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2019 Season in Review: Miscellaneous Bench Players

Every team has ‘em

Lucas Duda #9 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates with Terrance Gore #0 after Gore scored the winning run on a single by Hunter Dozier #17 in the ninth inning during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Lucas Duda #9 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates with Terrance Gore #0 after Gore scored the winning run on a single by Hunter Dozier #17 in the ninth inning during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by John Sleezer/Getty Images

While a Major League Baseball roster is only 25 deep—26 in 2020 after a rule change—the reality is that close to double that play for a big league team over the course of the season due to call-ups, demotions, injuries, and trades. This is particularly true for a team like the 2019 Kansas City Royals, who were top heavy, very bad, and had limited depth in the minor leagues.

These nine players contributed to the 2019 Royals season and are in the record books as having done so. However, none played enough or were noteworthy enough to warrant their own individual discussion. Without further ado, I present to you the season in review: miscellaneous bench players edition.

Humberto Arteaga

Arteaga, 25, made his big league debut on June 20 in a 4-1 win against the Minnesota Twins. He notched his first hit a few days later on June 22. While he did make a few appearances at second base and played an inning at third base, Arteaga was called up to play shortstop in Adalberto Mondesi’s absence due to injury. Neither Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) or Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) rated him as even average there in his 286.1 innings at shortstop, and his wRC+ of 30 meant that his overall value was pretty small. This offseason, the Royals non-tendered him. Arteaga will likely sign a minor league deal with the Royals, but his 40-man roster spot is gone.

But someone had to play shortstop when Mondesi was out. Arteaga did that so someone else wasn’t forced to play out of position.

Lucas Duda

The Royals picked up the 33-year-old Duda at the beginning of the year for no reason at all. Well, none that I can think of, at least. In 2018, Duda was replacement level and hit 4% below league average. In 2016, he was basically replacement level and hit 8% below league average. Duda was the Royals’ third first baseman on their opening day roster. He hit 54% league average with Kansas City this year in 39 games. Let’s stop talking about Duda now.

Cam Gallagher

Would you believe that 2019 was Gallagher’s third season as a Royal? This year was Gallagher’s most active season yet—he played 45 games and accrued 142 plate appearances—and was able to get so much playing time thanks to Salvador Perez’s injury. Gallagher was actually pretty good this season. His defense was excellent, and he upped his offensive slash to .238/.312/.365, which isn’t great but its 79 wRC+ is certainly playable for a defensive-first backup catcher. All told, he accrued 0.3 Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs, which is turns out to a little more than a 1 WAR player over the course of a full season.

Unfortunately for Gallagher, he played his last game of the season on August 4 due to an oblique injury. It’s still early, but with Perez coming back from an injury and an underwhelming big league performance from Meibrys Viloria, Gallagher seems likely to get the backup catcher spot next year.

Nick Dini

Gallagher’s injury opened the door for Dini, who is sort of the platonic ideal of a Quad-A, non-prospect type. Dini has hit at every level, with a low strikeout rate and pretty good pop. At Triple-A Omaha in 2019, he hit 20% above league average after hitting 59% above league average at that level in 2018.

Terrance Gore

I forget that Terrance Gore was on the 2019 roster for large swaths of time, which is a shame because the Royals were more free with his playing time than at any point in the past. Gore accrued 58 plate appearances in 37 games, somehow hitting only 5% below league average. One of the great sadnesses of this season is that he didn’t play more, because the Royals didn’t have anything to lose. Gore finally lost a step on the basepaths, stealing 13 bases but only at a 72% clip.

Ryan McBroom

Kansas City plucked the 27-year-old right-handed hitter from the New York Yankees after they were not interested in him anymore. McBroom had spent 2018 and 2019 just raking in Double-A and Triple-A. While he hit 5% below league average for the Royals in 23 games, McBroom played both corner outfield spots as well as first base, and performed admirably in all three spots. McBroom might be nothing going forward, but his positional versatility and his somewhat intriguing bat make him likely to stick with the Royals next year.

Erick Mejia

Mejia spent nine games as a Royal in 2019, and his reward for filling in at second base, shortstop, and center field was to get his 40-man roster spot revoked at the end of the season. The 25-year-old will return to the Royals organization, and he may be back next year, but Mejia likely won’t be anything more than roster depth.

Chris Owings

Ah yes, Owings. One of the more hated Royals of recent memory, Owings was horrifically bad at the same time as he was blocking a legitimate prospect in Nicky Lopez. Owings posted a ghastly wRC+ of 5—five!—with the Royals in a stunning 145 plate appearances. Owings isn’t that bad of a hitter and would have bounced back, but a history of awful hitting (51 wRC+ over 552 PAs in 2015 and a 52 wRC+ over 309 PAs in 2018) did suggest that Owings was a definitively bad MLB hitter. Hey, at least he was a really good defender and a professional!

The Royals mercifully cut Owings after his May 30 performance, where he went 0-4 with four strikeouts. Somehow, though, the Boston Red Sox decided to sign Owings. Owings would play 26 games with a wRC+ of 37 for the Red Sox.

Hey, if there’s a single player who embodied the 2019 Royals more than Owings, I haven’t found him yet.

Frank Schwindel

How will you remember the Frank the Tank era in Kansas City? Do you remember that Schwindel was the Royals’ opening day first baseman? Schwindel played six games for the Royals. He got his first big league hit in one of those. Then, the Royals demoted Schwindel only to release him later. The Detroit Tigers picked up Schwindel, who went right back to raking in the minor leagues. Schwindel might be the weirdest story of 2019, and at the very least he’ll forever be an answer in a deep cut Royals trivia game.