Why did Nate Eaton have such a bad season at the plate?
When it gets right down to it, no single factor accounts for the disaster that was Eaton's 2023 hitting as a Royal. His traditional and advanced big league metrics leave little to be praised and everything to be desired: besides that terrible slash line, and per FanGraphs, he didn't barrel a single ball, his hard hit rate was 28.1%, and he had poor run values on every type of pitch opposing hurlers threw him.
So, just what is it that's happened to Eaton? Why hasn't he rediscovered the bat that two seasons ago served him so well in the minors, when he slashed .285/.358/.465 and hit 13 homers in a 91-game campaign split between Double-A and Triple-A, and, during his second call to the majors leagues of the campaign, gave him good late-season numbers?
Perhaps the answer to that question is one no one wants to hear— perhaps Eaton just isn't a big league hitter.
What might be down the road?
Despite his batting woes, Eaton is positionally well-rounded — the Royals have used him at every outfield position and third base, and he's been their designated hitter. He also has minor league experience at shortstop. Whether that versatility helps his Kansas City cause is doubtful, especially after the Royals affected their outfield pecking order by acquiring Hunter Renfroe in December, and their utility situation by signing Garrett Hampson in November.
But the Royals have invited Eaton to spring training, which means that at least to some extent, he still holds their interest. How deep that interest runs, and for how long it lasts, we shall see.