3 reasons why the KC Royals might contend in 2022

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals, Bobby Witt Jr.
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

The arrivals of 3 rookies should significantly boost the KC Royals’ fortunes.

A certainty among all the uncertainties surrounding the Royals is that a trio of heralded rookies will debut in Kansas City next season. They won’t arrive together, but could help make the difference between another disappointing campaign and an exciting one.

Leading the way is, of course, Bobby Witt Jr., MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked KC prospect and Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. Although he’s played only two full seasons as a professional, Witt is clearly ready for the majors after hitting .290 with a .361 OBP, 33 home runs, and 97 RBIs in a 2021 season split between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. Where he plays is still an open question; he’s a natural shortstop, but the Royals may well elect to start him at third, a position begging for his skill set.

Close behind Witt should be first baseman Nick Pratto and catcher MJ Melendez, both of whom also put up tremendous numbers in seasons that started at Northwest Arkansas and ended in Omaha. Melendez led the minors in homers (41), drove in 103 runs and slashed .288/.386/.625.

Finding a spot for Melendez won’t be as easy as locating one for Witt. Melendez won’t displace Perez from behind the plate, although he’ll definitely see time there. He handles the bat well enough to DH and the club could (and probably should) give him a shot at right field.

Pratto’s power, like Melendez’s and Witt’s, will be most welcome in Kansas City. He clubbed 36 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021 and is almost certain to replace Carlos Santana at some point next season—Santana will be in the final year of his contract, has been the subject of offseason trade speculation, and will likely be gone by the July trade deadline.

Adding Witt, Melendez and Pratto to the lineup will dramatically improve Kansas City’s chances to win…and maybe even to contend.