Why the infield could be great for the KC Royals in 2024

Its young infielders are keys for Kansas City.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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After a flurry of interesting offseason moves, the KC Royals have budding expectations as Opening Day draws closer. From the overhauled roster to playing in a weak division, there's arisen a hopeful feeling that the Royals will remain relevant far deeper into the season than they did last year. That could make for entertaining baseball, a well-received notion for fans, but the most important long-term objective is finding which players will establish themselves as core pieces in the team's next competitive window. This year, look for the infield to become a standout position group.

Kansas City needs to see growth from its infield

If the Royals plan to build a sustainable winner, they need several young, talented players to lock down everyday roles. The infield already has an ensemble of players who can fit this description. If they want to challenge Minnesota for the American League Central crown, they'll need at least one unit to play at a truly exceptional level.

According to FanGraphs projections, shortstop is the only infield position Kansas City can expect to perform at a top-five level. This will be a fascinating year to watch Bobby Witt Jr. as he looks to build on his impressive A+ 2023 campaign. Already the franchise cornerstone, any successful season will likely revolve around Witt entrenching himself among the game's elite position players.

The outlook for the rest of the infielders isn't quite as rosy, but that's why 2024 is such an important year in the team's development. Vinnie Pasquantino at first base and Maikel García at third are two players capable of being well-above-average starters. Pasquantino hasn't yet reached a full 162-game major league season, but his good early results inspire notions that this could be the Royals' year to surprise the rest of the division. García's elite defense already makes him a valuable player and his offensive production could take a huge leap this year.

Finally, how playing time sorts out at second base could be one of this season's pivotal storylines. Will Michael Massey be able to rebound from an underwhelming season? He hit only .229 with 15 home runs across 129 games. Although his final numbers weren't incredible, Massey improved markedly in some key areas — per FanGraphs, he made more consistent contact in the zone and reduced his swinging strike rate.

Massey's opportunity at second might not be a certainty if exciting rookie Nick Loftin earns an everyday job after his excellent debut. Loftin's short stint in the majors late last season resulted in a .323 batting average with 10 RBIs over just 19 games. He kept his strikeout rate low while offering the defensive versatility that any team would love to have.

Regardless of the optimism surrounding this season, there's a good argument that this young, developing infield could become one of the best in the division. From Pasquantino having a chance to play a full season to Loftin's potential breakthrough, the Royals need to see if these players will be part of their competitive foundation.

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