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Who will play third base for the Royals in 2023?

There is no third baseman tree!

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Guardians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Ned Yost famously said “there is no third baseman tree”, which seems apt today as the Royals have a barren orchard at the hot corner. Bobby Witt Jr. began last year at third base, but the Royals sound pretty committed to him at shortstop next year despite some poor defensive metrics last year. That leaves a pretty big opening next to him at third, so who do the Royals expect to fill that position? Here are a few options.

Internal options

Hunter Dozier

Hunter Dozier is not a good third baseman. Since he came into the league in 2016, there have been 52 players who have spent at least 1,500 innings at third base. Hunter Dozier ranks 52nd among them in Defensive Runs Saved. That’s dead last. He’s dead last in Defensive Runs Above Average, and is fifth-worst at UZR.

That would probably be more acceptable if he could hit, but he hasn’t the last two seasons. Perhaps the Royals figure since they’re paying him some $17 million over the next two seasons, he may as well stand at third base. But at this point, he’s a sunk cost, and it’s hard to imagine he’s the best option to play third.

Nathan Eaton

Eaton came up for 44 games in the second half, and spent 15 of them at third base, the position he spent the most time at in the minors. His defensive metrics at the position weren’t great, but that’s hardly a sample size to draw conclusions from. Eaton features some of the best arm strength in the league, but his speed may be more well-suited for the outfield. He seemed competent with the bat, but has been labeled a “tweener”, someone that fits more of a utility role. He’ll have to hit to bust that label, but if the Royals aren’t going to be competitive in 2023, it’s the perfect time to find out if they have a potential starter with Eaton.

Adalberto Mondesi

The Royals decided to tender Adalberto Mondesi and sign him to a $3.045 million contract for next year, but it is unclear what his role will be in his final season before free agency. With Witt at shortstop, Mondesi could slide over to third base, but he has played a total of 20 games at the position at the MLB level.

There is also the obvious concern about injury risk. Mondesi has played in just 50 games over the last two seasons and has had a myriad of different injuries over his career. He hardly seems like a player to be counted on as an everyday regular over a full season. Still, despite a wildly inconsistent offensive performance, he does have power potential coupled with blazing speed that could make him an asset in the lineup for as long as he can stay on the field.

Free agents

Brian Anderson

The Marlins non-tendered Anderson last month rather than pay him some $5 million in arbitration. The 29-year-old right-handed hitter was a 2.9 fWAR player in 2018, but has seen his WAR go down in every single season since. Last year he hit .222/.311/.346 for a career-low 90 wRC+. He can draw a few walks, and has a decent hard-hit rate, so perhaps some tweaks can get back to the kind of 20-home run season he had in 2019.

Brandon Drury

Drury would have been much cheaper last off-season before he exploded with a career season where he hit .263/.332/.492 with 28 home runs and won the Silver Slugger Award. Accordingly, he should be pretty coveted this off-season, especially with his ability to play around the field. But the Royals could try to offer more years and a starting job for the 30-year-old, if they are willing to make an investment.

Evan Longoria

Longoria is a three-time All-Star, but he’s 37 now, and hasn’t played as many as 100 games in a season since 2019. He is still a productive hitter, with a line of .252/.333/.466 and 27 home runs in 170 games over the last two seasons, and his defense is still playable. But he is attracting attention from several teams and wants to play for a contender, so it seems unlikely he ends up in Kansas City.

Edwin Rios

Rios slugged 31 home runs in Triple-A in 2019, but has spent the last three seasons buried on the Dodgers benched. They non-tendered him this fall after he hit .219/.299/.492 with 20 home runs in 291 plate appearances in parts of four seasons. The 28-year-old strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much, but he does have good power. The early Royals had a history of plucking players who were blocked in other organizations and giving them a shot, maybe Rios could show he is starting material if given the opportunity.

Justin Turner

Like Longoria, Turner is up there in age, but is still fairly productive and will likely lean towards playing for a contender. The 38-year-old hit .278/.350/.438, although his power fell precipitously with just 13 home runs last year. Turner has always been one of the best hitters in the league at putting the ball in play, and his contact skills could be useful in Kauffman Stadium even without power, but the odds of him coming to KC seem small.

Trade candidates

Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays

The son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, Cavan got off to a terrific start to his career with a 16-home run rookie season that earned him Rookie of the Year votes. But he has regressed the last two seasons hitting .213/.312/.353 with 13 home runs and 163 strikeouts in 597 plate appearances over that time. He is very good at drawing walks, although he will strike out quite a bit as well. He has versatility to play everywhere on the diamond, which could be an asset, and his defense seems passable at third. Biggio is a left-handed bat and is still just 27 years old, so there may be time for him to get his career back on track.

Jake Burger, White Sox

Mmmm.....burger. The former Missouri State Bear was a first-round pick by the White Sox, and finally reached the big leagues last year. In parts of two seasons he has hit .252/.308/.461 with nine home runs in 225 plate appearances. A right-handed bat, Burger hardly walks at all and is prone to strikeouts. The 26-year-old is a pretty subpar defender, so unless the Royals think they can coach him up, he may not be a good option for a team that stresses defense.

Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox

Dalbec smashed 25 home runs in 2021 and was an above-average hitter, but regressed this year with a line of .215/.283/.369 and just 12 home runs in 353 plate appearances. He shows some good exit velocity numbers and surprisingly good sprint speed as well. The 27-year-old right-hander has been playing first base for Boston, but only because Rafael Devers is at third. He is available in trades, and with the Rays showing interest in him, you have to wonder if they know something about him being a good bounceback candidate.

Mike Moustakas, Reds

This would be a pure nostalgia move. It looks like the three-time All-Star and future Royals Hall of Famer is pretty much washed up, having hit .212/.289/.356 over the last two seasons. The Reds owe the 34-year-old $18 million next year plus a $4 million buyout, so they would have to eat virtually all of that to move him, or the Royals could be creative and take on his contract so long as the Reds send some prospects to make it worth their while.

Isaac Paredes, Rays

When the Rays sent promising young outfielder Austin Meadows to the Tigers for utility infielder Isaac Paredes, it seemed like a head-scratching move by a cheap organization. It turned out the Rays knew what they were doing. Meadows slumped badly while Paredes busted out with a 20-home-run season in just 381 plate appearances and a line of .205/.304/.435. He was a utility player this year for the Rays, but could start at third, moving Yandy Diaz to first. Or they could sell high on him and flip the 23-year-old to the Royals where he could continue to work with Matt Quatraro.

Emmanuel Rivera, Diamondbacks

Rivera was traded away by the Royals last summer for pitcher Luke Weaver, who pitched less than 20 innings in Kansas City before being let go. It’s the kind of move that gets people fired. Rivera did not have a high pedigree as a prospect, but held his own his rookie season with a line of .233/.292/.409 with 12 home runs in 359 plate appearances. He was an adequate defender, but with the Diamondbacks pursuing free agents like Longoria and Turner, he may be expendable.


Who should play third base for the Royals in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Hunter Dozier
    (16 votes)
  • 30%
    Nathan Eaton
    (217 votes)
  • 38%
    Adalberto Mondesi
    (269 votes)
  • 15%
    Free agent
    (108 votes)
  • 13%
    (94 votes)
704 votes total Vote Now