OUTFIELD: Two of the three KC Royals outfield spots are spoken for
When he isn't catching, which barring serious injury to Salvador Perez will be most of the time, MJ Melendez appears to be KC's choice for left field, a decision that first became apparent last season when former manager Mike Matheny started playing him there. He could end up in right, but left is more likely.
Like Maikel Garcia, Melendez won't realize his offensive potential without playing every day. He homered 18 times and drove in 62 runs after the Royals called him up last May and, despite his unsightly .217 average, still had an OPS+ (99) just a click below league average.
The offseason trade of Gold Glover Michael A. Taylor, an oblique injury that will sideline Drew Waters until at least late April, and Kyle Isbel's own play make center field Isbel's position to lose. Striving to prove he can adequately handle big league pitching after struggling to hit .211 in 106 games last year, Isbel boasts an impressive .471/.526/.647 14-game line this spring. And his defense is certainly good enough.
Who'll play right field isn't as clear. But because Kansas City just can't seem to get entirely comfortable with Edward Olivares no matter how well he hits, Nate Eaton may well be the choice. He performed serviceably at the plate (.264/.331/.387) last year and is 10-for-28 (.357) with a .400 OBP in 12 Cactus League games. His versatility is a plus—he played all three outfield positions and third base in 2022.
And Olivares? The Royals need a backup outfielder who can play the corners; that's Olivares. (For good measure, don't be surprised to see veteran center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., another non-roster invitee playing on a minor league deal, make the club, at least until Waters returns, but he isn't a lock).