Kansas City Royals: Year-end review, infielders

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Looking back at the Kansas City Royals 2019 season, we will shine a light on the mostly young players who graced the infield.

At the beginning of the season, the Kansas City Royals lineup contained two guys on the right side of the infield, Chris Owings and Frank Schwindel, who would not be with the organization by the time mid-June rolled around. Shortstop and third base were more consistent with Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier manning their respective positions for over two-thirds of the year.

After the release of Lucas Duda, Ryan O’Hearn was able to secure a bulk of the playing time at first base with Cheslor Cuthbert playing there in approximately 25 percent of the games. Whit Merrifield and Dozier were sprinkled in as well. Second base was fairly evenly split by Merrifield and Nicky Lopez after the Owings experiment failed. Here is a look at the grades for each player.

Merrifield barely falls into the infield category by playing 40 more innings here than in the outfield.  It is hard to find negatives for a player who led the majors in hits for the second year in a row, belted 67 extra-base hits and produced an OPS of .811.   Selected to the All-Star game for the first time, Whit showed he is an integral part of the team.  He did field second base a tick lower than the average player and his WAR dropped by 1.5 points from the prior year, which contributed to why he did not receive an A+, but still an all-around great player.. . . WHIT MERRIFIELD. A

. HUNTER DOZIER. A-. Dozier struggled his rookie year in 2018 but flashes of promise were definitely there.  He did not disappoint this season slashing to a .279/.348/.522 mark, tied two other Royals for the major league lead in triples and fielding a better than average hot corner.  A slump towards the end of year cut into Dozier’s impressive stats but he was still good enough for a 125 OPS+ and a WAR of 2.1..

. . ADALBERTO MONDESI. B. Reviewing Mondesi’s stats, it is surprising they dropped as much as they did from the prior year as he always seemed to be in the thick of things.  His OPS+ was down 29 points and he struck out 132 times in 443 plate appearances.  Returning from the injured list after the first shoulder dislocation definitely affected his production at the plate. Still, he tied for the MLB lead in triples and stole 43 bases in only 102 games.   He was a wizard at shortstop with a fielding percentage 14 points higher than the league average.

C+. Lopez struggled the first half of his rookie season but began to find his stroke and closed out his last 30 games with a .293/.320/.424 slash.  Nicky was a difficult strikeout but could use a better eye at the plate to improve on those 18 walks.  Mostly at second base but also covering 25 starts at short, he was an excellent defender at both middle infield spots.. . . NICKY LOPEZ

RYAN O'HEARN. C. O’Hearn hit the sophomore slump after posting ridiculous numbers in ’18.  His WAR dropped from a positive 1.1 to a negative 1.5 and he was sent to Omaha for awhile mid-season. The 26-year old slugger did start to mash in September closing out with an OPS of .959 which eclipsed his rookie season number.  He had a smooth glove at first that made it beneficial to have him in the field.. .

CHESLOR CUTHBERT. D. I was one of those optimistic persons after Cuthbert stepped in for <a rel=. .

If I have to explain why I am giving this grade you probably watched zero games in April and May.  Also, this was the lowest score we could give.  An OPS of +10.  Enough said.. . . CHRIS OWINGS. F

HUMBERTO ARTEAGA. C-. Called up to plug the hole at short from the Mondesi injury, <a rel=. .

F. The signing of Duda for the second year in a row went about as well as the Ghostbusters II movie.  The OPS dropped by 288 points from the prior year and instead of trading him for cash considerations, he was given an outright release before the season was over.. . . LUCAS DUDA

C-. The promotion of <a rel=. . . KELVIN HERRERA

Frank, we hardly knew you.  A feel-good story to make the opening day roster after pounding 67 dingers in the minors the previous three seasons, Schwindel only appeared in six games going 1-for-15 at the plate.  He only stuck out once continuing to show he has a high contact rate.  He did commit one error in his 30 chances.. . . FRANK SCHWINDEL. C-

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Between a couple of great seasons and two more great finishes to the season, the infield looks to be a bright spot heading into 2020 for the Kansas City Royals.  The gloves are already solid and if all the bats get rolling it should be a top-tier group.