He's been a member of the KC Royals organization for less than a year. Fans won't find his name on the club's 40-man roster.
And they may not have taken sufficient notice of this corner infielder when he joined the club—he certainly wasn't the main focus of last summer's trade that brought Drew Waters, then ranked by MLB Pipeline as Atlanta's No. 1 prospect, to the Royals.
But CJ Alexander has been hard to miss in spring training, and it's not just because he stands 6-feet-5. Through Monday's 10-1 whipping of the Diamondbacks, a game in which his torrid bat wasn't needed, Alexander's eye-popping .700 average leads all Royals who've played at least five Cactus League games. He also has a .769 OBP and is slugging 1.300.
It's not a big sample size, to be sure, but seven hits in 10 at-bats can't be ignored, especially for someone who's never played above Double-A ball. And those seven hits include a double, a triple, and a home run. He's also driven in three runs.
Alexander is, in a nutshell, a prospect to closely watch this spring, and then in the minors as he tries to work his way up the organizational ladder to Kansas City. But to keep him around, the Royals will have to put him on the 40-man roster by November or risk losing him in December's Rule 5 draft.
That's a risk that may not be worth taking. Alexander is proving he can hit.
CJ Alexander has the potential to reach the majors with the KC Royals
Alexander, a 20th-round selection of Atlanta in the 2018 amateur draft, won't sustain that .700 average through the 22 games the Royals have left on their exhibition schedule. But if his recent past is his prologue, he should finish well.
Alexander got right to work after signing with Atlanta—playing for two Rookie teams and High-A Florida, he slashed .352/.429/.495 in 52 2018 games.
The following season was a different story. An elbow injury and thumb sprain cost him much of the 2019 campaign and he managed to hit only .117. His two home runs gave him an almost unnoticeable four for his short career.
Alexander struggled again when minor league play, cancelled in 2020 by the pandemic, returned in 2021: although he homered 10 times, he hit only .197.
His performance last season, however, suggests why the Royals wanted him. Yes, Waters was clearly the main object of their deal with the Braves, but Alexander confirmed he can play. Hitting a much better .258 with 15 homers and 43 RBIs in 68 Double-A games when the clubs consummated their deal, Alexander added 10 homers, drove in 44 more runs, and batted .272 in 46 games for Northwest Arkansas.
And he homered four times and went 7-for-17 with 11 RBIs (including six in one game) in four August contests against Tulsa.
It will be no surprise, then, if Alexander winds up Cactus League play with good numbers.
What happens to him then remains to be seen. The Royals could choose to return him to Northwest Arkansas (he's currently a member of the Naturals' roster), but bumping him up to Triple-A Omaha might be a better move—because Alexander turns 27 in July, the club may want to move him along. A good season could mean a late-season call-up to Kansas City, or a shot at the majors in 2024.
Just where on the field the Royals might deploy Alexander is a more complicated question. A corner infielder, he's played far more third base than first, but his first base defense (.992 fielding percentage) is better than his hot corner play (.922). Kansas City is seemingly set at both positions: either Vinnie Pasquantino or Nick Pratto will play first, and Hunter Dozier and Maikel Garcia, and possibly Matt Duffy, are the best bets at third.
Should Alexander sit on the bench if no everyday spot is available? He bats left, and teams can always use good lefty pinch hitters, but the club probably won't want to waste his developing power in a reserve role. He might became a trade prospect.
Time will tell. In the meantime, Alexander is definitely worth keeping an eye on.