Nick Loftin deserves a KC Royals role sooner rather than later

Nick Loftin remains one of the Royals best prospects, but he deserves MLB playing time.

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Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's 2024 KC Royals player projection series. Over the next few weeks, we'll be reviewing how various Royals performed last year and predicting how they might fare this season. Let's look at utilityman Nick Loftin.

The KC Royals continue whittling down their spring training roster down in Arizona, headlined by the recent Austin Nola, Nick Pratto, and Drew Waters options. All three had different roads to the Opening Day roster, but difficult ones nonetheless. However, some surprising players remain in the hunt. Nick Loftin, after a strong debut and defensive pedigree, remains on the Opening Day roster path.

Loftin came on strong after a traditional September debut in 2023. His 19 games saw him play all over the field, but be a positive presence in the batting order no matter where that may be. Now, heading into 2024, that hasn't changed a bit. Loftin told's Anne Rogers that the role is welcome and he is willing.

“I’m embracing that utility role and understanding that I’m just going to be everywhere this year,” Loftin said. “That’s where my career is going to be taking me.”

Well, the question is what Loftin's career looks like in 2024. After having a taste of major league action, Kansas City's 2nd-best prospect has a ton to offer the Royals roster this season. What does FanGraphs predict for Loftin's 2024 performance?

How FanGraphs projects he will perform for KC Royals

FanGraphs (Depth Charts) predicts progression for Loftin, but not as aggressive as expected. They project 32 appearances for Loftin, posting a .258/.318/.388 slash line. He would still be an above-replacement player in those projections with three home runs to boot. But, his projected 91wRC+ would be a big step back from his 2023 mark of 118 wRC+.

How Nick Loftin will actually perform

I will say I love his mindset in the Rogers interview, saying he wants to "win pitches, not win a job." That is what a team needs from a bench player. Dairon Blanco won pitches last year, and his 2023 season is criminally underrated. Loftin doesn't need a sole position every day in the lineup. He can come in late in the game or as a pinch hitter and have the same chance as any player of producing. It may not sound like much, but that depth is valuable for a surging Royals team.

A starting role can open up seemingly at any given moment. But, being able to slot in so many places and so many different situations is valuable. Loftin will not be an Opening Day starter. But, by season's end, Loftin will have at least 50 starts for the Royals. Where those starts will come from is all up to Loftin and where Kansas City needs him most.

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