The Royals have signed infielder Hanser Alberto to a minor league deal, according to reporter Héctor Gómez and confirmed by Jon Heyman. Under the deal, he can earn up to $1.65 million if he makes the roster, plus another$350,000 in incentives.
The 28-year old right-handed hitter enjoyed a career season in 2019 with the Orioles, hitting .305/.329/.422 with 12 home runs, and was worth 2.9 WAR in 139 games, according to Baseball-Reference. His power numbers regressed last year, but he still managed to hit .283/.306/.393 with three home runs in 54 games. Alberto has primarily played second base, but is capable of playing all infield positions, and has even filled in a few games in the outfield.
Alberto brings a very high contact approach to the plate. He doesn’t walk at all - he had the lowest walk rate in baseball at 2.7 percent over the last two seasons. But he also doesn’t strike out, with the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 10.2 percent. No player in baseball swung at a higher rate of pitches than Alberto, and he was tenth in contact rate. That contact comes at a price - he has the lowest hard-hit rate in baseball over the last two years.
Alberto has also been a lefty-masher, hitting .350/.367/.464 against them in his career. Hanser could fill in at second base to allow Nicky Lopez to sit against lefties. He could even play some third base, pushing Hunter Dozier to a corner outfield position if the Royals want to protect left-handed hitting Franchy Cordero against lefties.
Alberto began his career with the Texas Rangers, who he signed with out of the Dominican Republic. He was subject to a waiver wire war after the 2018 season, going from the Rangers to the Yankees to the Orioles to the Giants back to the Orioles, where he spent the entire 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Alberto gives the Royals added infield depth, which was needed without a clear reserve infield option on the roster. The team was left without a true reserve shortstop at times, although Nicky Lopez is capable of playing the position if needed, with Whit Merrifield sliding back to second base. The Royals had been rumored to be looking for a left-handed outfield bat, which may still be an area they are pursuing.