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Kansas City Royals Roster Preview: Third Base

Kansas City Royals Roster Preview: Previewing the hot corner from Bobby Witt Jr. to Jimmy Govern. Who will play and how much?

What position should the Cowboys target next in the draft?

The Spring Training Roster Preview of the Kansas City Royals continues, this time at the hot corner. Below are previous positional previews:

Much like first base, the Kansas City Royals will hope for much stronger production from third base in 2022. Last season, third base posted the lowest OPS of any position for the Royals. The third basemen hit .224/.273/.355 for the Royals last season, all ranking near the bottom of the league at the position. This season, the Royals have many of the same players at the position. They didn’t make any major acquisitions within their lineup, leaving the third base position to be upgraded internally. Upgrade internally they have, with baseball’s top prospect now manning the hot corner for Kansas City. Here are the contributors at third entering the 2022 season:

Bobby Witt Jr.

Baseball’s top prospect is set to make his major league debut early this season, barring a shocking development late in Kansas City Royals’ spring training. “Junior” has played full-time at the hot corner to this point in spring training. He’s currently hitting .476 with a 1.379 OPS and 2 home runs in spring training. Dating back to last Spring, Witt has a 1.042 in 61 Spring Training at-bats with five home runs. So what will it take to earn the call-up? Well for one, the Royals will need to add Witt to the 40-man roster; he’s still just a non-roster invitee. Beyond that technicality, we only need to look at Dayton Moore’s guidelines to determine if Witt will crack the opening day roster.

Moore famously has three criteria when evaluating prospect call ups. (1) The prospect must have the talent to perform at the major league level. Check. (2) The prospect must be producing. Double-check. (3) There must be an everyday opportunity to play for the club. Triple-check. Bobby Witt is an elite talent, producing at an elite level both in the minors last season and so far this spring, and the Royals don’t currently have an excellent option to start at third base on opening day. Witt will be there on day one. Buckle up, Royals fans.

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2022 ZIPS Projections : 125 G, .268/.323/.454, 21 HR, 108 wRC+

Emmanuel Rivera

25-year old Emmanuel Rivera was a 19th round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2015. He appeared briefly for the Royals last season before a left hamate fracture shortened his season. Prior to his call-up, he was hitting a promising .286/.348/.592 in Triple-A Omaha with 19 home runs over 63 games. His production in Kansas City dropped slightly. Over 29 games he hit just .256/.316/.333. His power all but disappeared in his first stint in the major leagues. He hit just one home run in that span. Rivera will hope to earn a bench role in Kansas City this season. After all, there truly aren’t many options ready at the hot corner in Kansas City. The Royals are hoping he can re-discover his power and make an impact.

2022 ZIPS Projections : 112 G, .246/.288/.372, 10 HR, 77 wRC+

Nathan Eaton

Perhaps a surprising name, Nathan Eaton has been making a name for himself within the Royals organization since the Arizona Fall League. Eaton was drafted in the 21st round of the 2018 MLB Draft. In 2021, Eaton played at High-A for 70 games. He posted an 11% walk rate and a .344 on-base percentage. Eaton has shown an ability to produce as an above-average hitter across three levels in the minor leagues. He has a cannon for an arm to boot and plays both corner outfield positions as well as the hot corner. Eaton hasn’t appeared above High-A but is already 25-years old. He’s struggled mightily in Spring Training, posting just a .455 OPS (in a measly 11 at-bats). Nonetheless, Eaton may have an outside shot to make the roster at some point this season if injury occurs.

2022 ZIPS Projections : 100 G, .216/.271/.318, 6 HR, 60 wRC+

Ivan Castillo

The Royals signed Castillo to a minor league contract this offseason precisely for the sake of providing depth that carries upside. The 26-year old was the Padres’ 28th ranked prospect last season, where he produced strongly at AAA El Paso. Castillo played in 113 games for El Paso and hit .287/.326/.366. He played 287 innings at third base, 150 more innings than Witt Jr. played at third last season. So far this Spring, the same product just hasn’t been there for Castillo, as he’s hit just .200 (.773 OPS) over 10 at-bats. The Royals will look to get a better look at him in the final week of the Spring.

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2022 ZIPS Projections : 115 G, .264/.299/.362, 5 HR, 78 wRC+

Organizational Depth

Organizational depth for the Royals includes, again, some familiar names in new places. Royals’ top prospect MJ Melendez was drafted as a catcher and has played catcher throughout much of his minor league career. Late last season at Triple-A Omaha the Royals began to test the versatility of Melendez by playing him at third base. He appeared there in small stints this spring as well.

For as long as Salvador Perez and Cam Gallagher still exist on the Royals’ roster, it’s hard to imagine Melendez getting the call up as a catcher. Maybe the Royals move Gallagher in a trade. Maybe Melendez continues to force a call-up by playing around the diamond. Hunter Dozier figures into the third base mix somewhere as well. After all, he was initially called up to the majors as a primary third baseman. His defense has proven suspect there in recent years, leading the Royals to move him to first base and right field. He could still man the corner in a roster pinch.

Jimmy Govern and Jake Means have played third base some in the minors for Kansas City, leading to a mixed bag of results. Slugger Gabriel Cancel plays at the corners as well, and could possibly be a depth piece at third for the boys in blue. In general, the Royals are hoping for a full 150 games from Bobby Witt Jr it seems, and that might not be the worst plan.

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Written By

I'm a life-long Chiefs and Royals fan from Liberty, MO. I've since moved to Seattle, WA. I love the west coast life with my wife, two beautiful children, a german shepherd, and chihuahua. It's my pleasure to grow Stadium Rant as Director of Content, but I still love writing as well about what topics I'm passionate about.

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