The Kansas City Royals have two prospects with similar skills on the door step of the big league club. Both look like solid players and could see major league action this year.
This Spring I have been impressed with the play of Humberto Arteaga. He signed as a shortstop with the Kansas City Royals in 2010 began playing for the Dominican Republic Royals farm club in 2011. Last year he spent the entire season with the AAA Omaha Royals. He is a left handed hitter and has mostly played second base in the minors, but also plays at shortstop and third base.
Up until last year, he has been a glove first guy. In 2018 he hit a slash line of .292/322/.386. A big improvement over his previous seasons. This spring he is hitting an astounding .556/.556/667. He has struck out only once and has yet to record a walk. Normally you would be concerned about the latter, however combined with his lone strike out, he is putting the ball in play. His contact rate is outstanding this spring.
So far in games I have been able to watch, he has hit the ball behind the runner for a hit at first four times. His situational hitting has been the best on the team. Ned Yost recently made the comment that Arteaga has had the best spring of anyone two years in a row. This guy looks like a real player and one who’s skills fit well with the overall strategy the Kansas City Royals covet. If Chris Owings wasn’t on the team, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he made the team out of spring training.
The right handed hitting Nicky Lopez is having a good spring as well. His slash line of .314/.351/343 is more modest than Arteaga, but is more in line with his minor league statistics.
Lopez also plays all over the left side of the infield. His strength is his ability to get on base, but e is not a great base stealer with only swiping 15 bags and getting caught six times. He is better than Arteaga though, who only stole two out of five chances.
Lopez and Arteaga are waiting for their time to be brought up to the big league club. They are not on the 40 man roster. Things will have to happen before either of them get their shot at the big league roster. The decision may come down to if the big league club has a need for a left or right handed bat. That need will be determined by the health and the play of others.
Hunter Dozier comes to mind first. I’m still not a believer in his abilities. His defense at third base seems average at best. He hasn’t yet shown a consistent ability to hit at the major league level either. I believe, long term, Adalberto Mondesi may be a better fit at the hot corner. If he becomes the hitter they expect, third base would be easier on his body. That move could open up the short stop position.
Moving Whit Merrifield to third base or right field could open up second base. A Chris Owings trade would accelerate a move as well. If this were 2020, there would be an extra position available with the expansion of active rosters to 26. I would not be surprised if both are on the opening day roster next year. This year there are players blocking both.
The Kansas City Royals may have to put Arteaga on the 40 man roster this winter if he has a good season. He has exceeded his control by the team and can become a free agent if they don’t. He could be taken in the rule 5 draft as well. Lopez is only in his forth professional season and doesn’t need to be added until the end of next year.
I really like both of these players. If the Royals go all out on defense and a pesky offense, they both fit right in. I expect at least one of them to make it to Kansas City this year. The question is, which one is first?