Kansas City Royals Player Profile: Omar Infante


Second baseman Omar Infante (4) Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.

If you want read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.

Up next is the second baseman of the present and the immediate future – Omar Infante.

For far too long, the Kansas City Royals tried to convince themselves Chris Getz was much more than he was – a fringe player with few positives offensively, a slightly above average fielder (and restricted to second base only), and gifted with speed and grit.

Above all else, he was cheap. Over 4 seasons, the Royals only had to pay Getz about $2.9 million total. For a franchise known for its frugal ownership, Getz was a bargain. Team expectations for success were low, so the Royals were able to get away with it.

Expectations started to change in 2013, and they are even higher in 2014. The Royals could not afford to have a void at second base. Despite having Emilio Bonifacio on the roster, a player who performed quite well down the stretch for Kansas City last season (Bonifacio was designated for assignment last week), the Royals went out and signed veteran Omar Infante to play second base.

Second baseman Omar Infante (4) Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals are going to pay Infante $28.25 million over the next 4 years, plus an option for a 5th season at $10 million with a $2 million buyout. The Royals are serious about making the offense better.

Infante is a strong second baseman but he is not an offensive star by any stretch of the imagination. He does offer some positives at the plate, and he isn’t a complete void as Getz was. He career slash, over 12 seasons is .279/.319/.402./.729.

For three seasons, from 2008-2010, Infante’s numbers were far above his career averages. In those years, all with Atlanta, his slash read .309/.353/.411/.763. In 2013 for Detroit, he was even better – .318/.345/.450/.795.

It is hard to imagine that Infante had a career revival at 31. While not ancient, he has only played in 267 games over the past three years. He has the talent to be a good hitter, it is just that he has 4 seasons out of 12 where he could be said to be well above average.

In fact, all of these four seasons, 2008-2010, plus 2013, have something in common – Infante had an extremely high Batting Average on Balls in Play in those four years.

His BABiP was .327 in 2008, .339 in 2009, .355 in 2010, and .333 in 2013. Only one other season did he have a higher BABiP than in any of these seasons – .328 in 2006.

These numbers are a strong indication that luck plays a significant part in Infante’s success at the plate. Other numbers indicate it is not all luck however.

According to Fangraphs.com, in three of those same four seasons, Infante had a high Line Drive Rate, which would certainly increase his BABiP. In 2008, his LD% was 30.1%, in 2009 it was 26.7%, and in 2013 it was 23.6%. Only in 2010 did his high BABiP rely on luck more than his LD%, which was 18.6 ( League average is right around 20%.)

For his career, Infante is neither an overwhelming ground ball hitter (38.7% ground balls), or a fly ball hitter (39.8%). He doesn’t have much power as his career high in home runs is 16, way back in 2004. He hasn’t it more than 12 except for that season, and he only has 3 double digit home runs seasons in his career.

When he plays a full season, he will generally get around 25 doubles, and he has 42 career triples. He may steal a few bases but he isn’t a speedster. He doesn’t strike out much, and he walks even less.

He can bunt (he has 110 career bunt attempt, 32 for hits). Everyone knows how much Ned Yost likes to bunt the ball. He won’t be intimidated at the plate, and he knows how to handle himself with a bat.

He is a solid hitter, if not spectacular, and is an upgrade offensively. He isn’t a great fielder, but he isn’t a butcher either. Again according to Fangraphs.com, he has an career Ultimate Zone Rating of 16.0 as a second baseman, but over the past three seasons, he has accumulated an 18.2 UZR at second. He obviously is getting better with his glove.

Infante’s contract may turn out to be an albatross the final 2 seasons, but for this year, and at least next, Infante is the second baseman, as long as he can stay healthy. He should probably bat 7th in the order, but he fits into Yost’s outdated idea of a prototypical number 2 hitter, so that is where you can expect to see him hit. He is used to batting there so he should be just fine.

He is a legitimate major league player, and an every day second baseman. Dayton Moore upgraded the offense here. Hopefully, the Royals will see numbers closer to his top seasons than his bad seasons.

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