Going into the offseason, the Royals will need to think long and hard about what to do about each position in the organization. Can they stick with an in house candidate (and which one) or do they need to go outside the system? Some like the first three starters in the rotation will be easy to answer, while others may be more difficult to answer. Thirdbase is one of these cases.
So, let's look at the two primary in house candidates for third-base in 2019- Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier. (Kelvin Gutierrez will probably need to at least start the year in AAA.) A quick glance at their mlb stats paints a pretty clear argument for Cuthbert over Dozier. Cuthbert leads or is basically equal in every major mlb stat. (All Stats are as of the morning of 9/10.)
Age: Advantage Cuthbert: Cuthbert is 25 and Dozier is 27. Although, it's closer to a one year age difference as Dozier just recently had a birthday and is still considered to be in his age 26 season.
fWAR: Tie: Technically Cuthbert is slightly better at -0.2 versus -0.4 career fWAR. But that's still pretty much a push, even though Cuthbert has actually put up a 0.5 fWAR season. Plus, with negative WAR, Cuthbert's larger sample size is actually better. But on the other-hand, people might hope for positive regression from Dozier's smaller sample size.
wRC+: Tie: Once again Cuthbert leads 82 to 79, but that's still a virtual push. Cuthbert does have a season of 95 wRC+ where Dozier's best campaign is his current 81 wRC+.
UZR/150 (at 3B): Cuthbert: Although Cuthbert has never been a strong defender at 3B, he's been able to be non-atrocious with a -4.2 career UZR/150 and a positive 2.5 (but in only 99 innings) this year. He has been mostly hurt by too many errors caused by a strong but sometimes erratic throwing arm. Dozier has put up a -18.9 UZR/150. That puts him 47th out of 48 players with over 230 inning at third-base this year. Only the Yankees Miguel Andujar has been worse. However, The sample size of 234 innings played for Dozier is super small. Plus, he doesn't have a bad reputation as an atrocious defender. Also he has had to split time at first-base and the outfield the past few years. So, there is some hope that he can be at least a little closer to neutral as a defender. Dozier has been better at avoiding errors, but the other measurements don't like him yet. So, beware the eye-test that make errors stick out more in your mind than they should.
Baserunning: Tie (maybe Dozier): Prorating out base-running stats, isn't the greatest. But, Dozier has a small lead over Cuthbert. But, I really don't know if the difference is statistically important. Plus, if you are eking out a foot race with Cheslor Cuthbert by a nose, you probably don't deserve to celebrate that as a win.
bWAR: Cuthbert: Unlike fWAR, where we can declare a tie, this difference is too much to ignore. Cuthbert has a -0.5 bWAR to Dozier's -1.2 bWAR. plus Cuthbert has a season of positive 0.3 bWAR
OPS+: Tie: 82 is the number for both Cuthbert and Dozier. Cuthbert has a career year of 95 versus Dozier's 84.
However, even with all that data for Cuthbert, there is one primary reason why Dozier should get the nod at third-base next year to start the season over Cuthbert. That is injury. Cuthbert has put up two injury plagued and reduced years in a row. Further that injury, a back injury, is the type that can linger and halt an otherwise promising career. We can even see that when "healthy" in 2017 and 2018, he wasn't able to produce like he had in the past. Especially troubling was his lack of power, the type of problem often associated with lingering back troubles. As we saw with Miguel Almonte at the beginning of the year and Kyle Zimmer last year. There is some value to simply having healthy players on the 40-man roster. At this point it would be hard to truly count on having a healthy Cuthbert for the whole year in 2019. We saw this year that questions about the health and stamina of Aldelberto Mondesi required the Royals go out and resign Alcides Escobar. Hopefully Dozier can be next years Escobar at third-base, a journeyman place holder until a real prospect comes along. Although, Dozier had some injury trouble recently: a virus and a broken hamate aren't as chronic as back injuries.
The problem comes up about Cuthbert's lack of options. Unlike in years past, where that lack of options pretty much guaranteed Cuthbert a spot on the opening day roster. I think we have to play it differently this year. I think the Royals need to strategically waive him this year to try to keep him on the team. I'm not certain when that time is, but Dayton has shown some ability to play waiver wire games. Hopefully Dayton Moore can chose a busy time that will allow Cuthbert to make it through waivers so that he can be out-righted back to Omaha. That would allow the Royal's a chance to watch Cuthbert to see if he can prove he has finally recovered from his lingering back issues and is worthy of a second shot at the mlb third-base job.