KC Royals Projections: Can Cam Gallagher survive?

(Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports) /

Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Today we consider backup catcher Cam Gallagher.

The past five years have been good to Cam Gallagher. He spent parts of 2017 and 2018 in Kansas City learning the big league backup catching ropes from Drew Butera, one of the best in the business and Salvador Perez’s primary understudy. The job became Gallagher’s when the Royals shipped Butera to Colorado late in the 2019 season. It’s been his ever since and he’s done it well.

Gallagher’s responsibility is to catch when Perez doesn’t, to fill in for Kansas City’s seven-time All-Star backstop when he takes a day off or a turn at DH, or when the physical toll of catching forces him out of action. And although the Royals replaced Perez with Martín Maldonado when a UCL injury and Tommy John Surgery robbed their No. 1 catcher of his 2019 season, Gallagher became Maldonado’s backup and later took over prime catching duty when Maldonado went to the Cubs in a midseason trade.

Unfortunately, Gallagher suffered an oblique injury a few weeks later and missed the rest of the season. But in case he had any doubters, he reaffirmed his value to the club during the short 2020 campaign when an eye problem caused Perez to miss a good bit of time—while Gallagher’s good work behind the plate surprised no one, he hit a career-best .283 in 25 games.

The fact Gallagher has lasted five years on the Kansas City bench proves the club and its pitchers trust him and he performs the way he needs to. Being ready and able to spell Perez on a moment’s notice is his job security.

But how will he perform this season, and will whatever he does be sufficient to maintain his employment as a Royal?

How Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project the KC Royals’ Cam Gallagher.

Baseball Reference predicts Gallagher will hit six homers, drive in 24 runs and hit .246 this season. FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) projects he’ll homer only twice, drive in eight runs and hit .248.

How will Cam Gallagher actually perform for the KC Royals this season?

Don’t be surprised if Gallagher’s 2022 numbers come close to Baseball Reference’s and FanGraphs’ projections. Although he’s homered in each of his five major league seasons, only once has he hit more than one (three in 2019) and his average is .243.

An issue bigger and more vital hovers over Gallagher now, however, and it’s one of simple survival with the Royals. That issue is MJ Melendez, the superb catching prospect who led the minor leagues in home runs last season and seems a lock to make the club sooner rather than later.

Dividing his 2021 season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Melendez slashed .288/.386/.625 with 41 homers and 103 RBIs. Also good defensively, he’ll be hard to keep in the minors much longer, if at all.

And Kansas City won’t bring Melendez up to learn from Gallagher as Gallagher learned from Butera. He must play when he arrives—he’ll certainly catch and DH, and might even play some first base and right field. But the Royals need to get a long look at him behind the plate, and getting that look will come at Gallagher’s expense.

Can Gallagher keep his roster spot? Probably. Carrying three catchers is something the Royals have done many times, and actually makes sense as the club strives to find ways to keep Perez in the lineup at the same time they try to more frequently relieve him of the rigors of catching. They can DH him, of course, but if injury befalls whoever is catching—Gallagher or Melendez—moving Perez behind the plate means losing the DH for the rest of that game. And Kansas City will likely try Melendez in other spots, making another catcher a handy thing to have.

So, expect Gallagher to stick around for a while when Melendez gets his inevitable call to the majors. He’ll catch as well as always, and probably hit just about what Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project.

Next. KC minor leaguers are moving ahead. dark

Cam Gallagher will again be a good backup catcher for the Royals.