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Spring training battles: The starting second base job

#VoteOmar? Or #VoteChristian?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have been praised for being a complete team the last two seasons, but the success has come with one glaring weakness on the field - second base. The Royals were able to paper over that hole last last year with a trade for Ben Zobrist, but even with his acquisition, the Royals were second-to-last in the league in production from the position. The position has been a concern for years. The Royals have not had a second baseman play at least 100 games at the position with a .700 OPS or better since Alberto Callaspo in 2009, according to Baseball-Reference.

Omar Infante has manned the position most of the last two seasons, playing terrific defense, but he has been a bust at the plate since signing a four-year deal before the 2014 season. Infante has hit a combined .238/.268/.329 the last two seasons, giving him an OPS+ of 64, the worst in baseball over that period among qualified hitters.

Some of that may be attributed to injury. Infante was hit in the face with a pitch his first week in a Royals uniform, which may have affected his approach the rest of the year. He also suffered from a back injury that landed him on the disabled list and battled a sore shoulder late in the season and into the post-season. In 2015, the injuries continued, with Infante battling a sore elbow all season, missed time due to a groin strain, back spasms, and finally had his season ended prematurely in September with an oblique strain. Last November, he had surgery on his elbow to remove bone spurs and will likely not be ready to play the field for the start of the exhibition schedule.

The lackluster performance by Infante has led the Royals to open up competition at second base between him and 26-year old Christian Colon.

"Competition is a competition," Yost said. "You feel a little bit better when you have guys with experience that are competing."

The former fourth-overall pick from 2010 has played just 64 games in the big leagues in parts of the last two seasons, although he has had a huge clutch hit in each of the last two post-seasons for the Royals. He has hit well in limited action, with a line of .303/.361/.382 in 168 plate appearances, however the Royals are concerned about his defense, at least in comparison to Infante. The metrics show Colon as a perfectly average second baseman defensively, albeit in a very small sample size. Colon was sent to Omaha last year to get more playing time, and while his line of .281/.353/.344 in 51 games was adequate, the numbers were not overwhelming enough that he should be handed a Major League starting job this year.

The Royals have traditionally valued defense at second base over offense. Young bats with potential like Alberto Callaspo, Mike Aviles, and Johnny Giavotella were all sent out of town in favor of sure-handed, but light-hitting players like Chris Getz. The Royals may figure that the lineup has enough good hitters that they can once again afford to carry dead weight in the lineup like Infante and that his glove can carry enough value. Maybe they give Omar Infante one more chance to try to salvage some value from the $18 million remaining on his deal, figuring that injuries have hurt his performance the last two seasons.

Or maybe they see Infante as a sunk cost and see the upside with Colon. Maybe they see some improvement enough from his glove to put him in the lineup on a regular basis. Most likely, the pair will split time at the position, but If Omar does not produce soon, his playing time could be quite limited.