Other spots have issues, but second base poses the KC Royals’ biggest infield question.
There’s an elephant in Kansas City’s infield room, and it’s Nicky Lopez. No one complains about how he fields his position—he probably should have won a Gold Glove last season, and no Royal glove has been better at second since Frank White. Lopez’s problem is his bat.
He hasn’t hit. He slashed .201/.286/.266 last year and stands .228/.279/.266 after two seasons. He has a bit of raw power, but rare or occasional homers aren’t what the Royals need from him. Base hits are far more important; he’ll also need to improve his distressingly low OBP. If the bat doesn’t come around, stellar glove work may not be enough to save him.
Shortstop: Will Adalberto Mondesi hit and stay healthy?
Critical to the KC Royals’ success is Adalberto Mondesi, a player frequently mentioned as the club’s future. His defense is, like Lopez’s, beyond reproach. Last season’s sizzling September (.356/.408/.667, six homers, 20 RBIs) strongly suggests his well-chronicled first month slump was likely an outlier. He won’t hit like that over a full season, but the KC Royals need him to at least flirt with .280-.290 and a high OBP. He played all but one game in 2020 after an injury-plagued 2019; if he stays healthy and hits, Kansas City will be better in 2021.
Third base: Hunter Dozier has the hot corner for the KC Royals, but for how long?
Kansas City’s acquisition of Maikel Franco to play third base last season forced Hunter Dozier to the outfield, but he ended up at first because Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom weren’t up to the task. The new position didn’t last long for Dozier: this winter’s acquisition of Carlos Santana solves all first base issues.
Dozier now seems destined for third, although his defense there can make the KC brass uneasy. It probably won’t be his glove that displaces him from the hot corner, though—if the lefthanded power bat General Manager Dayton Moore covets turns out to be a third baseman, Dozier will likely head for the outfield.
And the outfield has more issues than the infield.