The KC Royals’ middle infield was essentially the same as last year, but new players manned the corner spots. How did they do?
Our Kings of Kauffman writers have reviewed the 2020 season and graded the KC Royals. In this second installment of a series covering each position group, Shawn Bauman assigns grades to the club’s infielders.
Hunter Dozier: C+
Dozier deserves a lot of grace after his tremendous year in 2019, the hurdle of beginning the year on the COVID list, being moved to the outfield, and finally playing much of the last month at yet another position—first base. That is a lot of defensive swapping on top of working to get in the swing of things following the positive virus test. The batting average and slugging percentage drops are a concern but hopefully can be chalked up to the fluke year.
He still reached base at nearly the same rate as last year despite a batting average 50 points lower than last year showing his ability to read balls and strikes is improving greatly. He also played error-free ball in 191 chances at first, a good sign going forward.
Nicky Lopez: D
I dislike giving low grades, but Lopez managed to drop his OPS and OPS+ by 49 and six points, respectively. Considering they were bad last year makes it more alarming. The Royals need offensive production out of every position to compete and this will not do it. If he would have had as many plate appearances as last season, his strikeout total was on pace to increase by over 30. The good news is that his glovework was still strong, finishing well above the average league fielding percentage.
Adalberto Mondesi: B+
If you only look at the last month of the season, Mondesi would deserve an A++++++++, much like Ralph dreamed of his teacher giving him in the movie “A Christmas Story”. We’re looking at the season as a whole, however, so that’s why his grade drops some. He essentially matched last year’s output in the three main categories of average, on-base percentage, and slugging. Showing off his wheels again, the shortstop led the majors in stolen bases—and times caught stealing.
The defense was also on par with last year, which is better than most shortstops. If he hits the potential we know he has, an MVP trophy is not out of the realm.
Maikel Franco: B
A curious signing, Franco was more productive at the plate then might have been expected. Despite nagging injuries, he also played in every game in 2020. The highest average and on-base percentage he has had since 2015 and potentially 20-25 home runs in a full season projection is something needed in Kansas City. His fielding dropped off significantly from the prior year and that needs to be watched. There is not another position to stick him at with Jorge Soler locking down the DH spot unless you are going to once again unseat Dozier.
Ryan O’Hearn: D-
Unfortunately, O’Hearn also dropped off from last year and that was not an easy feat. After a red-hot September in 2019, there was an excitement that he was ready to make his mark at first base this season. His power dropped off from last year and even a platoon role was not kind to him as he produced a .182/.305/.283 slash against right-handed pitching. Even more so than Lopez, the team cannot waste a typical power-hitting position on such little offensive production.
Ryan McBroom: C:
Despite a lack of playing time, McBroom hit six home runs and would have been second on the team in slugging percentage if he’d accumulated enough at-bats. Overall, his batting was not too bad but when you look at splits, he really feasted on southpaws while not doing much against righties. With him and O’Hearn unable to be effective against righties, you can see why the KC Royals felt the need to put Dozier at first. His 10 games at first were a bit below average and he didn’t show any spectacular skill set to keep him there.
With the ability to play the outfield, he could still find a platoon role on the team next year.
The potential to have a potent infield next season is a real possibility if everyone plays to their potential and Lopez picks up his production at the plate. If another year of disappointing stats occurs, a big overhaul may be needed.