Humberto Arteaga is a guy that not many Royals fans talk about when discussing prospects, but is a name that piqued my interest this season when Ned Yost mentioned him in an interview. You can read the interview here, but Yost says that Arteaga is one of many young guys, “…getting better…you can see it.”
Humberto Arteaga spent all of 2017 as a 23-year old in AA and will almost certainly be with the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers when Spring Training ends. This season at AA he played a decent amount of games with top middle-infield prospect Nicky Lopez, and the Royals actually moved Lopez to 2B in order to allow Arteaga to man SS.
With Raul Mondesi coming into his own as the heir-apparent at SS to Alcides Escobar at the big league level, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arteaga is the full-time SS for Omaha in 2018 while Nicky Lopez moves to 2B permanently, paving his path to eventually form a middle-infield combo of Raul Mondesi and Nicky Lopez. How sick would that be?
“But wait! What about super-star All-Star all-world second basemen Whit Merrifield?!”
Cool your jets. Whit Merrifield had an awesome season in 2017 and is going to play the entire season at 2B for KC unless he gets traded. But if you didn’t get a chance to read an article I wrote for Kings of Kauffman, I think there is at least a decent chance Merrifield gets traded this offseason and I’m actually all for it.
Some people hated the idea, but if the Royals can move Whit for a Top 100 prospect, and open up 2B for Nicky Lopez as soon as 2018, I will be an ecstatic Royals fan.
Right, back to Arteaga, the guy I’m supposed to be telling you about. How does all of this affect him?
Think about this for a second, the Royals moved their best middle-infield prospect out of arguably the most important defensive position on the entire field in order to allow Humberto Arteaga and his .605 OPS to play SS. The kid can absolutely glove it.
At a game I saw in August, I remember thinking, “This is really strange. Wouldn’t you want Lopez manning SS to maximize his value?” And then there was a ground ball hit to Arteaga’s left. Arteaga promptly swallowed it up and fired a missile to Samir Duenez at 1B and any reasons for concern were gone. The kid looked like Tony Pena Jr. with the glove, a defensive wizard if you will.
The obvious issue with Arteaga, and the reason his defensive wizardry at SS is still at AA as a 23-year old, is that he posted an OPS of .605 in 453 AB this past season. That’s way less than ideal. For comparison, as a 23-year old, Alcides Escobar put up an OPS of .614….playing SS for the Milwaukee Brewers….not at AA.
The bat is going to be the only obstacle keeping Humberto Arteaga away from being a starting SS for an MLB team. The kid has Gold Glove talent at a premier defensive position. He’s got a cannon for an arm and there isn’t a throw he can’t make. From what I’ve seen, he can run just as well as Esky did in his prime. Getting him to hit will be the only struggle. Arteaga has failed to post an OPS of at least .700 at ever level he’s played at, save for the Pioneer League which is an extreme hitter’s league.
Luckily for Arteaga, he doesn’t have to put up an .OPS of .700 to be an effective major leaguer. But it can’t be .605 either. If he can find a way to get his OPS up to around .680-.690, there is a decent chance that all of these “Raul Mondesi to CF” rumors could begin growing legs and you may well see a defensive alignment in KC that consists of Arteaga, Lopez, and Mondesi all on the field at the same time, very soon.
ETA: Bat Dependent, 2019
Photo Credits: Staton Breidenthal