Nearly two dozen non-roster players will be on hand in Surprise, Arizona, when the KC Royals begin full-team spring training workouts Feb. 19. The Royals identified Wednesday the 23 players they're inviting to camp who aren't on the club's 40-man roster, and one of the most familiar names on the list made his big league debut last September.
Yes, the same Logan Porter every club passed on in the 2018 amateur draft. The same Logan Porter the Royals signed anyway. The same Logan Porter who played a huge role in powering Quad Cities to the 2021 High-A Central Championship Series crown. And the same Logan Porter who'd established his batting bona fides with a five-year .275/.402/.461 line and three seasons of double-digit home run production when the Royals, needing a backup catcher after a finger fracture sidelined Freddy Fermin, summoned him to The Show with only a couple of weeks left in the 2023 campaign.
Despite his minor league success, Porter's brief September stint in the majors didn't treat him particularly well. Although he clubbed his first big league home run in just his second game, he hit only .194 and struck out 11 times in 38 at-bats for a 28.9 K% that could stand improvement. He threw out only one of the eight runners who tried to steal with him behind the plate. And after the season, the Royals designated him for assignment.
Why, then, will Porter be in Kansas City's camp this spring?
Because it makes sense.
Bringing Logan Porter back shouldn't surprise anyone
Don't make more of Porter's DFA than it probably was; the mere timing of the move could explain it. The Royals designated him the very same day they had to set their 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft purposes, he elected free agency three days later and, on the following day, signed a new minor league deal with the club.
Could it be the Royals needed Porter's roster spot for another player and planned to immediately re-sign him without restoring him to the 40-man? The transaction looked much like the type of cut, then re-sign, move clubs frequently make. And it kept a good catcher in the organization.
Bringing Logan Porter to spring training is good for several reasons
Having Porter in camp serves four good ends for the Royals. At the most basic level, he beefs up the club's camp catching corps — spring training provides Kansas City the luxury of giving a lot of pitchers, veterans and prospects alike, a lot of work, and that work requires a lot of catchers. Counting Porter, his four non-roster catching colleagues, and 40-man roster backstops Fermin and Salvador Perez, the club will have seven catchers to accommodate the crowd of hurlers the Royals will cram into big league camp
Then there's the simple fact that Porter is still a good prospect. A .194 average based on 38 at-bats, and 11 games behind the plate, aren't reason enough to move on from a catcher who consistently hit well in the minors, has power, and is by all accounts defensively decent.
Big league camps also teem with the scouts of other clubs searching for last-minute, pre-Opening Day roster help. Should Kansas City have trading Porter under consideration, showcasing him in its main camp and Cactus League games will bear more fruit than relegating him to Surprise's back fields and minor league exhibition games.
Of primary import, though, is Porter's place with the Royals. Whether they'd have called him up so late in the 2023 season absent Fermin's injury is debatable, and probably doubtful considering what little was left of the campaign. But the move demonstrated Porter's position in the organization — he's presently the best backup to Perez and Fermin, and the most logical choice for promotion should serious injury befall either big league catcher.
That's because Blake Mitchell, KC's top prospect per MLB Pipeline, is a catcher, but he hasn't seen a single pitch above Rookie ball, and hot catching prospect Carter Jensen hasn't yet advanced to Double-A. Porter also appears to be the best of the four-catcher bunch on Triple-A Omaha's current roster. And MJ Melendez, a catcher most of his pro career, isn't a good alternative should Perez or Fermin get hurt — he's too far into his transition to the outfield, where the Royals really want him to pay, so extended time behind the plate will only impede his progress.
So it is, then, that Logan Porter will be a welcome addition to spring camp. And for good reasons.