Afloat in the ether as we are in Spring Training, focused so intently on the upcoming date for Opening Day and the birth of relevant baseball, a friend of mine approached me and asked if I thought that David Lough was going to make the roster this year. I could bore you with the detailed nuance and explanation that was necessary to give proper context as to why I answered the way I did, but it's just easier to say "No."
Which led me to ask myself: "What is David Lough's future with the Royals?"
In an organizational depth chart, Lough would probably be listed as the 6th or 7th outfielder, depending on how far you believe Wil Myers has progressed. Prospect-wise, he hasn't been anything to write home about, which is best exemplified by the fact that John Sickels gave him a mere honorable mention in his list of the top Royals prospects.
Lough was picked by the Royals in the 11th Round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of Mercyhurst College (home of the fightin' Lakers). He has spent four full seasons in the minors, with a semi-typical progression; he spent a year in A-Ball, split time at High A and AA the following season, and has spent the last two years in AAA. He has performed well the last two seasons; he hit .278/.344/.435 in 2010, and last year he hit .318/.367/.482 in 114 games with 9 homeruns, 26 doubles and 87 RBI. He has also posted an above-average BABIP in each of the past three seasons. He doesn't strike out alot (~12% for his career) but he also doesn't walk very often (~6.4%). He has performed well and has posted some pretty decent numbers throughout his minor league career. He is seen, much like Maier, to not quite have the range for center field but would be average in right or left, with an arm suited for left field. He has decent speed, but nothing to really get excited about.
Mitch Maier will turn 30 about halfway through this season, and may very well be playing his final season for the Royals this year; paying more than the league minimum for a 4th outfielder is not something the Royals should get used to, at least not yet. Lough will be 27 next year, so age is starting to come in to play as well.
If the Royals do not intend to go with a four-man bench in the future, a case could be made that Lough would be a better option than Jarrod Dyson. I have concerns about whether he will get on base enough to stick as a 4th outfielder, but the other aspects of his game (average, power, fielding range, speed) are more than likely sufficient as a bench option in 2013 and beyond.