When the Royals drafted Nick Loftin with the 32nd pick in the 2020 draft, we all knew that he was a polished college hitter with a low walk rate. He started his professional career at High-A Quad Cities in 2021 where we saw the start of a promising career as he batted .289/.372/.463 with 10 HRs, 22 doubles, and five triples. Pretty good numbers for his first year in professional baseball. This year he’s more than doubled his stolen base number from last year and the season isn’t even over yet. After noticing his start to this season, I looked at the tape and it seems that he’s ditched his one hand follow through and started using a two-hand approach. Which of course is helping him generate more power, but it’s also keeping his swing level through the entire zone.
Once that change happened, my mind immediately went to what he looked like. What are some different players, past and present, that his swing resembles? And what about his look as well? Middle infielder with above average bat, power, throwing tools, AND can zoom around the bags faster than anyone expects him to? These tools immediately brought me to the former Royal Killer himself, Ian Kinsler. Ian Kinsler beat up on a lot of teams, but it just seemed like he just took it to a new level against the Royals, to put it into prospective, out of his 13 seasons playing against the Royals, there’s only two seasons that he didn’t have an OBP of .321 or higher. He just always got on base against KC, and always seemed to score when he got the chance.
But how are Nick Loftin and him similar? In their age 23 seasons at AA, Kinsler batted .274/.348/.464 and Loftin is currently batting .270/.354/.433 (as of 8/9/22).
Eerily similar numbers for these two players that look the same in stature, size, and swing abilities. And it doesn’t stop there, the both of them were accomplished college hitters, Kinsler being picked out of Missouri in the 17th round, and Loftin being picked with the 32nd overall pick, as stated earlier. But just because they’ve had similar numbers in the minors, does that still make them comparable by nature? I would say: absolutely. It starts with the swing. As mentioned earlier, their approaches are crazy similar and that would be the reason why they’re putting up the same numbers, and why I think Loftin will continue that trajectory. They both load their hips, keep the bat back, and explode on the ball. As well as keeping the barrel as fluid through the zone, with an explosive two hand follow through. This separation allows for their athletic frames to create power to all fields.
If you asked me today, “Would you take Ian Kinsler’s numbers for Nick Loftin’s whole career?” ABSOULTELY. Kinsler was of my favorite players when he was with Texas, and immediately turned into an enemy when he went to the Motor City. He played with a fire and an intensity that every team needs as their leadoff hitter. BUT. Here’s why I think that Loftin *might* be more consistent. Key word: Consistent. Kinsler would have years when he exploded on the scene and was incredible. Then had other years where his HR and OBP numbers would go up and down year after year. When you look at Kinsler’s stance, he waves the bat around and has a bit more “herky jerky” motion.
Loftin has a calm motion, barely moving the bat off his shoulders. Keeping his hands back and ready to attack the ball whenever it’s in the zone. But with that, Loftin keeps Kinsler’s uppercut motion to his swing. Creating the same lift and generating similar power. This could lead to Loftin having a more consistent career, because if you break down the swing, there’s not a lot of changes. He doesn’t have a lot of motion or quirks, he stays calm, cool, and collected in the box. And it looks just like what the Royals’ hitting staff is teaching their young players. Drew Saylor and Alec Zumwalt will continue to have so much fun with Loftin. Reaching the superstar potential that he has. The other thing that stands out about Loftin for me, is that he continues to get better year after year. Sure, it’s been a small sample size, but even at Baylor his BA, OBP, and SLG went up and up year after year. And that has continued in the minors and will surely continue thanks to the great hitting mentors the Royals’ have put in place.
If you look at the approaches that the Royals’ hitting staff is instilling in their players, I think he could be as good, if not better than Kinsler. The successes that the Royals have had with the Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, and the Nick Pratto’s of the world, should convince you that the power numbers and walk rate could even be better than expected. When you are surrounding your clubhouse with individuals on the same page, that’s when you get the best results. The environment around him will do nothing but help him succeed in the long-term. And with any luck, he can be as good, if not better than Ian Kinsler.
Now, where do you play Loftin? With the immersion of Michael Massey killing everything thrown to him, you have a bit of a good problem. When you look around the infield right now, you see: Bobby Witt Jr., Michael Massey, Nicky Lopez, Vinnie Pasquantino, Nick Pratto, Adalberto Mondesi *ducks* (it’s the Royals, we have no clue), and in the future, Nick Loftin. There are a variety of different options that I could see the Royals making. Since the beginning of the season, the Royals have been playing Loftin at 2B, SS, 3B, and interestingly, in center field. Before the Drew Waters trade, the future in CF was extremely bleak. Nate Eaton was ripping it up in AAA, but is he more than a placeholder? I don’t think so. With the amount of solid young players that the Royals are currently producing, you must be open to playing your best players no matter what. Loftin is going to be one of them. We see that now with his recent call up to Triple-A Omaha. Expect them to explore those options once again, and by the time we see him in Kansas City, he might be playing all over the diamond.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)