Opening Day’s infield wasn’t what the KC Royals planned it to be. A late spring training injury to shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, whose electrifying final month of the 2020 season intensified hope he’d become the star everyone expected him to be, saw to that.
Mondesi opened the campaign on the Injured List, where he’d spend most of the year. Nicky Lopez, banished to the minors just days before to rework his hitting, took Mondesi’s place at short. Any plans to play Whit Merrifield in right field disappeared as the circumstances forced him back to second base.
And, unrelated to Mondesi’s fate and despite the Royals’ misgivings about his glove, Hunter Dozier started at third.
Realistically, the Royals had no reason to expect the good things that happened as the season progressed.
Lopez ended the year as the first regular KC Royals’ shortstop to hit .300 and, a Gold Glove snub notwithstanding, was the American League’s best defensive shortstop.
Merrifield didn’t equal Lopez at the plate, but did defensively, earning a Gold Glove nomination. And he led the majors with 42 doubles and the AL in stolen bases with 40.
But how did the club’s other infielders perform, and how should they grade out?
One infielder new to the KC Royals gets a B while the other warrants a C.
Not long ago, Kings of Kauffman gave final season grades to Royals who joined the club over the winter, including first baseman Carlos Santana and utility infielder Hanser Alberto. There being no reason to change those grades, they remain the same: Santana gets a C, Alberto a B.
Santana’s grade derives primarily from his post-All-Star Break slump. Due at least in part to injury, Santana plummeted from 15 home runs and 50 RBIs before the Break to four homers, 19 RBIs and a .176 average after it. He hit .214 for the season.
Alberto, on the other hand, played well all year. Just as the Royals intended, he proved his worth as a utility infielder and finished the campaign with a .270 average. But Kansas City, facing a crowded and talented infield situation and a potential arbitration battle with Alberto, recently released him.