The middle of the Kansas City Royals infield looks solid, how is the rest of the infield shaping up?
This Kansas City Royals infield lineup will look similar to parts of last year in a lot of ways, with a few new additions. There is plenty to like about the team.
Only one player is a starter from last years Opening Day infield roster, Whit Merrifield. He of coarse, also plays several positions around the field. However second base is where he plays the bulk of his games. I don’t see that changing much during the up coming season. After a surprising 2017 season, he followed it up with a solid 2018. The Royals rewarded him with a new contract.
Adalberto Mondesi is finally showing his talent on the big league club and looks to stay there. Now the question is, can he continue to grow. Also can he meet the high expectations the organization has always had of him? So far this spring, the answer seems to be yes. With a .292/.358/.521 slash line that is slightly above his 2018 regular season numbers. His walks are up and he continues to play excellent defense.
The Royals gave Ryan O’Hearn an opportunity at first base last year despite the fact his AAA numbers were not all that great. He responded by hitting a slash line of .262/.353/.597. Other than his slugging number, these are statistics that are in line with his career minor league numbers.
The Kansas City Royals protected him against left handed pitching last year. He needs to prove his ability to hit them or his long term value at first will be shaky at best. Lucas Duda‘s signing could play into his playing time as well. Although Duda is on a minor league contract for now.
This year they may platoon O’Hearn with Hunter Dozier at first and Chris Owings taking over at third. Dozier’s main focus will be third base. In my opinion, Dozier is the weak link in the infield. His fielding is questionable and he has yet to prove he can be a threat at the plate. He needs to stay healthy and improve his skills this year. The Kansas City Royals will give him that opportunity to prove himself. Without a clear prospect for third, the club may give him all season to do it.
Next In Line
Chris Owings will fill in during the season throughout the infield, and do some outfield duty as well. Humberto Arteaga and Nicky Lopez need a roster spot opening before they can get a call up. The same go’s for Frank Schwindel. There are currently two 40 man roster spots available. The Royals have been using Frank a lot at DH as they get ready to begin the season. He can also platoon at first and catch, that will help make up the loss of Salvador Perez‘s bat.
Kelvin Gutierrez is on the 40 man roster and will start the year manning third for the Omaha Storm Chasers. Gutierrez was acquired mid last year in the Kelvin Herrera trade with the Washington Nationals. He stole 20 bases in 24 attempts and has a good glove. He hasn’t shown much power yet. He ended the year with a slash line of .275/.329/.400 at AA. At this point he is organizational depth. Unless his batting improves, his best chance to move up is if an injury happens.
Overall the infield looks good on both offense and defense. Merrifield and Mondesi make a nice pair up the middle and at the top of the batting order. O’Hearn is already looking better defensively. Lately he is scooping up throws in the dirt he missed last year. It’s still a challenge for him, but he is getting better.
I expect his hitting numbers to mimic his minor league history. He should hit 20 plus homers, drive in 75 plus runs, have an OBP of around .330 and a batting average around .260.
As I stated above, Dozier is a wild card for me. I hope he has a great year and proves my doubts wrong. If he doesn’t, that would probably be the opening Lopez and Arteaga need to get on the big league club. A Chris Owings trade or injury could speed that up as well.
As much as I would like to see either of them in Kansas City, I hope the Royals don’t need to call them up. That would mean the team is playing winning baseball and everybody is healthy. After all, isn’t that what we all want to see?