On the Hot Seat: The 3 most vulnerable KC Royals infielders

Which Royal infielders could be in danger of losing their jobs?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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That the KC Royals have been surprisingly transactional this winter understates the matter. Under the guidance of general manager J.J. Picollo, who's efficiently disproving the skeptics who believed he'd be a carbon copy of Dayton Moore, the Royals have made a series of moves designed to effect meaningful, not just cosmetic, change.

Largely untouched by those free agent signings and trades has been the infield. Nothing Picollo has done, and nothing he's likely to do, alters what is sure to be its Opening Day starters — Vinnie Pasquantino at first base, Michael Massey at second, Maikel Garcia at third, and Bobby Witt Jr. at shortstop. Only utility man Garret Hampson has been added to the mix this winter, but as a versatile backup, not a starter.

But that doesn't mean some infielders' roster spots aren't forfeitable. Three Royals infielders, in fact, are particularly vulnerable.

Who are they, and why are they in some jeopardy?

Nick Pratto could find himself out of a job this season

Pratto's position with Kansas City is fragile. Primarily a first baseman who occasionally dabbles with the corner outfield spots, he'll begin the season playing behind Pasquantino, the big first baseman who opted last June to solve his troublesome right shoulder issues with season-ending surgery.

His status as a backup is not, however, what puts Pratto in peril of losing his roster spot. It is instead his bat, and his inability to master it, that could seal Pratto's Kansas City fate. Two big minor league seasons — 2018, when he hit 14 homers and slashed .288/.343/.443, and 2021 when he homered 36 times, drove in 98 runs, and posted a .265/.385/.602 line, seemed to foretell a bright future.

But that minor league success doesn't guarantee big league stardom has proved true in Pratto's case. He hit seven homers in 49 games but struggled to a horrendous .184/.271/.386 line after Pasquantino beat him to the majors by a couple of weeks in 2021, then hit only .232 with seven homers in 95 games last season. None of those numbers will keep Pratto in the majors, especially if Pasquantino's return next season is a good one. The Royals are also using Salvador Perez more at first, which doesn't bode well for Pratto's chances should his own bat fail.

Who else should be nervous about his infield spot?