Michael Massey put together a nice 2022 season across AA, AAA, and the majors. Coming into the season Fangraphs had him ranked as only the 18th best player in the farm system, granted that list still included Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Nick Pratto, so maybe in a different year he would have been a bit higher. Massey is not particularly good at any one thing, but he seems to be solid at almost everything, and that could have a lot of value for the Royals moving forward.
Over all three levels in 2022, Massey hit 20 HR on the year, which is a reasonable total for a young middle infielder. He hit well at every level, putting up wRC+ figures of 113 at AA, 157 at AAA, and 93 in the majors. Once in the majors, he hit the ground running and was a solid contributor for the slightly more than two months he was given, having no sustained droughts.
Overall, the 2022 season has shown that Massey has the potential to be a good everyday second baseman at the big-league level. He is not a young rookie at 24, but he is five months younger than Pasquantino, and he is certainly not old yet. He and Vinnie came up through the minors together, and if you compare them, you can see why Massey is not the one most people are excited about. He moved a little slower and hit worse at every level except AAA.
Pasquantino posted wRC+ numbers of 152 and 154 at roughly the same age in Rookie ball and high A, which earned him a stint in AA at 23 while Massey stayed with the River Bandits. At Northwest Arkansas he continued that steady pace with a 153 wRC+. Through those levels Massey was an above-average hitter, but not as good or as steady. This year he did put up better numbers at AAA than Vinnie, but he did so in a much smaller sample with only 143 PAs, less than half the trips to the plate Pasquantino had in Omaha. They have followed a similar trajectory, but Massey walks less and just does not have the power profile to keep up. Massey’s one advantage over the bigger slugger is that he plays second base.
Playing second makes Massey a little more attractive as a possibility, especially with Nicky Lopez struggling so much at the plate again this year. A serviceable glove and league-average bat at second is usually 2 WAR or better. It is hard to know what to expect defensively out of him yet, but he did not embarrass himself in his first major league stint. These are incredibly small samples for defense, but so far DRS and UZR seem to think he was above average, while OAA and RAA had him a bit below average. We will need to wait until next year to start to get a feel for how competent he is at second. His defensive scouting grade on Fangraphs is slightly ambiguous as well at 45/55, but if he can hang somewhere around average as that suggests his bat might be good enough to make it work.
My main concern with Massey is his power profile, and it is really what kept him from being better for the Royals this season. In the minors he was slugging around .500 or better, but then he came up to the majors and slugged just .376, which I think is partly a Kauffman effect. On Baseball Savant they have his four home runs as well below his 7.4 expected HR. Normally that would signal that he will hit more in the future if he just keeps doing what he is doing, but they also track how many home runs would have been out in each ballpark. Only three of his hits were out in the K, nearly matching his actual home run total. His home/road splits back up that the K is limiting his power too. In Kansas City Massey only managed a 72 wRC+ compared to 110 on the road. Part of that was BABIP luck, but a 68 point difference in slug in the splits could be problematic. He might be a very warning track power sort of player in the K, and that might keep him from contributing as much as he might in more friendly confines.
With a lot of lefties next year, you would hope the shift being taken away would help, but so far Massey has actually hit better against the shift than not. He was shifted nearly 90% of the time, but his non-shift wOBA was .239 versus .313 when shifted. Maybe that was just randomness over a small sample, but it seems like he will not benefit much from the rule change.
It is hard to be too critical about the 2022 season for Massey. He was not a huge prospect, but he moved up two levels and held his own at the major league level. There is reason to believe he could be a long-term solution at second since the Royals have him under control through the 2028 season assuming he stays up.
What grade would you give Michael Massey for is 2022 season?
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