Is there a big flaw in the Opening Day lineup of the KC Royals?

Matt Quatraro may be making a mistake.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day is today, which means KC Royals general manager J.J. Picollo's improvement-seeking winter revamp of the club will be on full display at Kauffman Stadium for the first regular season time. And with the new 26-man active roster the Royals revealed this morning comes, of course, the lineup manager Matt Quatraro put together to face the Twins.

It's a lineup with no real shocks, or even surprises, but also one that may signal the short-term status of a player with a hot future.

First things first, though. Here's Quatraro's first lineup of the season:

  • Maikel García 3B
  • Bobby Witt Jr. SS
  • Vinnie Pasquantino 1B
  • Salvador Perez C
  • MJ Melendez LF
  • Hunter Renfroe RF
  • Adam Frazier 2B
  • Nelson Velázquez DH
  • Kyle Isbel CF
  • Cole Ragans P

Is Kansas City's Opening Day lineup flawed?

Quatraro's creation reflects Picollo's offseason handiwork — newcomers Hunter Renfroe and Adam Frazier, both of whom Picollo snared from the free agent market, get starts. And it's Frazier's presence in the lineup that should be scrutinized more than any other of Quatraro's Opening Day selections.

It's not that Frazier is a bad player. He's not. His good reputation as a utility man is well-deserved after establishing it during stops in Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle and Baltimore over his eight-year major league career.

But the choice of Frazier to start at second base begs, at least to some noticeable extent, the Nick Loftin question: do the Royals plan to keep Loftin in Kansas City for the long-term, or is he on the roster only until Michael Massey returns from the Injured List?

The query is legitimate. Frazier's acquisition was surprising — it followed Picollo's signing of Garrett Hampson, a good utility man in his own right, and little, if anything, foretold Kansas City going after Frazier. And it muddled Massey's status as the club's incumbent second sacker.

Perhaps more interestingly, however, is how Frazier might impact Loftin's future. Loftin is also versatile, although not as seasoned as Frazier; he also just happens to be Kansas City's second-best prospect per MLB Pipeline, and slashed a truly impressive .323/.368/.435 during his short but stellar 19-game big league debut last season.

That the Royals signed Frazier to play every day is a doubtful proposition at best; far more likely is that he'll be their primary utility man. So, why start him instead of Loftin today?

The answer probably lies in the righty-left matchup. For his career, Frazier, a lefthanded hitter, is batting .274 against righthanders, like Minnesota starter Pablo López, and .249 versus southpaws. Loftin hits from the right side; his major league splits — .279 against righthanders and .421 against lefties — are based on sample sizes too small from which to draw meaningful conclusions, but over 130 games in Triple-A last year he batted .256 against lefthanders and .275 from the other side.

It's reasonable, then, to assume Quatraro's decision to start Frazier at second is platoon-based. But would the better choice have been to start Loftin, who KC presumably intends to keep longer than Frazier? Loftin is a player with a bright future, one who the club should give a chance to play regularly — he's certainly versatile enough to move around the field frequently — and, via his performances last season and in this year's Cactus League season during which he slashed .330/.440/.500 with a pair of homers, arguably earned the chance to start at second in Massey's absence.

Loftin will probably see action at some point today. But perhaps he, not Frazier, should be starting.

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