The Kansas City Royals’ Roster Preview continues up the middle, this time with second base. You can read our previous previews below:
Second base was strong for the Royals in 2021, where they implemented a mix of Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, and Hanser Alberto. The position hit .286/.321/.402 with 54 extra-base hits for the Royals last season. This season, the position will look slightly different at the top, albeit with some familiar names. With a couple of veterans at the top and some young prospects on the rise, Kansas City will look to second base as one of the strengths of their lineup in a season that they hope results in their first playoff appearance since 2015’s World Series Championship season.
Here are the major contributors entering 2022:
Nicky Lopez moves back to second base after having a true breakout season in 2021 at the shortstop position. Lopez, you may remember, was optioned to Triple-A after Spring Training last season. Following the injury to Adalberto Mondesi in the first week of the season, Lopez was immediately called back up to Kansas City where he would play 151 games. Lopez was outstanding. Over 565 plate appearances, he hit .300/.365/.378 with 22 stolen bases, a 106 wRC+, and three Defensive Runs Saved on defense. Lopez should have won the Gold Glove in a season he posted the Royals’ first .300 season by a shortstop since … ever. ZIPS Projections see a slight regression in Lopez’s performance at the plate this coming season. I don’t buy it. Manager Mike Matheny on Lopez this spring, said “He’s going to be the best second baseman in baseball.”
2022 ZIPS Projections : 147 G, .272/.334/.359, 4 HR, 91 wRC+
Whit Merrifield has told the Royals he would like to play at one spot this season if possible. He mentioned that the back and forth between positions can take a “toll on his body.” With Lopez all but solidified in the starting Second Base role, Merrifield will spend most of the 2022 season in Right Field. Injuries happen in baseball, however, and you never know what the future holds. In a Dugout interview this spring, Merrifield makes it clear that he’s interested in helping the team however he can.
If anything were to happen to Nicky, Whit would become the everyday second baseman after he played Gold Glove level defense at the position last season. His bat, on the other hand, has taken a slight dip in recent years. He still figures to be a strong veteran presence in what figures to be a very young lineup for the Royals. Whit has earned an everyday lineup spot once again in 2022.
2022 ZIPS Projections : 155 G, .284/.327/.410, 11 HR, 99 wRC+
Clay Dungan hasn’t gotten nearly enough love on prospects lists and in the media alike since his breakout campaign in the minor leagues last season. In fact, Dungan has never not hit to this point in his minor league career. The 25-year old 2B/SS was drafted in the 9th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Royals. He tore the cover off of the ball last season for AA Northwest Arkansas. In 108 games, he hit .288/.357/.405 with just a 14% strikeout rate. He stole 28 bases, launched nine home runs, and tallied a 107 wRC+. Dungan gives the Royals some depth up the middle of their infield in case of injury to Mondesi or Lopez, which could help the team keep Merrifield in Right Field. His ability with the bat could help Dungan force his way onto the roster as a Utility man even earlier.
2022 ZIPS Projections : 103 G, .266/.314/.360, 6 HR, 84 wRC+
The Royals signed infielder Ivan Castillo to a minor league contract this offseason. Castillo was the 28th ranked prospect for the San Diego Padres organization entering last season. He doesn’t strike out much but doesn’t walk much either. He’s a true contact hitter that should provide the Royals with major league depth while some of their younger middle infielders can continue to develop in the minor leagues. In Triple-A El Paso last season, Castillo hit .287/.326/.366. If he makes the team out of Spring Training, Castillo profiles as a utility man for the Royals, able to play 3B, 2B, and SS. The Spring Training battle between Castillo and Dungan is something to watch over the coming week.
2022 ZIPS Projections : 115 G, .264/.299/.362, 5 HR, 78 wRC+
Gabriel Cancel rounds out the possible Major League options for the Royals at Second Base behind Nicky Lopez this season. Cancel, the third non-roster invitee at Second to this year’s Spring Training (Dungan and Castillo being the others) had an eye-opening season last year in the minors. The Royals drafted Cancel in the 7th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Last season, Cancel appeared in 57 games at AAA Omaha for the Royals organization. He hit .234/.304/.510. The power was off-the-charts for Cancel, despite his 30% strikeout rate. He launched 14 home runs en route to the highest slugging percentage of his minor league career. His 110 wRC+ was the highest since 2017 for the young slugger. With his power, he profiles more as a third baseman than a second baseman but still gives solid depth around the diamond.
2022 ZIPS Projections : 100 G, .225/.275/.381, 12 HR, 75 wRC+
Plenty of additional depth exists for the Royals at the minor league level. Michael Massey, a 4th round draft pick from 2019, made great strides last season with the Royals’ High A affiliate, Quad Cities. In 99 games, Massey hit .289/.351/.531 with 21 home runs and just 68 strikeouts. With another strong performance this season, Massey will make a push toward the MLB’s Top 100 Prospect list.
Peyton Wilson, another high draft pick by the Royals (2nd round in 2021 out of Alabama) profiles more as a future center fielder in the MLB than he does as a second baseman. Wilson, 21, is just starting his professional career and appeared in just 11 games last season for the Royals Low-A Affiliate in Columbia. In those 23 games between Rookie ball and Low A, he posted a .341 on-base percentage with very limited power totals. The Royals will hope he finds some of the power he had at Alabama when he was drafted. He’s a name to watch for the Royals this season, most notably whether he will stick at second or move to the outfield.