Kansas City Royals: The 500 At Bat Club

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26: Hunter Dozier
SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26: Hunter Dozier /

With Eric Hosmer officially leaving, the Kansas City Royals are now in full rebuild mode. Plenty of new faces will be seen in 2018. There are a select group of players who need to log significant playing time to determine their place within the franchise. Let’s meet the “500 At Bat Club”.

The Kansas City Royals next wave of truly contending players is most likely in the low minors or preparing to be drafted. That does not mean that players who receive their first shot at everyday playing time this season will not be part of that contending mix.

Let’s take a look at which players must be able to prove their worth during what is sure to be an “interesting” season.

Player stats are from 2017.

Hunter Dozier – .230/.322/.412  8 HR, 25 RBI (MiLB)

Injuries limited the 26-year-old to only 52 games last season.

The former first-round pick will get a chance to show that he is healthy and can contribute at the highest level. Dozier moved from the shortstop position which he played in college, to the hot corner as he began his professional career. He has been listed as one player who could replace Eric Hosmer at first.

Although the Stephen F. Austin product has very limited reps at first, Ned Yost still sees Dozier as capable of handling the position.

I for one would like to see Dozier manning third base for the Kansas City Royals this year. Regardless of which corner infield spot he takes, he needs to be in the lineup every day and produce. I can see Dozier being a 5th/6th batter on a contending team.

2018 will go a long way to determining what to expect out of Dozier in Kansas City.

Jorge Soler – .267/.388/.564  24 HR, 59 RBI (MiLB)

The man the Kansas City Royals traded closer Wade Davis for did not have the first season that many hoped for.

People tend to focus on the .144/.245/.28 line that Soler put up during his time in the big leagues last season. I will continue to say that it is not a fair assessment. 97 at-bats inconsistently spread out over 35 games is simply too small a sample size to judge.

Playing every day in Omaha, Soler raked offensively.

Yes his defense, even with a strong arm, leaves much to be desired. However, Soler’s ability in the field is not what caused the Kansas City Royals to add him to the franchise.

Soler possesses some of the best raw power in the game. I believe seeing game action day in and day out will help to display that potential for Kansas City. Doing so as the primary designated hitter (we have heard the rotating designated hitter spot talk before, so do not expect it) will allow Soler to focus on what he does best…

…Hitting baseballs a long way.

At 25 years of age, there is still plenty of time to realize the potential. Soler should be able to do so in the heart of the Kansas City Royals lineup where he could find himself as the number 4 hitter for seasons to come.

3. Adalberto Mondesi – .297/.330/.525  13 HR, 54 RBI (MiLB)

The player formerly known as Raul Mondesi gets a bad rep throughout the majority of the Kansas City Royals fanbase.

Still just 22-years-old, Mondesi has been labeled a bust by many. The front office appears to have little faith in him – bringing Alcides Escobar back on a one year deal this off-season alludes to such claims.

However, 22 is simply far too early to determine anything about a baseball player. It is something that needs to be remembered. Especially when you are discussing a player who has been at the top of prospects lists in the recent past.

In an ideal world, Mondesi would go into the 2018 season as the Kansas City Royals starting shortstop. Instead, the signing of Escobar throws a wrench into that plan.

I believe at the very lease Mondesi will perform equally to Escobar across the board, begging the question of why an Escobar reunion was necessary. Assuming that Escobar will be penciled in at short every day that leaves two options for Mondesi to get playing time: second base and center field.

In this case, I think it is the former.

While he has the athletic ability to handle the outfield, you simply cannot throw him out there and hope to get a great performance out of him if you’re the Kansas City Royals. Whit Merrifield, however, has proven more than capable in the outfield.

Moving Merrifield to center field and allowing Mondesi to play every day at second base performs two things that the team desperately need to happen this season. 1) It gets Mondesi into the lineup. 2) It solidifies a very uncertain center field position as of now.

Perhaps if Mondesi can put forth the same kind of performance that made him a Triple-A All-Star last season, he might find himself at the top of the Kansas City Royals lineup at some point. For now, he should expect to work on his game in the bottom third of the order.

4. Jorge Bonifacio – .255/.320/.432  17 HR, 40 RBI (MLB)

Bonifacio had a solid rookie season, even if it trailed off a bit in the second half.

The acquisition of Melky Cabrera did not help Bonifacio with regular playing time after the trade deadline. Even so, the promise was easy to see.

With 384 at-bats under his belt for the Kansas City Royals, it is now all about growing as a player heading into his second big league season. It is safe to assume that Bonifacio will be holding down right field for the Boys in Blue during the 2018 campaign.

The big question is where will he find himself in the batting order?

I expect to see him occupying the 5th/6th spot, depending on where Dozier is. I think that Yost will look to his veteran players (Merrifield, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez) to lead from the top of the lineup.

This will put Bonifacio in a position to hopefully drive-in runs (assuming that guys can get on-base in front of him). At 24-years-old, Bonifacio can certainly find himself a part of the next playoff Kansas City Royals team.

Honorable Mentions

There are three players who – if they earn their shot in spring training – could look to join the 500 At Bat Club.

Bubba Starling is going into what should be his make or break year.

While you always hope that high draft picks work out, that is simply not always the case. Starling will be competing for the center field job this spring. While a very good showing could earn him the nod, I expect him to be the fourth outfielder at best.

Cheslor Cuthbert filled in admirably for an injured Mike Moustakas in 2016.

At this point, Cuthbert is the player on this list that the Kansas City Royals and fans know the most about. His versatility in the infield makes him an asset on a major league roster. While the most likely outcome is that he finds himself starting at of the corner spots – I really like Cuthbert in the always important utility role.

Ryan O’Hearn is a 24-year-old first baseman that may be unfamiliar to many fans.

O’Hearn is a solid defender who can hold his own offensively. He slashed .253/.330/.455 with 22 long balls in the minors last year. If he can prove he deserves to be the Kansas City Royals next starting first baseman, the Dozier would be at third. Another bonus – O’Hearn swings from the left side of the plate. That would help to balance a lineup that is largely righty-heavy at the moment.

Final Thoughts

2018 is about new beginnings and new faces for the Kansas City Royals.

Choosing not to commit fully to the new guys will hurt the long-term competitiveness of the franchise. These players need everyday reps. Both to show the team what they can contribute and to get the experience needed to get the team back to the playoffs.

Next: Bury Me a Royal

What do you think #RoyalsNation? Who are you excited about watching this season? Is there anyone that you feel should have been on this list? Let us know in the comments below.