Why this KC Royals infielder leads the second base race

Michael Massey is having the good spring he needs.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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Adam Frazier is a KC Royals surprise. Not because of how he's playing this spring, mind you, but because he's a Royal at all.

Frazier is among the impressive group of players the Royals picked up over the winter, a collection consisting primarily of veterans who the club hopes will help lead it out of the wilderness of losing it's been trapped in since 2017. But his acquisition via free agency was unforeseen, especially for a team well-steeped in the defensive versatility that is his calling card. And it added to speculation that Michael Massey, who's held down second base at Kauffman Stadium for the better part of the last season-and-a-half, might be on his way out of that role.

Underlying such speculation is Massey's bat. Although he hit 15 homers last year, certainly a respectable number for a second baseman, Massey slashed only .229/.274/.381. His 181-game career line of .233/.284/.379 isn't much better. Frazier, on the other hand, has hit better than .300 three times in eight seasons, and his .269/.331/.393 career line, while not gaudy, looks better than Massey's.

But don't count Massey out. Almost halfway through the Royals' 32-game exhibition schedule, he's showing no signs of giving in.

Why Michael Massey is ahead in the second base competition

Some may say the second base job is Massey's to lose, and to an extent that's true. He's the returning starter, has some power, isn't a defensive liability, and he and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. form a strong keystone combination.

But incumbency only goes so far; even superstars enjoy bulletproof status only as long as they produce. And when serious questions about one or more of their tools abound, players are just a step or two away from replacement. Massey, though, is doing his best to make sure he retains his job

And he's getting a bit of help from those who might take it. Take Frazier, for example. He's started four times at second this spring, but his bat has been quiet. Although he went 1-for-3 in Kansas City's 6-5 victory over Arizona Saturday, his early-game single was only the second hit he's managed in 17 at-bats and bumped his line up to just .118/.286/.176. Yes, it's only spring training, but Frazier is struggling.

So is Garrett Hampson, another out-of-the-blue offseason acquisition — he's 3-for-18 (.167) in seven games. Only Nick Loftin among Royals considered to be contenders for Massey's spot at second is hitting well: in eight contests, he's slashing .400/.550/.667 with a homer, two doubles, and three RBI. But because Loftin, who played so well for KC during a late 2023 call-up, is fighting to get on a roster currently stocked with capable veterans, he's probably headed for Opening Day in Omaha, not Kansas City. (But he'll see Kauffman before long).

And Massey? He won't give in without a battle, and it's a good one he's waging in Arizona. He didn't play Saturday, but he's batting .316 (6-for-19) in seven games. His two homers are only one behind Salvador Perez and Bobby Witt Jr., who are tied for the club lead with three, and his five RBI, along with Nick Pratto's equal number, trail Perez by one. Take away the 0-for-4 performance he recently put in against Cincinnati, a day just like even the best hitters have several times per season, and he'd be batting an even .400.

So if his bat is how he'll be measured this spring, Massey is, so far, in pretty good shape.

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