KC Royals: Why late surge may not help this infielder

His first call to the majors came July 30 for Lucius Fox, the speedy shortstop who the KC Royals picked up in the trade of popular but weak-hitting outfielder Brett Phillips late in the 2020 season. Fox, assigned officially to Triple-A Omaha, had already spent time with and around the club in 2021 as a member of its taxi squad, but hadn’t been activated.

His time on the roster didn’t last long. Without seeing any game action, Fox found himself off the 26-man roster the next day. But making it to the majors for even a day, and traveling with the big league club on the taxi unit, suggested the Royals had their eye on him.

Fox’s bat, though, wasn’t doing enough talking for him—he was hitting .211 when Omaha’s regular season ended Sept. 19, a mark too low to justify any real reason to believe he’d contribute much to the Storm Chasers during Triple-A’s unique 10-game “Final Stretch.”

Fox defied expectations. He exploded during the Stretch, hitting .433 (13-for-30) with five doubles, two homers (which equaled his pre-Stretch total), and six RBIs in seven games. He rapped three hits twice and two hits in a pair of contests.

Unfortunately for Fox, that late-season surge probably won’t help him make it back to Kansas City, leaving his one-game call-up, and his taxi squad experience, the closest he’ll likely come again to Kauffman Stadium, at least as a Royal.

There isn’t much, if any, room in the KC Royals’ infield for Lucius Fox.

Fox is, to be sure, blocked. Although Nicky Lopez should be the Royals’ Opening Day shortstop next season, the club’s abundance of infield talent means he might start at second base instead, with Adalberto Mondesi or Bobby Witt Jr. at short. Fox won’t beat out any of them.

The case is the same under any KC infield scenario. Even if Lopez stays at shortstop, which seems the likeliest outcome, Mondesi moves to second, right field, or an outfield or roving utility role so Witt can play third, or Whit Merrifield continues at second, there simply is no room for Fox. He’s dabbled a bit at third and second, but not enough to make the Royals, financial considerations aside, prefer him over Hanser Alberto, who’s under team control for one more season.

And Fox’s speed—he’s stolen 123 bases in five minor league seasons, including 39 in 2019 and 19 in 2021—is something the Royals can always use, but won’t help him move up considering Kansas City’s talent-packed infield.

At this point, the Royals might keep Fox at Omaha, but Nick Loftin, Jeison Guzman, or Maikel Garcia will soon be knocking at the Storm Chasers’ door. Fox will probably start next season there, unless Kansas City trades him this offseason.

And a trade might give Fox his best shot at the majors.

Lucius Fox finished 2021 well at Omaha. But his KC Royals future doesn’t look bright.