The Royals went out and traded for Ben Zobrist last season, knowing that he would be taking either Infante or Alex Rios‘ spot. They defend their players, but they’re not afraid to move them.

Coming off of a World Series title, expectations have never been higher, and it’s going to be harder to justify Infante starting at second base, if the production of the last two seasons continue, especially when you have a 26-year old former first round draft choice in the mix, waiting for his shot.

In that article, Yost also said that the second base job is basically fair game, which is something that Yost hasn’t done in the past. In the past, he has sided with veterans. In fact, after Infante’s miserable 2014 campaign (.632 OPS, 76 wRC+), Yost contemplated plugging Infante back into the number two spot in the Royals batting order.

However, it’s not unreasonable to think Infante will bounce back, to a certain extent. He hasn’t been 100% healthy since 2013, and was as unhealthy last season as any season he has participated in.

Next: Should slow Spring concern fans?

Either way, the Royals have a legitimate battle going on for the starting job at second base. At this point, it’s hard to view Omar Infante as the definitive favorite.