Kansas City Royals: Potential Second Base Options
The Kansas City Royals were on top of the world just two seasons ago. Now, coming off of a .500 season, the Royals are desperately trying to piece together a contender.
The Kansas City Royals were America’s team just two seasons ago. After 30 years of being laughed at, after 30 years of mediocrity, the Kansas City Royals took home championship gold. That Royals team had a never-quit mentality, as it seemed like they pulled off the impossible every opportunity they could. Now, with a few pieces gone and an older team, the Royals are looking to bring in every tool they can. One of those tools must be the second base position. Whit Merrifield is the current listed starter, but the Royals have multiple options to choose from.
Raul Mondesi seems to be their second baseman of the future, but at just 21 years old he may need more time to develop into a great player. Christian Colon was the Royals’ first-round draft pick back in 2010, but saw his numbers shrink significantly last year. However, every man is in the running, so let’s take a look at the Royals’ options for second base next season.
Whit Merrifield was selected in the same draft class as Christian Colon, going in the ninth round. Merrifield had a very up-and-down minor league career, and finally saw himself in the big leagues last season. Merrifield never seemed to be a household name, and likely surprised many with his performance for Kansas City. While he may not have had any spectacular numbers, he showed great potential to hold down the position and outlast Colon and Mondesi for the time being.
Merrifield played exactly half a season last year for the Royals, appearing in 81 games. In those 81 games Merrifield batted .283 with two home runs, 29 runs batted in, eight stolen bases and 88 hits. While there is not much power there, Merrifield has set the bar to be a .275 hitter with around 20 steals and 60 runs batted in. In a full season he may be able to surpass 175 hits, and has immense defensive flexibility. Merrifield played all three outfield positions along with appearances at the corner infield spots.
Merrifield could be extremely valuable to the Royals if his play keeps up. His .351 average against left-handed pitching is a huge plus for his case, as he could potentially platoon at second base and play elsewhere. Merrifield has shown the capability to produce at the big league level, and while his ceiling may not be as high as Colon’s or Mondesi’s, he might be the safest option for 2017.
The Kansas City Royals likely aren’t pleased with how the former first-round pick is performing, but that does not mean he cannot improve. Colon saw himself burst onto the MLB scene in 2014, and was a key factor in the Royals’ World Series victory. He produced a pinch-hit RBI single in extra innings to give the Royals the lead and eventual World Series victory. Colon was loved in Kansas City, and in small sample sizes he was living up to his name. However, in 2016, Colon struggled and saw himself spending more time in AAA.
In 2014 Colon batted .333, and in 2015 he batted .290. Although each year had a small sample size, 45 and 107 at-bats respectively, Colon was showing the promise Royals fans hoped he would after being selected fourth overall. In 2016 Colon appeared in 54 games, batting a measly .231. He struck out 31 times compared to his 34 hits, only managing 11 walks. Colon struggled in MLB, and didn’t thrive in AAA. He did do better, batting .273 with only 11 strikeouts, but still didn’t impress too much.
While Colon has shown the ability to produce in high-leverage situations and be a dynamic player, he might be too big of a gamble to start at second. The Royals may send him to AAA, but more likely they will keep him up to serve in a utility role. If Colon can produce to his potential in the chances he does get, he will undoubtedly be the second baseman for the Royals next season. However, as of now, that is just a gamble.
Being the son of 1994 Rookie of the Year Raul Mondesi, Mondesi Jr. has had immense hype and potential. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Royals in 2011. At only 21 years old, the Royals are hoping Mondesi can hold down second base for years to come. Although, Mondesi is already in the running for 2017.
Mondesi has been a top-100 prospect in nearly every big prospect list since 2014. He has already seen MLB action, playing in 47 games for the Royals last year. Those 47 games were a dud for Mondesi, however, as he only batted .185. Mondesi only recorded 25 hits in 135 at-bats, striking out 48 times. Those numbers are pretty awful, but at 21 years old we cannot expect much from Mondesi yet. Not everybody is Mike Trout.
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The fact of the matter is that Mondesi may not be ready for MLB just yet. Although the Royals have already gotten his feet wet, he needs to stay in the minors and perfect his game for the future. The only situation in which Mondesi can make the big league roster is if he puts together the kind of spring that Kris Bryant had two years ago. The Royals should ease him into a starting role.