It might be time to start legitimately thinking of who will play first base in Kansas City this year. After trading Brandon Moss it seemed inevitable that Eric Hosmer would return. However, with Hosmer still unsigned and Spring Training just around the corner, who will play first?
All we have known since 2011 is Eric Hosmer was always playing first base for the Royals. Billy Butler, Kendrys Morales, and Brandon Moss were once options at first, but we all knew who the first baseman was going to be.
Now that Spring Training is within striking distance, the Royals find themselves in an interesting situation. Neither of the above names is currently on the roster anymore and the Royals have not filled the spot with a known first baseman yet.
The plan is to look at who possibly could play first. With all players reporting soon, and a rebuild seemingly happening, perhaps the time has come to prepare for a new face at first.
For this round, we are going to be looking at what the Royals currently have. It would make sense to stay in-house, especially if the Royals plan on staying under the $110 million mark.
While staying in-house, three options seem to stand out.
Hunter Dozier is currently the projected first baseman for the Royals. After being drafted in the first round in 2013, Dozier has moved all over the field. He originally was a shortstop that was going to be moved to third base. When that remained occupied by Mike Moustakas, they moved Dozier to right field. He did not break through very quickly and the Royals decided to have him try some first base as well. He was finally called up in September in 2016 but missed the 2017 call-ups due to injury.
While in the minors, Dozier has not had very much success. He had a solid 2016 season in Triple-A Omaha where he posted a .296/.366/.533 over 129 games. During that time he had 23 homeruns and 44 doubles, but struck out 123 times. Other than 2016, his rookie year in 2013 has been his best year. His other years have been spent hitting .251 or lower.
Whether he puts 2017 behind him and can recreate his 2016 campaign is up for debate. We will get an idea as to where he is at during Spring Training, even though Spring Training does not tell the whole story. But as of right now it seems like the Royals are planning on starting the year with Dozier at first base.
Here is where things get interesting. Cheslor Cuthbert could easily be the team’s third baseman. He could also be the teams first basemen. It all kind of depends on whether or not Hosmer comes back and if Dozier wins the first base position.
2017 was a hard year for Cuthbert because of his inconsistent playing time. When coming off the bench he hit just .231/.275/.322 and nine extra-base hits over 58 games. However, in 2016 when he played full time at third base he hit .274/.318/.413 and 40 extra-base hits over 128 games.
Cuthbert suffered an injury in 2017 and when he was back in Triple-A Omaha the Royals tried something new. They moved him to first base to see how he could manage. He struggled, but learning first base can be tricky for someone who is used to being a third baseman/shortstop/second baseman.
It seems unlikely that Cuthbert is the teams first baseman. He is actually slated as the teams starting third baseman. Therefore, it is a safe bet that that is where he will start, but the possibility of being moved to first base is still an option.
Frank Schwindel is a newer name to the Kansas City Royals fandom. In 2016 he started making some noise in the farm system though. Opening some eyes in Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Schwindel has forced his name to be brought up in conversations. The 25-year-old was drafted in the 18th round in 2013.
In 2016, over 120 games he hit a nice .270/.301/.446 and 40 extra base hits (20 being homeruns). He then started the next season in Double-A where he picked right back up where he left off. In 2017, he hit .350/.374/.577 over 34 games. During that time he had 19 extra base hits (six being homeruns). His quick start resulted in a promotion to Triple-A Omaha.
Here is where he really solidified his name as a potential candidate. Over 99 games, Schwindel his an impressive .321/.340/.528 with 47 extra base hits (30 being homeruns).
More impressive, his wRC+ over the last two years is hard to overlook. In 2016 while in Double-A, Schwindel posted a 112 wRC+ (the average is 100). In 2017 while in Double-A his wRC+ jumped to 159, which did help in his promotion to Triple-A. While in Triple-A his wRC+ stayed much higher than the average (100) when he posted a 121 wRC+.
He seems to have the ability to provide some pop offensively, and defensively he is putting up some impressive numbers as well. His overall fielding percentage at first base has improved every year. In 2017 he posted a .997 fielding percentage and has a career .994 fielding percentage at first.
The biggest catch is that he is not on the 40-man roster. Meaning, if he was to become the next first baseman someone would have to be removed. Who that is, I will leave that up to your for right now.
No matter how you cut it, the Royals do not have a really exciting option at first base within the organization. Perhaps the excitement could be seeing how Dozier, the 8th overall player selected in the 2013 draft, handles consistent playing time. Or maybe you are excited to see Schwindel make his MLB debut to see if he can continue his growth and success. Maybe you are excited to ask the question “will the real Cuthbert please stand up?” Is 2016 the real Cuthbert or is 2017 the real Cuthbert?
Regardless, if the Royals want a known first baseman they are going to have to hit the free agent market. They could bring Hosmer back or sign Kansas City native Logan Morrison. But when it comes to the team wanting to rebuild, perhaps they decide to go cheap and stay with an in-house option.
What do you think Royals fans? Who will be the Royals first baseman in 2018? Is it an in-house option or will they have to sign a free agent? Let us know your thoughts!