Why Maikel Garcia is on the KC Royals’ 40-man roster

(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

You won’t find him among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Kansas City prospects. The Internet isn’t inundated with stories about him. And don’t expect him to show up in a KC Royals uniform at Kauffman Stadium soon.

But when it came time to set their 40-man roster for Rule 5 draft purposes in November, the Royals included Maikel Garcia, a lean 6-feet, 145-pound minor league infielder.

Many were probably surprised to see Garcia make the 40-man. A 2016 international free agent signee who debuted in the Dominican Summer League the following season, he’s drawn little attention and hadn’t played above Rookie ball until 2021. He doesn’t have the power of MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto or Bobby Witt Jr. A shortstop and occasional second baseman, he’s not a leading candidate to crack a KC infield sure to be dominated for at least the short term by Witt, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield.

So, why is he a member of the Royals’ 40-man roster?

Maikel Garcia is a developing young infielder with skills the KC Royals like.

At first glance Garcia, 21, appears to lack the physicality required of the best big league players. To say he’s wiry understates the issue; he needs to get bigger and stronger, which tends to explain why he’s no power threat—the four homers he hit in 2021 (one at Low-A Columbia and the other three at High-A Quad Cities) constitute his career high and exactly four-fifths of his career total.

What stands out about Garcia and earned him a spot on the 40-man is his ability to get on base. He hit a combined .291 with a superb .380 OBP between Columbia and Quad Cities last season, was .284, .349 in Rookie ball in 2019, and is slashing .355/.410/.418 with Tiburones de La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League. His cumulative minor league OBP is .344.

Garcia also doesn’t waste time on the base paths. He stole 35 bases last season, including five in one game for Columbia against Augusta, and swiped 20 in 2018 and 19 in 2019.

It’s clear, then, just what the Royals see in Garcia—knowing how to get on base and what to do when he gets there, two things the club especially likes. Whether more power comes with growth remains to be seen, but Kansas City is an organization that always values speed and contact more than home runs.

Garcia’s glove, though, needs work. After fielding .981 at Columbia last season, he dropped to .954 at Quad Cities. Rookie ball marks of .955 in 2019 and .962 in 2018 are also concerning.

What is his future with Kansas City? If a coveted 40-man roster spot is any indication, somewhat bright. But he needs to mature physically and improve his defense if his blip on KC’s radar is to get bigger.

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