Four Royals Hitters Sticking Out This Spring

The Royals are off to an 8-2 start this Spring, as they split two games with the Reds (which they won) and the Dodgers (which they lost). While the Royals most likely won’t be sporting such a great win percentage once regular season games begin, it’s nice to see the squad gelling under new manager Matt Quatraro.

As expected with a team with such a solid Cactus League record, there have been some standouts for the Royals on the offensive end.

Let’s take a look at four Royals hitters who have gotten off to a strong start this Spring at the plate, and also examine how this strong early performance could affect their outlook not just for the remainder of Cactus League play, but for the upcoming 2023 season as well.

Franmil Reyes, DH/OF

Reyes was a surprise Minor League signing by the Royals, as he was non-tendered by the Cubs at the conclusion of the 2022 season. DFA’d by the Guardians in August, Reyes is coming off a rough 2022 campaign that saw him hit 14 home runs in 473 plate appearances and slash .221/.273/.365 with the Guardians and Cubs combined. While Reyes did post a barrel rate of 11.3 percent, which is still solid, he also posted a K rate of 33.2 percent of the time, a concerning trend.

In five games and 12 plate appearances this Spring, Reyes is proving that he deserves a spot on the Opening Day roster, perhaps as the Royals’ Opening Day DH. He is hitting .333 with an OPS of 1.012, and he has collected a home run and five RBI through five games as well.

Power has always been Reyes’ calling card in Cleveland, and so far this Spring, he has demonstrated that his power tool is still there, as evidenced by this mammoth home run against the Mariners.

Reyes has struck out five times, but he also has two walks, thus showing that he’s demonstrating a judicious eye at the plate.

It appears that Reyes knows he has to make the most of this opportunity with the Royals, as he came into camp in much better shape than he did with Cleveland in the Spring of 2022. In addition, he seems to be meshing well with the Royals’ more “laid back” clubhouse, as evidenced by his interview in the dugout during the Dodgers game.

At this point, barring injury, it seems likely that Reyes will be in a Royals uniform at Kauffman Stadium on Opening Day. And he could provide a big boost in the DH spot as well, which is much-needed for an org that didn’t find much consistency in the position in 2022.

Maikel Garcia, SS/Inf

I figured Garcia was one who could benefit this Spring with the World Baseball Classic. Bobby Witt, Jr. and Nicky Lopez are expected to play for Team USA and Italy, respectively, and that means that Garcia would get a lot of reps in the infield in those two players’ absence.

And yet, Garcia has already made his presence felt in the first 10 games of the Cactus League campaign, even with Witt and Lopez still in Arizona for now.

Garcia is tied for second right now in hits with six (along with Matt Duffy and Robbie Glendinning; Glendinning will also be playing in the WBC but for Australia). He also has four RBI, scored three runs, and hit a home run, which came against the Guardians’ Cactus League squad:

Garcia is hitting a ridiculous .600 with a 1.636 OPS through five games and 10 plate appearances. It still seems it is a longshot that Garcia will make the Opening Day roster, especially with Witt expected to man the shortstop position on Opening Day. That said, it also seems Quatraro and GM JJ Picollo are open to moving Garcia around the field, as he has played not only third base but some outfield as well this Spring.

It’s unlikely that Garcia will be able to keep up this hot pace. Nonetheless, he’s showing a sound approach at the plate (one walk; one strikeout) and his swing definitely has some power potential that has transitioned well from the Venezuelan Winter League recently.

Even if Garcia doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he could be up in Kansas City in June, with the hope that he’ll be a starter in the infield for the remainder of the 2023 season.

Matt Duffy, Inf

Duffy is looking to salvage his MLB career after a down season in which he hit .250 and posted a wRC+ of 78 in 247 plate appearances for the Angels. The Royals have a bit of a hole at third base with the departure of Adalberto Mondesi, and it seems like Duffy, Hunter Dozier, and Johan Camargo are getting time this Spring to prove they can handle the hot corner for 2023 in some capacity.

Duffy is not much of a power hitter, as the most home runs he has hit in a season was 12 back in 2015 with the Giants. That said, he is a great contact hitter who can take advantage of Kauffman’s spacious gaps if given the opportunity.

In four games and 12 plate appearances, the 32-year-old infielder is hitting .500 with six hits and four RBI. He also has collected two doubles, and has shown a propensity to come through with runners on base this Spring, as evidenced by this two-RBI hit below against the Rangers:

The only thing working against Duffy is that Dozier is also off to a great Spring, as Doz is hitting .417 with a home run and two RBI in four games and 12 plate appearances. Dozier also looks a lot more comfortable this Spring at the hot corner and has flashed some solid defense early on in Cactus League play.

It will be tough for Duffy to make the roster if Dozier solidifies his spot at third this spring. Nonetheless, Duffy needs to continue to be monitored in Cactus League play by Royals fans, as he could be a sleeper to make the roster if he continues to hit in Arizona.

Tucker Bradley, OF

If there’s been a true “sleeper” this Spring, it may be Bradley, and I’m not referring to Jackie Bradley, Jr., who was just recently signed to a Minor League deal in the wake of injuries to Drew Waters, Brewer Hicklen, and Diego Hernandez.

Bradley, an undrafted signee during the wonky and shortened 2020 draft, has made a name for himself in Arizona, especially on a power end. The former Georgia Bulldog has two home runs and four RBI through seven games and 10 plate appearances and is also hitting .400 with an OPS of 1.500. In 10 at-bats, Bradley has also demonstrated a keen eye at the plate, as he has only two strikeouts and one walk so far this Spring.

He has also shown a propensity to come through in the clutch early this Spring, as he hit a walk-off home run in the first Cactus League game of the year against the Rangers.

It’s likely that Bradley will be demoted soon to Minor League camp, and the odds of him making the Opening Day roster are really low. He wasn’t on the original non-roster invite list, so it seems like it’s a matter of time before the Bradley hot streak ends.

That said, Bradley continues to prove himself as a “dark horse” prospect in the Royals system.

He hit .293 with 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 110 games and 460 plate appearances with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2022. Therefore, it seems likely that he will not only be in Triple-A Omaha to begin 2023 but could be a major force for the squad, especially with Hicklen expected to miss time due to injury.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bradley seeing some time in the Royals outfield at some point in the second half of 2023, especially after the Royals make some moves at the July Trade Deadline.

Photo Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports


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