KC Royals Prospects: Just who is this Clay Dungan?

(Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports) /

Clay Dungan is in the KC Royals’ spring camp. Who is this young infielder?

Not everyone working at the KC Royals’ Surprise, Arizona spring training complex is well known. Some, in fact, aren’t known at all outside the organization.

Many of the least familiar Royals are among the approximately 30 non-roster invitees who owe their coveted presence in spring camp to something other than a major league contract or membership on the club’s 40-man roster. Kansas City invited a few, like newcomer Hanser Alberto, because the powers-that-be believe they have legitimate shots to make the Opening Day roster and want them to blend in quickly.

Others are once-excellent big league veterans trying to rescue their declining careers on minor league contracts. Count reliever Wade Davis and starter Ervin Santana among them.

And some received invitations because they’re hot young prospects. The club wants to give them brief tastes of major league life and opportunities to work with the big league staff. (Minor league spring training won’t start until the major leaguers break camp). So it is that young shortstop Clay Dungan, with only a brief introduction to professional baseball behind him, is working alongside the likes of KC infielders Carlos Santana, Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and Nicky Lopez.

According to The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, Dungan found himself in other good company when full squad workouts hit their second day Tuesday:

Witt, of course, is the Royals’ No. 1 MLB Pipeline prospect, Loftin is No. 6, and Pratto is No. 11. Cancel and Dungan aren’t ranked, although this is Cancel’s fourth big league camp.

So, just who is Clay Dungan?

He’s a 24-year old shortstop the KC Royals chose in the ninth round of 2019’s amateur draft after he finished his fourth season at Indiana State. He has some power and speed—he hit nine homers twice for the Sycamores and stole 24 bases in 34 attempts. And Dungan improved his batting average in each of his collegiate years, hitting .271 as a freshman, .275 as a sophomore, .283 as a junior, and .305 his senior campaign.

What he did in his 65-game professional debut at Rookie level Idaho Falls after the 2019 draft, though, likely has much to do with his invitation to Surprise. Dungan blistered Pioneer League pitching for a .357 average and posted a .427 OBP. He stole nine bases in 10 tries, and had 19 doubles, five triples, a pair of homers, and 38 RBIs. Dungan also displayed good plate discipline: he struck out just a shade under 11 percent of the time.

The Chukars also tried Dungan at second base; he played 19 games there, and 44 at short. He didn’t make the 60-man Player Pool last season.

Any Cactus League playing time Dungan gets won’t be extensive and he has no chance to be in Kansas City Opening Day. Instead, he’ll stay behind in Arizona and join the organization’s other minor leaguers for delayed spring training. The Royals currently list him on the roster of the Columbia Fireflies, their new Low-A farm club.

But if he continues to hit like he did at Idaho Falls, he may someday get an invitation to Kauffman Stadium.

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Clay Dungan is worth keeping an eye on. He’s a young infielder who may become a member of the KC Royals.