Ned Yost is hoping to get ten (10) spring training games out of Omar Infante, with the idea being that will be enough to get the ailing second baseman ready for the regular season. Hey, when you have a 33 year old middle infielder with a career line of .276/.316/.395 with a bad elbow that likely needs surgery, you do what you have to do to get him on the field.
The Royals seem hell-bent on trying to coax Infante through the 2015 season as opposed to getting the troublesome elbow fixed. It could be all about the money as Infante is in the second year of a four year/thirty million dollar deal, but that seems more like something that might have happened ten years ago, not now. They might just be hoping that the 2013 version of Omar somehow reappears despite the injures (Infante posted a triple slash of .318/.345/.450 that year and a respectable 2.4 bWAR), but it would be wise for all to note that Infante’s 2011 and 2012 seasons resembled 2014 much more than the good 2013 campaign.
Basically, since being an All-Star (and a fairly legitimate one at that) in 2010, three of Omar Infante’s next four years were sub-par. He’s battling an injury and not getting any younger. Yet, the Royals are praying, pushing and hoping he is going to be in Ned Yost’s lineup come April 6th. We joke and commiserate about things the Royals do – yes, even after being a Madison Bumgarner away from a World Championship – but is this situation less about money and what they perceive Infante to be as a player and more about the other options in camp?
Christian Colon, who by most accounts is the leader to make the team as the utility infielder, would be first in line should Infante not be ready to go. A former fourth overall pick in 2010 draft who was pegged to have a somewhat low ceiling but would be quick to the majors did, in fact, make it to the majors….after four years in the minors. He has hit the crap out of the ball this spring, but made a couple of errors and been caught stealing twice. Colon hit well in 49 major league plate appearances in 2014 as well. If only a career could be made on good springs and 20 games in the majors: Angel Berroa might still be playing. Last I saw Angel, he was ordering a lemonade…from a vendor…while playing shortstop…in an independent league (American Association) game.
Anyone see a little bit of a Mike Aviles career (both the good and the bad) in Christian Colon? It is possible they Royals see something along that lines and are fearful they’ll get the 2011 Aviles and not the 2008 if Colon were to take the field for an extended string of games. As much as the organization currently values defense (a good thing, by the way), they may view the gap between an 80% healthy Infante and what Colon brings with the glove too wide to tolerate in the middle of the infield.
After Colon, the Royals have two Ryans. Jackson, the one with few if any tattoos, and Roberts, the one with a ton of them.
The twenty-six year old Jackson has 25 major league plate appearances on his resume and, like seemingly everyone so far, has knocked the ball all around the park this spring. In the minors, he has displayed a consistent ability to get on-base while playing 508 of his 572 career games at shortstop. In fact, Jackson has played just 23 games at second in the minors. Truthfully, if you can play shortstop, you can play second – I don’t even think there is a learning curve other than turning the pivot on the double play, which for a professional shortstop, should take about a day.
Unlike Colon and Jackson, Ryan Roberts has been around: five major league teams and 1,692 plate appearances. During that time, the thirty-four year old has hit a combined .243/.320/.388. He played 143 games in both 2011 and 2012, but only mustered 68 major league appearances the last two years. This Ryan has played just three innings of shortstop in the majors in his career, but – at least in his prime – posted decent defensive metrics at both second and third. If the Royals decide Infante cannot make a go of it to start the season, they may opt to lean on the veteran Roberts to carry the load at second.
Of course, if you want ‘veteran’, then you were delighted to hear that the Royals singed Rafael Furcal to a minor-league deal. Now, Furcal has had a really nice career since winning Rookie of the Year in 2000. The problem is that almost all of the ‘nice’ occurred prior to 2011. He has been neither healthy nor productive for the past four seasons and is not healthy right now. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this signing. Take a flyer on a guy to see if he can get healthy (it’s hamstrings this time, I believe) and once there, see if he can be even a shadow of the player he used to be.
The Royals may be thinking that if Infante gives it a go to start the season and eventually breaks down completely, they could then turn to the hopefully by then healthy Furcal to step in. Not a bad plan C at all. The problem at second base right now, however, is Plan A and B may not be very good.