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Spring training battles: Third base

The hot corner has not been hot for the Royals.

Aug 7, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier (17) throws to first base during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals were once synonymous with great third base play, with George Brett holding down the position as the best in the game for over a dozen years. Even after he retired, the Royals had solid players at the hot corner - Kevin Seitzer, Gary Gaetti, Joe Randa, and Mike Moustakas.

But more recently, the position has been a bit of a black hole. Rookies Bobby Witt Jr. and Emmanuel Rivera split time at third last year, and it was the first time since 2015 that the Royals weren’t in the bottom ten teams in WAR produced from the third base position.

But Witt will move to shortstop this season, and Rivera is in Arizona now, leaving a hole at third. The Royals have a few options this year, featuring both young unproven players, and older vets hoping to turn their career around. Who are the candidates to start at third?

Johan Camargo was a 3 WAR player in 2018 as a starter with the Braves, but has primarily been a bench player since then. He has a competent fielder at third, and his switch-hitting ability is an asset, although his bat has not been good the last few seasons. He brings a lot of positional versatility with an ability to play anywhere on the field, so he seems more suited for a bench role, but expect him to get some starts at third this year for the Royals.

Hunter Dozier is the odds-on favorite to start at third on Opening Day despite defensive limitations at the position. He has been the worst third basemen in Defensive Runs Above Average since 2017. His bat hasn’t been much better, and he is the only player in Royals history with three separate seasons below -1.0 bWAR. He says he has re-tooled his swing, and he was a 123 wRC+ hitter as recently as 2019. The Royals could hope he gets off to a good start to possibly be a trade asset the way Carlos Santana was last year. But despite two years and $17.75 million left on his deal, he will likely need to start hitting early in the year, or else the Royals may finally decide to cut bait on him.

Matt Duffy has had the best season at third base out of anyone on this list, putting up a 4.4 WAR season in 2015, according to Fangraphs. But he has only put up one 1 WAR season in the seven seasons since then, and now he is on a minor league deal trying to make a MLB roster. Duffy brings solid defense and a high-contact approach, but he has very little power for a power position and is more likely suited for a reserve role.

Nate Eaton certainly has the arm to play third base, ranking as the strongest arm in baseball last year, according to Baseball Savant. Eaton has been praised as a “hard-nosed player” by manager Matt Quatraro and brings an energy to the field that is much needed for a young team. Eaton primarily played third in the minors, and had pretty good defensive metrics in limited action in the big leagues last year. He also held his own offensively in 44 games, batting .264/.331/.387, and it may be worth getting a long look at him as a starter to see if the former 21st round pick was a hidden gem of the 2018 draft.

Maikel Garcia is one of the top prospects in the organization, known as a slick-fielding shortstop who really came into his own offensively last year. Garcia had displayed power more similar to that of his cousin, former Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, until he was promoted to Triple-A Omaha mid-season last year and smacked seven home runs in 40 games. Whether or not that was a fluke or newfound power will largely determine whether Garcia sticks in the big leagues as a starter or utility player. With the Royals committed to Witt at shortstop, they have looked to move Garcia to either third base or outfield to get him potential playing time in the big leagues. With his glove, third base could be the best option, provided the Royals feel his bat is big league ready.


Who should start on Opening Day at third base for the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Johan Camargo
    (9 votes)
  • 25%
    Hunter Dozier
    (204 votes)
  • 4%
    Matt Duffy
    (32 votes)
  • 40%
    Nate Eaton
    (318 votes)
  • 28%
    Maikel Garcia
    (226 votes)
789 votes total Vote Now