Welcome back. In case you missed our original rankings series, here are the links to all of our writeups for our preseason Royals top-50 prospects list:
We listed the primary position that each player usually plays during the writeups, but I wanted to go back and kind of do an organizational depth chart if you will for how the Royals system looks at each position. For this exercise I’ll include everyone in the system I think can play each position at the big league level, including players that made our preseason rankings, players who did not, and players who have already graduated. This isn’t an exact science but I’m sure you’ve come to expect that from us by now.
Anyway. Here’s a list of everyone I think could play 3B in the big leagues, ranked in order of their ability to do it on Opening Day in 2022.
#1: Bobby Witt, Jr.
#2: Adalberto Mondesi
I actually think if you had Vegas odds for who will be the Royals starting third baseman on Opening Day, it would be something like:
– Bobby Witt, Jr.: -105
– Adalberto Mondesi: +150
– Anyone else: +500
This implies that Witt is the favorite, but I don’t think it’s as overwhelming as some people are making it out to be. I won’t waste a ton of time convincing you that Mondesi should be in consideration, because this one feels pretty easy, but don’t rule it out just yet either.
#3: Emmanuel Rivera
Rivera probably won’t ever be a big league regular, but he’s good with the glove, has a solid hit tool, and you could do a lot worse in terms of your third or fourth option on the corner infield. Definitely warrants a big league utility role on Opening Day and could wind up playing one or two games a week.
#4: Hunter Dozier
He’s gotta play somewhere and after signing that extension last offseason, he’s going to play. He’s not been very good at the hot corner in his big league career, but he’s serviceable in a pinch if all hell breaks loose.
#5: Ivan Castillo
The Royals signed Castillo to a minor league deal this offseason from the Padres organization. Castillo runs well, has an above average glove, and a legitimately useful hit tool, so you can see why the Royals would be interested in giving him an organizational depth role. He doesn’t hit for any present power, and he swings way too much to hope he can be a Nicky Lopez type eventually, but he’s a fine player to have in the minors in case you get a couple injuries at the big league level.
#6: MJ Melendez
Melendez is, obviously, much higher on the overall importance ranking than Castillo, but I don’t know how much I buy that they would let him play third base at the big league level. Maybe I’m way off here. Maybe MJ winds up playing 10-20 games at third base this year. I don’t think it’s totally insignificant that he played a few games at third base in Omaha last summer, but I don’t think much of it either. I do think he’s an option, and he’ll almost certainly get some time in the big leagues this year, I just don’t know how much of it will be at third base.
#7: Gabriel Cancel
Sigh. Remember back in 2019 when everyone else was seemingly falling off a cliff and Cancel was participating in the Texas League HR Derby? What a wild time that was. Unfortunately the development some other guys in the system got at the alt-site in 2020 did not seem to work the same magic for Cancel. It’s certainly still possible that he carves out a role for himself on a big league team, I just don’t know how many opportunities remain for him in this organization specifically.
#8: Clay Dungan
Dungan had some success at the plate at AA last year and flashed some pretty impressive leather in the middle infield while he was at it. He did play two games at third base with the Naturals last summer, so I think there’s an off chance he could step up and fill in if the team really needed someone for a week this year. Dungan is Rule 5 eligible this offseason, so the Royals will have a decision to make about his presence on the 40-man roster regardless, but Dungan’s glove is good enough to warrant a look if he can hit at all with AAA Omaha this year.
#9: Nick Loftin
Loftin would certainly be much higher on this list if he had any AA experience to this point. I don’t think the Royals would rush him to the big leagues under any circumstances in 2022, so he finds himself a bit lower on this list than his real “priority” would be. Loftin probably isn’t the “third baseman of the future” because I think it’s semi-likely Bobby Witt, Jr. winds up there full time, but it’s possible that Loftin could play a ton of third base in the big leagues. Loftin came in at #5 in our preseason prospect rankings, so please understand how high we are on him, it’s just this depth chart is centered around 2022 and I don’t think there’s any chance we see Loftin in the big leagues until 2023.
#10: Nate Eaton
Eaton is another guy that I think could hold his own defensively at third base in the big leagues that’s just too far away right now. Eaton debuted in our top 30 this preseason, so I actually think there’s a chance he carves out a role similar to Emmanuel Rivera eventually as a backup, glove-first infielder, it just isn’t likely to be in 2022.
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