Will Nick Loftin be the odd KC Royals player out when Michael Massey returns?

It makes sense, but for some wrong reasons.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No MLB team finishes the season with the same 26 players it started with, and the KC Royals are no exception. Pitchers Jake Brentz and Carlos Hernández are not coming off the injured list soon, but second baseman Michael Massey is. The 26-year-old lefty landed on the 10-day IL on March 28 and hasn't appeared in a Royals game this season. But, he is trending in the right direction with an immenent return. Massey's status will have ripple effects, but mostly on one player.

Royals fans need to accept this reality: once Massey comes back, infielder Nick Loftin is off the 26-man roster.

The KC Royals have a tough call with Nick Loftin and Michael Massey.

I do not want that to happen, but that is the most likely outcome. Loftin hasn't been lighting the world on fire in limited action this season. With nine games and 21 plate appearances, Loftin is producing a weak .510 OPS and 64 wRC+. His only three hits have been singles, exhibiting none of the power he flashed last September. His walking more often than he strikes out is certainly encouraging, but it isn't affecting the bottom line.

Loftin's .176/.333/.176 is good enough for an early-season bench player, but veteran Adam Frazier all but guarantees Loftin's pending demotion. Unlike Frazier, Loftin has minor-league options remaining and time to develop further at Triple-A Omaha. Frazier's addition in Kansas City remains a confusing move, considering Kansas City's internal options at second base and corner outfield spots. The veteran joining the Royals only complicated things for players like Loftin, Tyler Gentry, and Garrett Hampson.

Frazier producing at an acceptable pace doesn't help Loftin stay in Kansas City either. His .371 OBP ranks fourth on the Royals, and his 88 wRC+ isn't terrible for a reserve player behind Massey. Frazier should be batting higher than seventh in Kansas City's lineup for good reason, but he is a palatable backup option to Massey.

All this depends on Massey's health of course. As of April 13, he has three games with the Storm Chasers in his rehab assignment. He is looking just fine at the plate, hitting .429/.467/.571 with five RBI in three games. Royals manager Matt Quatraro told MLB.com's Anne Rogers the team is "literally taking [Massey's status] day to day." The Royals are currently on the road facing the New York Mets, but Rogers did point out the team travels to Chicago for a series starting on April 15. Perhaps Masey could rejoin the team there?

When Loftin goes to Omaha, it will not spell the end of his 2024 MLB season. He can play all over the field, and all it takes is one injury to bring Loftin back. But the best way he can return is to force the issue. Maikel Garcia did that in 2023, making himself undeniable in Omaha and taking over the third base spot. Loftin can join the Storm Chasers and play an everyday role, with consistent at-bats and innings of work. It is not all bad for the 25-year-old Texas native.

I believe this is a bump in Loftin's road, not the end of it. He remains a roleplayer for the Royals, but he deserves playing time to hone his craft and remind the organization what he brings to the table. If this puts a chip on Loftin's shoulder, the Royals will reap the rewards later down the road.

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