Shortly before the 2022 All-Star Break, and less than four full seasons into his professional baseball career, unique circumstances forced Nate Eaton into the major leagues. Although he was punishing Triple-A pitchers with a .329 average and .388 OBP at Omaha at the time, whether the KC Royals would have promoted him absent those circumstances is debatable.
But an unusual problem required a quick fix, and Eaton was part of the solution — their vaccination status blocked several Royals from traveling to Toronto for a four-game series with the Blue Jays, and the club summoned Eaton and other minor leaguers to fill in.
Unfortunately, no stellar storybook breakout awaited rookie Eaton in Canada. Yes, he started and finished all four contests in center field, and even homered in his first major league game, but he managed only one other hit, a single, in 12 official at-bats.
Based as it was on so few trips to the plate, the disappointment of that performance is easily and properly dismissed as inconclusive. Being called up for such a temporary assignment simply didn't give Eaton enough time to prove himself.
Nate Eaton gets a second chance
His wait for another opportunity wasn't long, though, and he made much of his second trip to the big leagues. The Royals brought him back in early August and he hit .277 with a .340 OBP, four doubles, three triples, and 10 RBI, and stole 11 bases in 12 attempts across 40 down-the-stretch games. Considering the dearth of major talent facing the Royals going into the 2023 season, his future seemed bright.
But Eaton's star soon faded. Last season was a career low point for him; uncertainty now clouds his future. Whether he figures prominently in the Royals' future is questionable.