When the Royals signed Omar Infante prior to this season, most of us thought, "You know, he's old-ish, but he'll probably still be decent enough. Anyone is an improvement over what we had!" Unfortunately, despite Infante's presence, it appears that second base is, once again, a weakness.
You're probably familiar with Infante's troubles. He's got a .256/.293/.352 line, good for a 79 wRC+. FanGraphs thinks he has played adequate defense. All that adds up to 0.7 fWAR at the beginning of September. While that is technically better than the likes of Chris Getz, Infante has not been what we thought he was going to be. He's had some injury issues, and I have to wonder if that elbow issue and other injuries are keeping him down this season. There are other reasons for his poor performance, though. I'll give a pertinent one right here.
2013 BA/SLG on grounders: .288/.321
2014 BA/SLG on grounders: .250/.276
His 2014 numbers are much closer both to league average and to his career values. Infante's inflated 2013 performance was regression waiting to happen, and it's certainly happened. Infante has also been pretty terrible when he's hit fly balls, too; his average fly ball distance has fallen more than 10 feet from last year.
This does not bode well for September baseball. Yost has continued to hit Infante 2nd in the lineup despite the fact that he has been one of the worst hitters in baseball since the All Star Break (49 wRC+). I would have suggested increased playing time for Christian Colon, who has provided a nice bat since arriving, but he broke a finger. It's hard to have plus hands and plus hands with a broken finger, so Colon won't be playing.
Enter Johnny Giavotella? The Royals have been down this road before, and his career 63 wRC+ doesn't sound palatable to a team trying to hang on to its lead in September. He's got only 461 PA in his career across 4 years despite his great AAA performance; clearly, the organization sees flaws. Unless he caught fire in September, it doesn't seem like he's the answer.
Enter Jayson Nix? That guy is on his 8th team since 2008. Small sample or not, Nix has never had a wRC+ above 100 at any of his stops. Now, Nix doesn't necessarly need to be average; he just needs to be better than Infante and his 2nd half wRC+. This, however simple it may sound, is unlikely. Nix's best wRC+ of 87 was fueled by a .325 BABIP in 2012 with the Yankees. Nix has a -1 wRC+ in 84 PA this year. Infante will play.
The Royals believed they were improving second base by signing Infante to a $30M contract. Due to injuries and depth problems, things haven't worked out for the team at the "keystone"; the Royals have gotten only about a win of value at the position, ranking 21st. At a time when each run is incredibly high leverage, the Royals appear to be exactly where they were last year at second base. An offensive black hole. Let's hope that Alex Gordon continues to will this team into the playoffs.