The start of the Kansas City Royals regular season is only ten short days away. Here we continue our review of the various position battles with a look at the infield.
Two (or three or four) Hit Whit is coming off his most productive offensive year as a professional ball player and is punishing baseballs down in Surprise. He’s a lock for the opening day roster and will play most days at second base.
Esky was re-signed to be the everyday shortstop until someone (dear lord, anyone) can unseat him. His best offensive seasons are behind him and he doesn’t have the speed or range he once did (which this blogger attributes at least in part to this nonsense). But he is durable and still a serviceable defender at a position at which you cannot sacrifice defense. Get up in arms if you want, Royals fans. It is what it is.
The oddest free agency in recent memory gifted us another year of Mike Moustakas in Royal blue. I am admittedly very much in the anti-tank camp, but the left handed thump he provides will go a LONG way in balancing the lineup and protecting the younger right-handed hitters that need MLB at bats to develop (Soler mainly).
And he’s Mike friggin’ Moustakas. Future Royals Hall of Famer. He can play here as long as he wants as far as I’m concerned.
Up until the surprising return of Moose, the everyday 3B job was Cuthbert’s. In some respect, you do have to feel bad for the guy. In 2016, he showed the promise of being a productive MLB hitter, slashing .274/.318/.413 with 12 HR, 28 doubles and 46 RBI in 475 at bats. Of course you ideally want more power than that from your everyday third baseman in the American League, but one would figure it was more than enough to put him first in line for the job when Moose departed.
He’ll split time at 3B and DH, but with the return of Moose and the signings of Jon Jay and Lucas Duda, there is a real chance consistent at bats will be hard to find for him.
Everyone’s favorite former Raul Mondesi Jr has had his spring slowed by some arm stiffness. Nothing more than typical spring training soreness, but it still cost him about 10 days of at bats. I would say all indications based upon playing time since his return are that he is ticketed to start the year in AAA, but this organization LOVES it some Adalberto Mondesi. I certainly wouldn’t bet on him making the MLB roster, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked by it either.
Goins has emerged as a serious contender to make the major league team as a backup infielder. He never batted much as a major leaguer in his previous 5 year stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has had a good spring in an extended look: .387/.462/.516 with three extra base hits and six walks in 31 Abs. He has major league experience at every infield position (mostly at 2B and SS) and even a few appearances in the outfield. He is the best all-around defender of the backup infield options.
A former 4th round pick of the Phillies, Asche was never quite able to meet those expectations in the City of Brotherly Love. He had a couple promising years for a young player in 2014-2015, averaging .249/.302/.393 with 11 HR, 24 2B and 43 RBI over those two seasons. But he also struck quite a bit (102 and 111) and was unable to show consistent defense in time split between 3B and OF. He became a free agent after 2016, then signed and played briefly for the White Sox in 2017.
Out of the Running
Over the weekend, Torres was assigned to minor league camp. Mejia (received from the Dodgers in the Soria/Scott Alexander trade) and Lopez are prospects to keep an eye on, but are both years away from serious major league consideration.
Moose, Esky and Whit start with Cuthbert and Goins serving as backups. Add in Duda as the starter at 1B and you have a proven veteran group around the diamond.
It would not surprise me in the slightest if Cuthbert gets sent down after a few weeks to get every day at bats, especially if someone is mashing at AAA (Mondesi, Schwindel, O’Hearn, Dozier, etc.).
(Note: Cuthbert is out of options, in order to be sent down he would have to be designated for assignment and removed from the 40 man roster should he clear waivers)
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