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Does Bobby Witt Jr. At Third Base Reveal Other Plans for Royals’ Infield in 2022?

If the Royals' top prospect is manning the hot corner, where do the other dominoes fall?

Many have been wondering about the Kansas City Royals' potential plans for the future of their infield, and there may be early signs of the organization's top prospect debuting away from shortstop. 

Per Jon Morosi of MLB Network, infield prospect Bobby Witt Jr. (the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, per will be given the chance to compete for the club's third base job during spring training. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise, as his athleticism, reaction time, instincts, arm strength and bat all project to be plus tools for a player at the game's hot corner. Despite how many calls there have been for the Royals to not take Witt away from his "natural position," at short, this option has rightfully always been on the table. While it certainly speaks to Witt's versatility and raw talent, it speaks even more to what the club's plans may be for the rest of the infield.

At shortstop, Nicky Lopez broke all the way out in 2021. Not only did he put up one of the league's best second halves of the season, but he played Gold Glove-caliber defense despite somehow not even being nominated for the award. Keeping Lopez at the spot he settled into during this past season makes sense, although he absolutely could slide back over to second base and be just fine. So if Witt at third base doesn't have everything to do with Lopez, does it speak to a potential second base job for someone else? One would think so.

Whit Merrifield, long known as a reliable and consistent player for the Royals, came back into the infield in 2021 and thrived. He was nominated for a Gold Glove but came up short of winning his first. Nonetheless, Merrifield is a premier defender at a position that should allow him to age gracefully as his athleticism naturally declines a bit. The idea of moving him back out to right field has been tossed around but with a multitude of bodies already in the mix for part-time duties there, it doesn't make a ton of sense for the Royals to crowd that spot even more and take an elite defender away from his home. That leaves one last piece: Adalberto Mondesi.

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Mondesi has been regarded by Royals staff, media and fans alike as a player with a ton of potential. Through six partial seasons with the organization, he's managed to flash that immense ceiling. On the other hand, his ability to make consistent contact remains questionable, he still strikes out a ton and he's spent a great deal of his tenure in Kansas City rehabbing injuries. The dream of many is Mondesi being the Royals' everyday third baseman or shortstop, but that simply isn't going to happen. If Merrifield is moved back out to right field, perhaps that opens the door for Mondesi at second base. Even then, it would be more logical to move Lopez over to second and throw Mondesi in at short — and we've seen how that story ends. Keeping the 26-year-old healthy should be the top priority in 2022.

Moving Witt away from his "natural position" is fine. He hasn't even made his MLB debut yet, nor contended for any Gold Gloves, nor built chemistry with his fellow Royals infielders. He's so talented that he'll be excellent no matter what, especially at third base. Moving Lopez or Merrifield off their current spots after seasons that very well could have won them awards would be a suspect move by the Royals. Mondesi can rotate in to give Merrifield the occasional day off, to serve as a fourth outfielder or even to strictly hit for games at a time. He's the wild card here, but the Royals already have two commodities in the infield. They'll have another one coming soon — and by the looks of it — lining them up next to each other might just be the team's plan. 

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