Why the KC Royals are lucky to have Hanser Alberto

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals decided to keep Hanser Alberto. The move is paying off.

The disappointing news that Adalberto Mondesi was starting the season on the Injured List created a quandary for the KC Royals. They could have promoted Bobby Witt Jr. to fill in at shortstop, an option attractive to fans but not to a front office reluctant to move its top prospect along too quickly. They could have replaced Mondesi with Whit Merrifield, or called up Kelvin Gutierrez, but neither had ever played a big league game at short.

Newcomer Hanser Alberto was an option, but he’s far more a second or third baseman than a shortstop.

So, with no solid alternatives left, and accepting at least temporarily the terrible bat that forced the Royals to send him to the minors, the club recalled Nicky Lopez and inserted him at short. The move left Alberto in the backup infielder role the Royals hoped he could fill when they signed him to a minor league deal and then promoted to the major league roster when spring training ended.

Giving Alberto a big league job but bringing Lopez back to fill in at shortstop were good decisions. Lopez is the surprise of the club with a .368 average and .409 OBP and, as it turned out, Kansas City would soon need Alberto to fill another spot.

That Alberto replaced Hunter Dozier in the eighth inning of Kansas City’s Opening Day victory over Texas wasn’t surprising—a suddenly swelling thumb forced the Royals’ regular third baseman out of the game. That thumb, however, didn’t immediately improve, meaning Alberto, the club’s sole reserve infielder, had to start the season’s second game in Dozier’s place.

Alberto, who served the past two seasons as Baltimore’s main second baseman but had 96 games in at third before this campaign, was just fine. He handled the hot corner, cracked two doubles in four at-bats, and scored two runs and drove in another. The RBI came in the Royals’ three-run fifth that narrowed their original four-run deficit to just one and triggered a comeback win over the Rangers.

He started again the next day and added another double and RBI, then went 1-4 in his third consecutive start. Alberto wasn’t needed when Dozier returned against Cleveland Wednesday, but saw action again Thursday when he spelled Merrifield at second in the eighth in Chicago.

Alberto, a career .278 hitter coming into this season, is batting .308 with flawless defense after successfully handling six chances at third and two at second.

In short, he’s doing just what the KC Royals need him to do: staying prepared on the bench, filling key positions when required, handling the bat, and fielding well.

What the Royals have in Alberto is special. He’s a proven major league starter capable of playing more than one position, and someone Kansas City can probably rely on to take over at second if Lopez doesn’t solve his hitting woes. (Merrifield is the best second base option if Lopez returns to the minors, but his remaining at second depends much on Kyle Isbel’s play in right field, where Merrifield was supposed to play this season).

The Royals, then, are lucky to have Alberto.

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The KC Royals decided to put Hanser Alberto on the major league roster, but not to have him fill in for Adalberto Mondesi. Both moves are turning out well.