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. Here’s the writeups we’ve done so far:
Here’s a list of everyone I think could play 2B in the big leagues, ranked in order of their ability to do it on Opening Day in 2022.
#1: Whit Merrifield
I really struggled with this one…Whit struggled mightily for stretches last summer and I’ve been weary of his offensive decline for a while now. I think his bat-to-ball skills are strong enough to keep him around league average or better for a while though, and the elite defense he showed off at second base last year was impressive. Throw in ~10 HR and 30+ stolen bases, and I think you can count on Whit to be a 3+ WAR player again in 2022. So…for 2022 and 2022 only, I’ll still take Whit over Witt, but this is probably the last time I think you could say that.
#2: Bobby Witt, Jr.
Witt played some second base last Spring Training while Lopez was struggling, and I think you could reasonably expect him to play the position at an advanced level. He remains above Lopez here for the same reasons listed in the SS article.
#3: Nicky Lopez
Lopez probably should’ve won the Gold Glove Award at shortstop last year and looked damn good playing second base in 2019 and 2020.
#4: Adalberto Mondesi
This comes with a massive caveat, because I would probably still take Mondesi over Lopez if you could guarantee me Mondesi could stay healthy. You can’t, so I won’t, but Mondesi is still crazy talented when he’s actually on the field.
#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: Clay Dungan
Dungan played 71 games at second base in 2021, mostly before Bobby Witt, Jr. was promoted to AAA, and he excelled at the position. Dungan kind of falls into the Kyle Isbel category for me of “elite defender at a non-premium position, could hold it down at a premium position” and I think he could provide a really really good defense for you at second base if he was needed.
#7: Gabriel Cancel
I flipped Cancel and Loftin for this position simply because I don’t think they would let Gabriel Cancel play short stop in the big leagues. I do think that, in a worst case scenario, Cancel could play second base though, so I’ll give him the bump here assuming they’ll want Loftin to keep developing in the minors for 2022.
#8: Nick Loftin
Loftin may not be the second baseman of the future because of his defensive versatility, but he would be if not for the guy at #9.
#9: Michael Massey
The 2021 Gold Glove Award winner for all minor league second baseman also hit 21 HR with a K% under 16% last year with High-A Quad Cities. Massey might be the second baseman of the future depending on how he handles upper level pitching in 2022. He’s got great hands and feet around the bag, a great hit tool, and some raw power, but his approach will be the thing to keep an eye on long-term.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)