There was some surprise, but no real shock, when the KC Royals added infielder Maikel García to their 40-man roster last November. They made the move to protect García from the December Rule 5 Draft that ultimately fell victim to the MLB lockout; had they not, and the draft been held, the club might still be kicking itself if he’d been taken, stayed in the majors this season per Rule 5 design, and hit as well for some other club as he’s been hitting this year.
After all, García started this season at Northwest Arkansas and quickly made himself quite at home with Double-A pitching, liking it so much that his .291 average and .369 OBP compelled Kansas City to summon him to help replace 10 Royals whose unvaccinated status disqualified them from a three-game series in Toronto. And his 27 stolen bases didn’t hurt.
García played only once, but the Royals called him back up July 28. He hit .318 (7-for-23) with a .348 OBP in nine games before the club elected to send him back to the minors.
There was no return trip to Double-A, though; instead, García headed for Triple-A Omaha, where he’s slashing .290/.344/.493 with six homers, 24 RBIs and 11 steals in 33 games.
But is Omaha the right place for García? Will the Royals make a mistake if they don’t bring him up for the last two weeks of their 2022 campaign?
The KC Royals should consider recalling Maikel García for the season.
Kansas City is taking its next-to-last day off today before playing out the final 15 games of a disappointing season. Those are 15 games the Royals can afford to play García—the only things left for them to accomplish are spoiling other clubs’ postseason hopes (they’re already blowing that), avoiding a 100-loss season (too close to call), and staying out of last place (also too close to call).
KC, then, has a chance to resume test driving García in a young infield clearly taking shape for 2023. Rookies Vinnie Pasquantino and Michael Massey are set at first and second bases, and the Royals switching Bobby Witt Jr. back and forth between shortstop and third may suggest a willingness to end with Witt the hot corner uncertainty the club created when it shipped Mike Moustakas to Milwaukee in 2018.
The Royals have two primary shortstop candidates—Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi—if they opt for Witt at third next year. But with Lopez’s superb .300 season looking more and more like an outlier (he’s hitting .233), a utility role is probably in his future. And the club simply can’t count on the oft-injured Mondesi anymore.
Enter García, the most advanced minor league shortstop in the organization. Call him up for Tuesday night’s home series opener with Minnesota, insert him between Witt at third and Massey and second, and see what happens over the next 15 games.
Playing García every day down the stretch should give him at least 50 more big league plate appearances and, perhaps more importantly, an opportunity to work on his defense, the part of his game most in need of improvement. And the club can get more looks at the infield alignment that may be its best choice for next season.
Missing those opportunities could be a mistake the Royals shouldn’t make.
And bringing García back isn’t terribly complicated—he’s already on the 40-man roster, so only an active roster spot need be opened. Ryan O’Hearn or one of the young outfielders who’s already played a good bit this season are the logical choices, but the Royals’ curious attachment to O’Hearn continues.
Some, notably those angered by Saturday’s demotion of Nick Pratto to Omaha, might question recalling García this late. But the situations are different—Pratto can benefit from spending the rest of Omaha’s season there, while García can benefit from joining the Royals for the rest of their season.
Kansas City should recall Maikel García. They might be making a mistake if they don’t.