Grading the KC Royals: Michael Massey ends 2023 with more questions than answers

Kansas City's second baseman had an up-and-down season.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's offseason series analyzing the 2023 performances of various KC Royals players. Today's subject is second baseman Michael Massey.

The magic word bandied about by the KC Royals front office throughout 2023 was "evaluation." The Royals wanted to see what they had to build around moving forward. Of course, management and fans hoped for as many positive results as possible, but in an evaluation year even negative answers can be useful.

Perhaps that is why this season felt so frustrating. For every resounding performance by Bobby Witt Jr. or Cole Ragans, or even Hunter Dozier at the opposite end of the spectrum before the club DFA'd him, several other young players only left us scratching our heads, still wondering who they really are. Michael Massey belongs squarely in this group.

Michael Massey was a little from Column A, a little from Column B

Massey entered the season with high expectations. He scored a B on his 2022 Kings of Kauffman report card, and the hope was that he could carry forward his positive finish from a year ago and claim the second base position for the foreseeable future. That obviously didn't happen, but he didn't wash out entirely, either.

Let's start with the positives. One of the biggest question marks surrounding Massey was his defense, but he benefited tremendously from the tutelage of new infield coach José Alguacil. Massey will never be an elite defender like Witt and third baseman Maikel Garcia, but he played a respectable second base and proved himself capable of making highlight-reel plays.

His bat, however, considered his strong suit, was more hit and miss. (Pun absolutely intended.) The Royals were excited about the lefthanded pop Massey might bring to the lineup, and while he did flash it with 15 home runs and 18 doubles, he showed no consistency at all.

Massey was dreadful to start the season. In March-April, he slashed .167/.173/.179 with one walk. Ouch. To his credit, he worked hard on his approach and bounced back with an outstanding May, slashing .319/.412/.528. That was the Massey the Royals hoped for, and the one they need if he's going to be a part of them turning the corner.

Unfortunately, he couldn't keep it going, and his up-and-down streakiness continued for the rest of the season. He finished with a .229/.274/.381 line, an OPS of .655 and OPS+ of 78, and a strikeout rate of 21.5%.

To complicate matters further, Massey missed time on the Injured List with the hand laceration he suffered in mid-June. Coming on the heels of his hot turnaround and the slump that followed his return, it's fair to ask how much the lingering effects of the injury hampered his performance. Were we seeing the real Massey in May, only for an injury to stick a wrench in his breakout season? Or did it have little to no effect, and we'd been watching the real Massey all year long?

I don't have an answer for that and, more importantly, I don't think the Royals do, either. That's what makes grading his 2023 season so difficult. The good news for the Royals, though perhaps not for Massey, is the strong play of September call-up Nick Loftin. Loftin will enter 2024 with many of the same questions that surrounded Massey this season, but he looks like he can provide legitimate competition and a possible alternative should Massey falter. Barring a major offseason deal, that appears to be the Royals' plan at second base for 2024, ramping up the pressure for Massey to prove he's the man.

What grade should Michael Massey earn for the 2023 season?

I'm giving Massey a C, although an incomplete might be more appropriate for an evaluation season. He did some really good things, but they were too few and far between, and his game continues to have significant holes. I remain optimistic Massey can be a contributor for this franchise, but he's put himself in a position to be pushed from the start of spring training. If he doesn't start strongly in 2024 and learn how to maintain success, the Royals may be forced to go in a different direction.

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