Quatraro says Nick Loftin, two others on KC Royals Opening Day roster

The Royals no. 2 prospect will start the 2024 season on the MLB roster.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The spring training roster battles seem over for the KC Royals ahead of their Arizona finale against the Texas Rangers. Kansas City Star reporter Jaylon Thompson reported that infielder Nick Loftin, outfielder Dairon Blanco, and reliever Matt Sauer will start the 2024 season on the Royals' 26-man roster. MLB.com's Anne Rogers confirmed the news on Saturday afternoon.

Many KC Royals fans will welcome all three on the Opening Day roster, but Loftin's spot comes at a cost. Both Thompson and Rogers reported that second baseman Michael Massey will be on the IL ahead of Opening Day. The 26-year-old Massey is dealing with back tightness and hasn't played in a spring training game for a week. Quatraro clarified that Massey is not shut down, but he will still need time.

"If everything continues smoothly, it's it's very short," Quatraro said to Rogers and Thompson. "But, you know, we got to take that day-to-day. He's not being shut down by any means. So hopefully it just keeps progressing right into the next week and he doesn't really miss a beat."

Nick Loftin, two others stick with KC Royals Opening Day roster

Loftin has turned in a strong spring performance after his debut last September. Heading into the spring finale, he is slashing .333/.435/.513, with two home runs and seven walks to eight strikeouts. Quatraro lauded how he made his case for the 2024 Opening Day roster.

"He really put good at bats together," Quatraro said. "He handled himself really well in September, defensively at different positions. You know, he's had a track record of being a good hitter in the minor leagues. Obviously, the organization felt highly of him and I think he he provides versatility as well. And what he did this spring was handle himself really well in a situation where, you know, there was a lot on the line for him and he didn't show any ill effects of that."

Blanco's tools and defense in centerfield make him a valuable player for the Royals. His spring production has not been stellar, but Blanco is putting balls in play and making some tweaks to his plate approach. A .318/.318/.364 slash line will play following Opening Day, especially considering Blanco's speed on the basepaths.

Sauer, on the other hand, is somewhat of a Rule 5 draft success story. He will make the jump from Double-A to The Show on Opening Day with a bullpen role. The former New York Yankees draft selection was a starter in their organization but provides a long-relief arm in the Royals' bullpen.

"He's growing, you know, he's very mature and he's somebody that we think has major league stuff and he deserves an opportunity," Quatraro said. "[Sauer has] to be able to fill multiple roles. If you go in there and you're expected to cover two, you're going to have to cover two or three. That saves the other guys in a big way and it is all about results."

The Royals final Opening Day roster should be announced in the coming days, but few surprises feel possible after this news. The Royals sent down Nick Pratto and Drew Waters as Opening Day contenders on Friday, and they still need to resolve a few bullpen spots. Hopefully, Royals fans will have a solid idea of who plays Thursday in Kauffman Stadium before the team's Tuesday exhibition game against the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

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