They remained in the playoff hunt, despite a 22-27 record since July 1. A surge of talent from the 2023 MLB Draft and the Arizona Complex League revitalized the Fireflies' roster at several positions. The player with the biggest impact though was certainly third baseman Trevor Werner.
The Royals selected Werner 199th overall in the draft as a two-way player. He played mostly at third base in his collegiate career, but a 90+ MPH fastball and slider must have piqued Kansas City's interest as well. But Werner's bat is the real tool that made him a draft selection. Across 125 games played for the Texas A&M Aggies, Werner hit .251 with a .348 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage. His 2023 season was his breakout one, with 14 homers, 52 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases in 57 games.
While his 6 foot 3 inch frame would fit perfectly on the mound, The Royals kept him at third base in his first 34 professional games. The former Aggie was rolling into the aforementioned Aug. 29 matchup after being named the Carolina League Player of the Week for the week of August 21-27. His 1.733 OPS, with five homers and 11 RBIs all led the entire Carolina League and Werner's efforts at the plate kept Columbia in the postseason hunt.
But there was one way Werner hurt the Fireflies and it reared its ugly head on that Tuesday night. Any fan can pull up his game log from this game and see how great he was at the plate that game. He reached base after every plate appearance with two extra-base hits. The issue was not with his performance at the plate though. It was his glove in the field, namely in the top of the fourth inning.
This is Low-A ball. Viewers and devoted fans should expect some boneheaded decisions throughout the game. But, seeing a collegiate player make a throwing and fielding error on an infield fly feels egregious. This was not a lone occurrence though. In total, Werner committed eight errors in only 20 games at the hot corner. That is a crazy rate that puts Edward Olivares to shame in the field.
But, no one is going to glance at Werner's season and see any issues. He was electric at the plate, winning Carolina League Player of the Month for September. He deserved the honor after playing in 31 Low-A games this season with a .354/.459/1.158 line with eight homers, eight stolen bases, and 36 RBIs. Werner was great for the Fireflies and should absolutely garner top-30 attention in the Royals system.
There is one glaring flaw holding Trevor Werner back in the KC Royals system.
But the glove is a real issue. He struggled at third in College Station as well, causing concern that this issue will get any better with time. There is a solution that resets Werner defensively and helps the Royals though. After combing through Kansas City minor league teams for first base prospects, the choices are scarily thin. There are plenty of solid defenders there, but none have the same hitting potential as Werner. What if the Royals moved Werner to the opposite corner to first base?
Royals prospect savants will know that Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto graduating from the system left a huge void at first. Sure, there are players like CJ Alexander who can play the position, but there are multiple levels that lack a surefire first baseman. Alexander can fill that role, which keeps him in the batting lineup but takes away the defensive pressure.
Werner is already above the average height for an MLB first baseman, exceeding it by a full inch. At 225 pounds, he is also bigger than the average MLB player period. Size is not the only thing that should fuel a player's prospect profile, but it certainly does not hurt Werner's. In a system filled with versatile utilitymen, a sizeable corner infielder is a great asset to have.
Royals infield coach José Alguacil managed to turn Bobby Wit Jr. into a Gold Glove-caliber defender while coaching up Salvador Perez to play first base at an average level. Usually, there is a coaching trickle-down effect from the major league clubs to their affiliates.
The recent examples show that the Royals have the processes and personnel to convert Werner to a first baseman. It is a worthwhile experiment that at worst delays Werner's development but at best, gives Kansas City a new top prospect at the first base position.