August 15, 2022

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Lacy whiffs seven in bounceback outing

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Welcome to the Royals prospect update, where you’ll find news, promotions and standout performances, all year long.

Lacy fans seven for Naturals (April 17)
After running into some self-inflicted trouble in his first start of the season thanks to two hit batsmen and three walks on April 12, baseball’s No. 71 overall prospect Asa Lacy responded well. The left-hander struck out seven batters for the first time since he fanned nine on July 3, 2021, while allowing three runs, two earned, on five hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Kansas City’s No. 4 prospect got opposing hitters swinging for all but the last of his seven K’s. Lacy piled up five strikeouts between the first and second innings before adding one in the fifth and another in the sixth. The Texas A&M product finished his outing with 84 pitches, 56 for strikes, in Double-A Northwest Arkansas’ 5-1 loss to Wichita. — Tyler Maun

Pasquantino reaches four times, drives in five (April 17)
Having notched just one multihit game through his first 11 played this season, fifth-ranked Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino came up big on Sunday afternoon for Triple-A Omaha in a 7-4 win over Louisville. Following a walk in the bottom of the second inning, Pasquantino singled to right field to drive in a run in the fourth, doubled to right to plate another in the sixth and then cleared the bases with a three-run triple into the right field corner in the seventh.

The five RBIs matched Pasquantino’s total through his first 10 games and equaled a personal-best mark he’d set three times before, most recently on Aug. 8, 2021 with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. — Tyler Maun

Marsh strikes out nine in first Double-A outing (April 14)
Coming off a year full of disappointing injuries, right-hander Alec Marsh learned from his previous Spring Trainings and intentionally didn’t go as hard during those weeks in Arizona. He was saving his energy for the season — and so far, so good for the Royals’ No. 12 prospect. Marsh allowed two runs on two hits in 4 2/3 innings Wednesday night in Double-A Northwest Arkansas’ win over Wichita (the Twins’ Double-A affiliate).

Marsh was pinpointing strikes with his five-pitch arsenal, striking out nine, walking two and becoming the first Naturals starter to pitch into the fifth inning this year. Marsh, the Royals’ supplemental second-round pick in 2019, boasts a powerful arm and has a true feel for his complement of pitches. He was still hitting 96 mph with his fastball in the fifth inning Wednesday, and his changeup is becoming a true weapon, especially against left-handed batters. If Marsh stays healthy this year, he is one pitching prospect who could move quickly. — Anne Rogers

Reigning MiLB home run champ swats his first of ’22 (April 10)
MJ Melendez rose up prospect rankings after leading the Minors with 41 home runs last season and started his title defense in Triple-A Omaha’s sixth game.

The Royals’ No. 2 prospect launched an opposite-field solo homer in the fourth inning, his first of the season. Melendez has gotten off to a slow start in 2022, going just 3-for-19 in his first five games, but has plenty of time to sort out his swing.

In addition to the 41 long balls, Melendez had 22 doubles, 103 RBIs, 75 walks and a .288/.386/.625 slash line with a 1.011 OPS in his breakout season. — Nick Trujillo

Pratto homers twice (April 7)
Only one player in the Minor Leagues compiled more extra-base hits last season than Nick Pratto, and that was Bobby Witt Jr. If Pratto keeps this up, it shouldn’t be long until he joins his former teammate in Kansas City.

The power-hitting Pratto picked up right where he left off at Triple-A Omaha, homering in both halves of Thursday’s doubleheader split with Indianapolis at Victory Field. Both the Royals’ No. 3 prospect’s (No. 62 overall) first two hits of the season went for homers, Pratto launching a three-run dinger in Game 1 and adding a solo shot in the Storm Chasers’ 6-2 Game 2 win. Pratto finished 3-for-8 with 6 RBIs in the twin bill. More »

Stacked Minor League rosters revealed (April 4)
With Triple-A Opening Day on Tuesday and the rest of the Minor League season following on Friday, the Royals unveiled their preliminary rosters at each level. Triple-A Omaha’s roster is stacked, with three of Kansas City’s top four hitting prospects set to be in the everyday lineup: No. 2 MJ Melendez, No. 3 Nick Pratto and No. 5 Vinnie Pasquantino. The pitching should excel there, too, with No. 19 prospect Austin Cox headlining a staff that also includes camp standouts Jose Cuas and Jace Vines.

Double-A Northwest Arkansas is loaded with pitching, too, with lefty Asa Lacy (No. 4), right-hander Alec Marsh (No. 13) and lefty Anthony Veneziano (No. 18) highlighting the rotation. Second baseman Michael Massey (No. 24), shortstop Maikel Garcia (No. 22) and center fielder Nick Loftin (No. 6) should provide the staff with elite defense.

The Royals’ top two Draft picks last year, prep pitchers Frank Mozzicato (No. 8) and Ben Kudrna (No. 11), as well as fourth-rounder Shane Panzini (No. 27), will stay in extended spring camp for now, as their progressions have been intentionally slow. Catcher Carter Jensen (No. 17), the Kansas City native drafted in the third round, will begin the year at Single-A Columbia.

Right-hander Will Klein, the Royals’ No. 20 prospect who is coming off a dominating year at High-A Quad Cities, wasn’t on any of the rosters because he’s monitoring a shin splint injury. The organization doesn’t have a timeline for him to return, in part because it wants to be cautious at this point in his career. — Anne Rogers

KC creates playing time plan for top hitting prospects (April 3)
With the Triple-A season set to begin Tuesday, the Royals settled on a plan to get their top hitting prospects ready for whenever their bats are needed in Kansas City. If catcher MJ Melendez and first baseman Nick Pratto, the club’s No. 2 and No. 3-ranked prospects, respectively, carry their offensive domination from last season into this year, it’s expected that they’ll make their debuts. The only question is where they’ll play.

Melendez is blocked by seven-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, while Carlos Santana is set to man first base in the final year of his contract. To increase his versatility, Melendez will catch four times a week for Omaha and play either third base or in the outfield the other two games that week. Longtime coach Rusty Kuntz, now serving as a special assistant to the president and GM/quality control, will go to Omaha and work with Melendez in the outfield before he appears there in games.

Freddy Fermin will be the Triple-A backup catcher, while Sebastian Rivero, the Royals’ fourth catcher on the 40-man roster, will begin the season in Double-A so he can get everyday at-bats.

Pratto will still see most of his time at first base — likely four games a week — but he’ll appear in the corner outfield on occasion, as well as DH. No. 5 prospect Vinnie Pasquantino will be the other first baseman in Triple-A after dominating Double-A in the second half of last season and showing more of the same this spring. He’s not a candidate to go to the outfield, so he’ll rotate between first base and DH.

“We toyed around with putting Vinnie in Double-A just to start out the year, just for the defensive work, but Vinnie needs to be in Triple-A as a hitter,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “Eventually these guys are going to be on the same team anyway.”

Infielder Clay Dungan stood out this spring for his versatility and development as a hitter, so the Royals are planning to have him play some outfield, setting him up to be a true utility man in the future. — Anne Rogers

Snider faces big test … and passes (April 1)
Roster battles may be dwindling as the end of Spring Training nears, but there are still a few competitions brewing, including the final spots in the bullpen. One name to watch: Collin Snider. The right-hander faced a big test Friday night in the third inning of the Royals’ 4-2 loss to the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex, when Snider took on what will likely be San Diego’s Opening Day lineup.

Snider struck out Wil Meyers swinging, then walked Jurickson Profar, followed by a Victor Caratini single. Snider limited the damage, though, by throwing his signature sinker to Ha-Seong Kim, who grounded into a double play to end the inning. Added to the 40-man roster this offseason for shutting down hitters in Triple-A Omaha and flashing dynamic stuff as a reliable reliever, Snider is on the verge of making an impact in Kansas City.

“He’s got really good stuff,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He can get us out of a spot by having that kind of vertical movement.”

In the fourth, Snider walked Trent Grisham but then got another double-play ball from Manny Machado, ending Snider’s 1 2/3-inning outing. The 26-year-old has a 1.42 ERA in 6 1/3 innings this spring, with five strikeouts and two walks. Even if Snider doesn’t win a spot in the Royals’ bullpen next week, he’s certainly put his name on the radar for when the club needs depth this season. — Anne Rogers

Offense shines with young hitters (March 31)
With most of the Royals’ regulars getting a day off as the team traveled to Mesa, Ariz., to play the A’s on Thursday, some of the young hitters still in camp got their chance to shine — and took hold of it.

Vinnie Pasquantino and Clay Dungan led the way with home runs, a pair of two-run jacks that helped lead the Royals to a 5-4 win. Pasquantino, who was nicknamed the Italian Nightmare by Hall of Famer George Brett on MLB Network earlier this week, is slashing .391/.440/.739 in 13 Cactus League games (25 plate appearances) — giving the big league coaching staff a glimpse of what the future could look like with the 24-year-old first baseman in the lineup.

MLB’s No. 1 prospect, Bobby Witt Jr., added an RBI double, and Kyle Isbel, still fighting for a roster spot and wholeheartedly making his case, had two doubles in his first two plate appearances. Isbel is 6-for-15 over the past week with three doubles in five games.

“We just had a good offensive day,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Isbel getting us started. Bobby being able to move him over and get him in. Pretty good day for a lot of our young players.” — Anne Rogers

Garcia draws strong comparison from Matheny (March 27)
The Royals made a bit of a surprise move in November, when they added 22-year-old shortstop Maikel Garcia to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft — even though Garcia hasn’t played above High-A. But watching him during Spring Training this year, it’s easy to see why the Royals thought a team might be willing to pick him up, given that officials and scouts have said he could play shortstop in the Major Leagues right now.

Garcia, the Royals’ No. 22 prospect, has great instincts and hands at shortstop, and his bat plays because of the contact skills. He hit .291 in 104 games across Single-A and High-A last season, with 35 stolen bases and a .380 on-base percentage. In eight Cactus League games so far this spring, he’s hit 5-for-14 (.357) with an .829 OPS.

The way Garcia plays shortstop had Royals manager Mike Matheny thinking about a shortstop he played with in Toronto in 1999: Tony Fernández, the four-time Gold Glove Award winner and five-time All-Star.

“This guy’s got some hands. He’s got that ‘it’ [factor] at shortstop,” Matheny said. “His movements are really smooth. Different arm angles, but accurate carry on the ball. He doesn’t have that blazing speed, but he’s got quickness. And then [he’s] just fluid, every feed. I see it really coming along. I’ve thrown batting practice a couple of times, and there are some balls he’s gotten into. Really like his approach, where even in BP, he’s working up the middle, staying really inside the ball and driving to right-center. I always say it’s fun to watch a guy play, but it is fun to watch him. He’s got talent.” — Anne Rogers

Bobby Witt Jr. crushed his second home run in as many games Thursday, this one a monster three-run shot to left-center field against the Reds’ Justin Wilson.

“Apparently all he has to do is make contact and it’s going over the fence,” Vinnie Pasquantino said about his teammate. “I get to joke around with him here, but he’s doing what he loves, which is really why I like watching it. You can tell how much he loves doing what he’s doing.”

In the fourth inning, Wilson got behind in the count 1-0 and countered with a fastball inside. Witt didn’t miss it.

“It’s always great getting more comfortable each and every day, seeing new pitching and trying to continue to be myself,” Witt said. “Try to have good at-bats and help the team.” — Anne Rogers

Pasquantino ends it against old foe (March 24)
Thursday’s highlights started with Bobby Witt Jr. and ended with Vinnie Pasquantino, who roped a first-pitch, pinch-hit, walk-off RBI single to left field, sending the Royals home with a 5-4 victory.

When the Reds called on right-hander Connor Overton for the ninth inning after a scoreless eighth, Pasquantino, the Royals’ No. 5 prospect, hoped he would get a chance against him because of their time facing each other during the 2020 shutdown in Richmond, Va. Overton and Pasquantino are from the same area; they went to different high schools, but both went on to play at Old Dominion, although Overton is four years older than Pasquantino.

When the pandemic canceled the 2020 Minor League season, Pasquantino and Overton were a part of a group of about 20 Minor Leaguers who got their baseball work in together. Almost every Tuesday for about eight weeks, the pitchers would face hitters in live batting practice.

“When I went up there [Thursday], honestly I thought he was going to throw me a changeup first pitch because that’s what he used to do all the time,” Pasquantino said. “I was able to keep my hands in and hit the fastball he threw me. But it was really cool to be able to face him.

“He knows me, knows what I’m looking for, and I was able to go out on top today, which was a pretty cool moment.” — Anne Rogers

Witt obliterates first homer (March 22)
Bobby Witt Jr., MLB’s No. 1 prospect, had put together some good at-bats through two Spring Training games entering Tuesday, but he was still searching for that first home run.

He left no doubt about his blast Tuesday afternoon against the A’s.

In the third inning, facing Oakland pitcher Austin Pruitt, Witt got to two strikes early but battled his way back. Then he sent a pitch into orbit. It landed on the concourse of left-center field, just under the scoreboard at Surprise Stadium.

“Last at-bat before that, I made solid contact, so I was just trying to go up there and do the same thing,” Witt said. “See some pitches, and then he was throwing a lot of sliders. Then he came in, and I was able to be on time. Got to it. I think the wind changed a little bit, so luckily I was able to get out.”

Witt has showcased all his tools so far this spring, and his hand-eye coordination and game prep for pitchers he’s facing has stood out to those around him.

“Guys standing around after he fouled off, got a little deeper in the count, said, ‘He’s seen a lot of pitches, this is probably going to get hit hard,’” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He does do a nice job of really studying through each pitch. He’s not just up there hacking. He’s got a plan. And listening to him come back and talk about what he’s seen, how the pitch reacts compared to how he anticipated it to, he’s studying.” — Anne Rogers

Dungan showing off versatility, hitting ability (March 21)
As Clay Dungan put together a show on the Royals’ back fields during live batting practice (two home runs) Sunday, a two-RBI game later that afternoon, and a 2-for-4 day on Monday against the Angels, one big league Royals pitcher made a remark to Mike Matheny that stuck with the manager.

“They said, ‘This guy doesn’t miss any mistakes,’” Matheny said. “He’s got great hand-eye coordination, great plate discipline.”

Dungan, the Royals’ ninth-round Draft pick out of Indiana State in 2019, doesn’t have flashy tools, but is as reliable of a player as they come and receives high praise as a leader in the clubhouse, too. He plays all over the infield and displays a solid glove, and at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season, he hit .288/.357/.405 with a 14.6 percent strikeout rate.

“There is no doubt that the focus [the organization has] put on pitch recognition and strike zone awareness, we’re seeing the benefits of it now,” Matheny said. “Those are things that we’ve been incorporating more into … our training. Everybody finds what works for them. You notice a lot of these guys have very high intensity in the work that they do. And a lot of high-speed, high-velocity machine work, and it’s all about finding balls that you can drive. And you can see it’s working for them.” — Anne Rogers

Pratto takes Leiter deep (March 18)
In a little prospect-on-prospect crime, Nick Pratto hammered a two-run home run off Jack Leiter in the seventh inning of the Royals’ 5-5 tie against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

Leiter made the Royals’ hitters look silly in his first inning of work, but he lost some command in his second inning and allowed a single up the middle to Cam Gallagher. That’s when Pratto, named the No. 62 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list Friday morning, crushed a fastball from Leiter, baseball’s No. 17 prospect, to straightaway center. — Anne Rogers

“I thought I took a good swing on it,” Pratto said. “He made some good pitches early on, and he missed that one. He’s going to get me I’m sure, sometime soon. It all comes around.”

Bobby Witt Jr., who was in the starting lineup at third base, was watching from the dugout. He’s close friends with both Pratto and Leiter.

“[Jack and I] talk quite a bit, and now seeing my other buddy Pratty was pretty cool,” Witt said. “Sorry, Jack. We’re real close, and seeing him play, it’s always hard facing a guy that you know, but it’s always fun.”

The homer came a few innings after Pratto, who went 2-for-2, made a web gem of a play at first base — a spinning grab on a liner.

“I don’t know how to say it on camera,” said Pratto, when asked on what he was thinking when the ball came at him. “It was coming in hot.” — Anne Rogers

Eaton impresses on first day of big league camp (March 14)
Nathan Eaton is a name Royals fans should keep an eye on in 2022, after the 25-year-old put on a show in the Arizona Fall League and has been steadily impressing during Minor League Spring Training. The club invited him to big league camp this spring, and on the first official day of workouts, Eaton was already catching the eye of his veteran teammates.

“This kid Eaton’s a strong dude,” Whit Merrifield said, when asked about his impressions on Day 1. “Got some pop.”

Eaton was in Merrifield’s batting practice group on Monday, as well as outfielder JaCoby Jones, whom the Royals signed to a Minor League contract this offseason. The former Tiger also stood out to Merrifield.

Eaton was selected in the 21st round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of the Virginia Military Institute. He’s listed as an outfielder on the Royals’ official spring roster, but the 25-year-old can play all over the field, including third base. He has a cannon of an arm, and he stood out offensively in the Fall League, when he hit .317 with five doubles and two triples across 20 games. — Anne Rogers

Witt takes first round vs. Leiter (March 11)
In the first battle of what will likely be many between two future stars, Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr. got the better of Rangers right-hander Jack Leiter in a scrimmage on Friday afternoon at Surprise Stadium.

In front of fans who were able to attend the game for free, Witt, ranked as the Royals’ top prospect by MLB Pipeline, lined the first pitch he saw from Leiter, the Rangers’ top prospect, into left field for a base hit.

This came after Witt beat out a chopper to second base for an infield hit during his first at-bat of the day, flashing his deceptive speed from home to first.

And if that wasn’t enough, Witt knocked an opposite-field single in his third and final at-bat to go 3-for-3 in the Royals’ first scrimmage against another team this spring. Witt did commit one error playing third base, when he couldn’t make a clean transfer on a hard-hit ground ball in time for the out, but he looks to be heating up at the plate as the Royals speed toward Opening Day on April 7. — Anne Rogers

‘Sky’s the limit’ for Klein (March 9)
After a breakout first professional season in the Royals’ farm system, in which he dominated High-A hitters with 121 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings and helped Quad Cities to a Central Championship, hard-throwing right-hander Will Klein, ranked as the club’s No. 25 prospect by MLB Pipeline, headed into the offseason with a clear goal to help him build off the momentum he created in 2021. Story > — Anne Rogers

Kudrna embraces his KC roots (March 8)
Royals prospect Ben Kudrna remembers his middle school football practices vividly. They came during Kansas City’s 2014 and ’15 postseason runs, and growing up 30 minutes west of Kauffman Stadium in Shawnee Mission, Kan., Kudrna was constantly locked in on the action, even when he couldn’t be near a TV.

“We’d stop in the middle of practice and watch the games, or our manager on the sidelines would scream out how many outs there were and what inning it was, so those are two really special years,” Kudrna said.

The Royals drafted Kudrna out of Blue Valley Southwest High School in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft, going over slot to sign the right-hander out of his LSU commitment and start his professional career with his hometown team. They also signed catcher Carter Jensen in the third round out of Park Hill Senior High School in Kansas City.

Being from Kansas City isn’t something Kudrna takes lightly.

“I do embrace it,” Kudrna said. “It’s awesome. It’s an honor to be able to be from Kansas City and to represent the city and the organization. I think it adds a little extra edge every day that I wake up. Me being from there, everybody’s watching, checking in. So I do embrace it, I love it. It makes me work a little bit harder because I want to get up there and represent my city, be the hometown kid.”

Kudrna has impressed early in camp both physically and mentally. He’s put on around 25 pounds of muscle since showing up last summer, and he’s beginning to refine his arsenal, while learning how to get his work in every day, including throwing side sessions and ramping up for live batting practice.

“It’s a test subject for me this year,” Kudrna said. “My first few bullpens, I was ramped up, I was excited to get out here. The main thing you got to learn is the art of the bullpen; you got to learn how to throw strikes and be consistent at 70 percent, 80 percent, 60 percent, whatever it is before you ramp it up and you’re at 90-100 percent. There is definitely an art to slowing your body down and [throwing] strikes. But you start to pick up on it a little more and it becomes easier, and then it just becomes a consistency thing.” — Anne Rogers

Pasquantino’s goal: ‘Be a nightmare for pitchers’ (March 7)
Vinnie Pasquantino’s overall numbers in 2021 speak for themselves: The first baseman slashed .300/.394/.563 across High-A and Double-A, posting a .957 OPS in 513 plate appearances. He crushed 24 home runs while limiting his strikeouts to just a 13.8 percent clip in High-A and an 11 percent clip in Double-A. With Northwest Arkansas, he struck out 26 times in 200 at-bats and drew 31 walks.

Pasquantino hits for average, hits for power and walks more than he strikes out. That’s rare for a prospect, especially a 6-foot-4, 245-pound slugger. As he began to have success in 2021, scouts and analysts took notice. He was unranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list, was No. 17 on the Royals’ midseason rankings and is due for a sizable jump in 2022. His path has taken him from being an 11th-round Draft selection out of Old Dominion in 2019 to one of the Royals’ best and most intriguing prospects.

For all the attention he’s gotten over the last year, Pasquantino has stayed the same person and the same hitter — with the same goal.

“The goal is to be a nightmare for pitchers,” Pasquantino said. “Because I think it’s fun. I think it’s fun to have good at-bats. And even though I’m not the fastest guy out there, I like running the bases, too. So hitting doubles is fun, hitting singles is fun. Walking. It’s fun.

“Last year, I had a really good time playing the game. Obviously, I get my work in and am a professional and put my best foot forward, but I like having a good time. I think it’s easier for everybody to play well when everything is loose and you’re having a good time. That’s what last year was for me.”

Pasquantino has the same mindset going into this year as Royals Minor League camp continues. He spent the offseason working at a facility in Nashville, Tenn., after a brief stint in the Dominican Winter League, where he played for the Tigres del Licey and learned from players like Hanley Ramirez.

“I was able to learn some things from the older guys on the team — playing with Hanley Ramirez is just special,” Pasquantino said. “You watch these guys on TV growing up and all of a sudden you’re on the field with them.”

Now, Pasquantino is one of the leaders in Royals camp, on and off the field. He has a magnetic personality and backs it up with his play on the diamond. That’s evident during batting practice, intrasquad games and all the in-betweens.

“When I was struggling early on, and Vinnie was killing it, hitting homers — I give him a ton of credit,” second baseman Michael Massey said. “Because he’s the type of guy in the clubhouse where you’re like, ‘Man, I better pick my stuff up because he’s going to get called up and I’m going to stay here.’ And I want to be in the same clubhouse as him.” — Anne Rogers

Loftin’s versatility stands out (March 4)
The regular rhythm of the Minor League Spring Training schedule — batting practice, defensive drills, baserunning, side sessions and more — was disrupted Friday afternoon at the Royals’ complex with the first intrasquad game of camp. Hosted on George Brett Field, position players were split into two teams, the Brett team and White team (after Frank White), to play a five-inning game.

Batting leadoff for the White team and playing center field: Nick Loftin.

“That’s been a bit different this year,” Loftin said.

Loftin is the 23-year-old versatile infielder whom the Royals drafted No. 32 overall out of Baylor University in 2020. While he’s played outfield in college and for Team USA before, his primary position is shortstop, and that’s where he played 401 2/3 of his innings in High-A Quad Cities last season, along with getting ample time at second base and some at third base.

The organization’s No. 9 prospect, Loftin has a high floor because of his defensive versatility and bat — he posted an .837 OPS with 10 home runs in his first professional season — and the Royals wanted to get him acquainted with center field this spring.

“I love it. I’m having a lot of fun,” Loftin said. “There’s so much going on in the infield as far as pace goes, that the outfield now, it’s kind of just slowed down a lot. It’s been nice. It’s also helped me out to the point where I can focus on hitting a little bit more too.”

Longtime coach Rusty Kuntz transitioned to a front-office role this offseason and has been working with Minor League outfielders this spring, so he’s spent a lot of time with Loftin in the early days of camp. Kuntz always jumps at the chance to work with a middle infielder in the outfield and has raved about Loftin’s footwork, speed, intellect and instincts.

And Loftin has been soaking up as much as he can from Kuntz. It’s helped so much that Loftin keeps a notebook next to his bed so he can write down what he learned each day from the outfield guru.

“He’s the best,” Loftin said. “The biggest thing he’s told me is I have to have depth before direction. In the infield, you get direction before depth. When the ball’s hit, you turn right away to get it. In the outfield, it’s the opposite. You need to turn back, get that depth, before making that directional turn. Balls are hit a lot harder, lot more air on them, so they’re flying a little harder.”

Center field has been a hole in the Royals’ farm system for some time, although officials believe Kyle Isbel, the organization’s No. 5 prospect, can man the position at Kauffman Stadium. He’s on the 40-man roster and will compete for a spot in the outfield when camp opens, but he’s also blocked in center field by Michael A. Taylor, who signed a two-year extension in September.

Where Loftin fits a few years down the road remains to be seen. He’s still getting reps in the infield; he’ll take ground balls with infield coordinator Eddie Rodriguez after workouts at least three times a week. And that versatility is certainly an asset the Royals plan on utilizing.

“I’ll be one of those people bouncing all around everywhere,” Loftin said. “And that’s fine with me.” — Anne Rogers

Flurry of action on the back fields (March 4)
The intrasquad game dominated most of the afternoon at the Royals complex. Loftin’s White team included catcher Kale Emshoff, right fielder John Rave and second baseman Michael Massey, who made a stellar defensive play for right-hander Zach Willeman on Vinnie Pasquantino’s grounder.

Bobby Witt Jr. was on the Brett team and played third base, along with second baseman Clay Dungan and right fielder Nathan Eaton. The pitchers stood out the most, as is typical this early in the year. Willaman, Jace Vines, Yefri Del Rosario and Zach Haake each worked two innings, and Jose Cuas and Andres Nunez pitched one apiece.

But the game wasn’t the only live action of the day. Younger pitchers on the far end of the complex threw live batting practice, including top pitching prospect Asa Lacy against hitters like Parker Bates and Cam Williams, two of the Royals’ 2021 Draft picks. Lacy is healthy this spring after a shoulder injury shut him down midway through last season and he’s working on harnessing the command issues he faced early in the year.

Alec Marsh and Christian Chamberlain both threw lives, as well as Will Klein, who already looked as dominant as he did with Quad Cities last year. — Anne Rogers

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