First Things First – Who’s on First for the Royals?

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With Eric Hosmer off to the land of Ballast Point and sea lions, first base is open for the taking in Kansas City. Who's most likely to seize the opportunity?


Lucas Duda

On the surface, last week's siging of Lucas Duda to a 1 year, 3.5 mililon dollar deal was a bit of a head-scratcher. For a team supposedly in rebuild mode, it didn't make a lot of sense to bring in a veteran to serve as a log jam for a few younger players potentially ready for regular MLB time.

However, one could look at this as a restocking move. Buy low on a short deal with a veteran, have him hold the spot for half a season while younger players get more minor league ABs (#GMDM is on record saying he thinks June/July is best for bringing up players) and hope he performs well enough to flip him for something at the deadline.

It's not an awful idea, especially if they don't feel any of the other 1B options will be ready for the bigs at the conclusion of Spring Training (which is really the larger problem here).

On the field, he is a serviceable-enough 1B with some pop from the left side. All of which the team lacked prior to his signing. If they really want Soler, Bonifacio, Cuthbert, etc. to get 500 ABs this year, they'll need some proven protection in the lineup. Duda should provide that.

Through those royal blue colored glasses, the move kinda makes sense.


Hunter Dozier

Taken 8th overall in the 2013 draft (24 picks ahead of some guy named Aaron Judge), he was considered one of the top college infielders available with an advanced bat projected to be MLB ready by early 2016.

Whereas the time table hasn’t held up, the tools are still there for him to become an everyday player in the bigs. He had a breakout 2016, hitting .296/.366/.533 with 23 HR, 44 doubles and 75 RBI over 129 games at the AA-AAA level. With 2017 more or less lost to a couple difficult injuries (he played only 33 games), 2018 could provide him with an extended opportunity at the major league level.

His position on the diamond is the biggest question. Drafted as a short stop, immediately moved to third base and then later to the outfield, the Royals entered Spring Training wtih him first on the 1B depth chart. Entering his age 27 season, the team needs to see what they have.


Ryan O’Hearn

An 8th round pick out of Sam Houston State in the 2014 draft, O’Hearn smashed through the minors over his first two and a half professional seasons. Extrapolating the stats from those 325 games (albeit across levels of competition ranging from rookie ball to AA) to a 150 game season, you get .299/.378/.515 with 29 HR, 32 doubles and 96 RBI (and 165 K as well). That’s a pretty crude analysis, but still illustrates the extent to which he was lighting up the minor leagues.

Until 2017. He didn’t have a *terrible* year, but found more difficulty at the AAA level. In 114 games at Omaha, he hit a respectable .253/.333/.455 with 22 HR, 27 doubles and 64 RBI, but also 139 K. That earned him a late season demotion to AA (some will say to get some experience in their playoff run). His performance there was much the same: .258/.357/.482 with 4 HR and 11 RBI in 19 games.

He’s not currently on the 40 man roster, which definitely puts him at further disadvantage.


Frank Schwindel

When one prospect stumbles, another flourishes. Schwindel was the benefactor of O’Hearn’s 2017 struggles. Joining the organization in the 18th round of the 2013 draft out of St John’s University, Frank put up comparatively pedestrian numbers over his first three and a half seasons in the minors. Never struggling, but not particularly exciting either.

2017 was his breakout campaign. Starting the season strongly at AA (.350/.374/.577 with 6 HR, 13 doubles and 25 RBI in just 34 games), he earned a mid-May promotion to Omaha. The step up in competition didn’t faze him much as he hit .329/.349/.528 with 17 HR, 30 doubles and 72 RBI over 99 games. He doesn’t walk much (only 16 times all season), but also only struck out 85 times in 553 plate appearances.

He’s a full year older than O’Hearn and also doesn’t hold a 40 man roster spot at the moment.


The Field

Cuthbert, Whit and even Gordo could see some Spring Training time at first. Dare I say even Salvy? Probably not this season, but don’t be surprised to see that in future years.

Samir Duenez is another name from the minors that shows promise, but is still pretty far away from serious major league consideration.


My Prediction

Duda is the man. He is here to hold the spot until somebody forces the organization to promote them.

That person needs to be Hunter Dozier. It’s time for the former first rounder to show us what he’s got. Until then, Cuthbert and super-sub Whit serve as backups.





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Author: Zach Hodson

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