Although there weren’t pressing questions at some infield positions last January, there are now.
The biggest non-pitching questions about the KC Royals last January concerned catching and first and third bases. Those questions have been answered for 2021: Salvador Perez made a wildly successful return behind the plate after missing 2019, recently signed Carlos Santana probably solves the first base puzzle and, barring further moves, Hunter Dozier is back at third.
New questions, however, have surfaced for 2021.
Nicky Lopez’s future at second base
Little was heard about second base last January because, for the most part, there weren’t major concerns. Nicky Lopez claimed the spot as his own in 2019 with superb defense and, although his .240 average was low, his rookie status excused it. His glove was even better last season, but his shockingly disastrous year with the bat (.201/.286/.266) suddenly clouds his prospects.
How long the KC Royals will tolerate a weak bat in favor of excellent middle defense is the second base question for 2021. For now, Lopez’s wizardry with the glove outweighs his shortcomings at the plate, but the club won’t wait forever for him to improve.
Health and hitting at shortstop
The only mystery at shortstop last winter was Adalberto Mondesi’s health after his injury-plagued 2019 season. Now, it’s his hitting that befuddles the KC Royals.
Mondesi, considered the franchise future by many, pushed injury concerns aside (for now) by playing in all but one of Kansas City’s 60 games in 2020. But like Lopez, he struggled at the plate; only a torrid .356 September enabled him to finish with a .256 average after entering the month at .186.
Yes, Mondesi proved he can hit, but the question he must answer in 2021 is whether he can do so for an entire season.