The Royals’ Possible Infield Competitions

The Royals head into 2023 with a pair of outfield spots sewn up. Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinny Pasquadino they are arguably the two most important players in the organization. If healthy, they’ll be at shortstop and first base, respectively, on a day-to-day basis.

Who will fill in with them in the dirt is a key question for the front office and first-year skipper Matt Quatraro. The second and third base positions look fluid, and while there are perhaps a pair of early favorites for playing time, both will likely need to perform well early to keep the job.

Michael Massey

Massey, 25 next week, enters the season as the presumptive second baseman. The Illinois product was called up in early August and pitched in his first 52 major league games last year. Through 194 plate appearances, he hit .243/.307/.376 with four home runs. Massey walked in just 4.6% of his plate appearances while striking out at a 23.7% clip that was just above the league average.

It was a nice debut, but not a resounding performance that will firmly stake a claim for the job. A former fourth-round pick, Massey was generally viewed by evaluators as a well-rounded player, but without overwhelming upside. However, he has had a great showing in the majors, hitting .312/.371/.532 in 87 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha.

Hunter Dozier

Dozier is heading into the third season of a four-year contract extension. The first two years didn’t go as the club envisioned, with the former eighth overall pick hitting just .226/.289/.391 with a 7.4% walk rate and a 26.7% strikeout rate in over 1,000 plate appearances. Combined with a corner-only defensive profile, Dozier’s production checked in below replacement level in that department. He has yet to consistently maintain the level he showed in 2019, when he connected on 26 home runs with a .279/.348/.522 slash line.

Despite the struggles of recent seasons, the Royals look set to give Dozier another crack. General manager JJ Picollo told reporters on the eve of spring training that the 31-year-old was likely to see regular work at third base (via Anne Rogers of He’s been playing primarily first base and in the corner since 2020. Public defensive metrics haven’t been particularly thrilled with his glove anywhere on the diamond.

Nikki Lopez

Lopez has been in Kansas City’s Opening Day lineup for the past three years. This consistent playing time was due to his elite contact skills and defensive profile in the middle. Lopez has power at the bottom end of the scale and an aggressive approach designed to hit the ball on the ground. He carried an unsustainable .347 batting average on balls in play and saw some success in 2021, but was otherwise a well below average hitter at the MLB level.

Even without much offensive impact, Lopez has shown some value in a role at the bottom of the lineup. He’s a quality base runner, a trait that could be a bit more impactful than in years past thanks to rule changes that incentivize more aggressive running. More importantly, he is a strong mantle in both middle areas of the field. The division rival White Sox checked in on Lopez as part of their search for help at second base in January, though KC reportedly didn’t want to trade him for a rather meager return. He would likely be the first person to reach the foundation if Massey doesn’t jump at the chance early in the year.

Nate Eaton

Eaton, 26, won his big league debut last summer after hitting .295/.376/.510 in Omaha. He played regularly at third base, getting in 44 games. In his first 122 MLB plate appearances, Eaton posted a league average of .264/.331/.387 and swiped 11 bases in 12 attempts. It was a strong showing from the former 21st round pick that would earn him a roster spot out of camp.

Whether Eaton will get an everyday look at either position remains to be seen. He has played a decent amount of corner in the minor leagues in addition to his time at third base. If the Kansas City brass prefer him as an outfielder, they should have plenty of at-bats to afford him in the grass. He could also rotate through a handful of positions as a utility first-bat option from the right side of the plate.

Michael Garcia

Garcia, 23, has just nine league games under his belt. Aside from that cup of coffee, the Venezuela native split the 2022 season between the top two minor league levels. García hit .285/.359/.427 in 555 combined plate appearances, showing solid discipline and contact skills while stealing 39 bases.

Baseball America ranked him the #6 prospect in the organization this offseason. García has only 40 games of Triple-A experience and seems likely to start the year in Omaha, but could be at either second or third base in Kansas City soon. He played shortstop almost exclusively in the minors and will likely start branching out to other infield positions soon with Witt settled in at shortstop in Kansas City.

Samad Taylor

The Royals acquired Taylor, 24, from the Blue Jays last summer as part of a two-player return for Whit Merrifield. Kansas City picked up his contract this offseason to keep him out of the Rule 5 draft. That puts him on the radar for his first big league call-up at some point, though he could certainly start the year in Omaha. The former 10th-round pick had hit .258/.337/.426 with nine homers and 23 steals in 70 games for the Jays’ top affiliate before the deal. He did not appear in a game against Omaha after the trade due to injury, but is now healthy and participating in Spring Training. BA listed him as the organization’s #24 prospect, suggesting he is likely to serve in a utility role.

Matt Duffy/Johan Camargo/Matt Beaty

This trio of veterans is in camp on minor league deals. All are looking for a potentially useful role in Spring Training, with Beaty and Duffy getting off to strong starts in exhibition play. Duffy is a high-contact hitter who probably has the highest offensive floor of the group. Camargo offers the most defensive versatility with the ability to play shortstop. Beaty has shown an exciting combination of power and contact skills at his best, but he’s not a great defender anywhere and is looking to bounce back from a Murphy’s law 2022 campaign.


Massey and Dozier look like the likely second and third base duo to start the season. Neither appears to be a lock to keep the job all year, however, raising the possibility for the club to go in a few different directions. Lopez offers a first option off the bench, while younger players like García, Eaton and Taylor could play their way into opportunities if the players above them on the depth chart struggle. Garcia, in particular, seems like a potential long-term regular based on his defensive awareness and strike zone.

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