KANSAS CITY -- As we continue to ramp up toward Spring Training, part IV of our preview series focuses on the key position battle of this camp: Second base.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore raised a few eyebrows earlier this offseason when he told MLB.com that the second-base job would not be given automatically to Omar Infante, who still has $17.75 million remaining on a four-year deal that runs through 2017.
Perhaps in the past, the small-market Royals never would have given a thought to putting a player with that type of contract on the bench. But these are the new-age Royals, fresh off two straight pennants and a World Series championship.
Infante will have to beat out Christian Colon, one of the heroes from Game 5 of the World Series, to regain his starting job.
"We're going to play the best players," Moore said. "Omar is a terrific second baseman. I know offensively he has not performed the way he has liked or the way we expect him to.
"I just know we're going to put the best team out there each and every night, and I know Omar is capable of being that guy. But we like Christian Colon, too."
When the Royals signed Infante prior to the 2014 season, second base had been the weakest position for the franchise dating to Jose Lind in the mid-1990s.
Infante instantly improved the team's infield defense and also produced a career-high 66 RBIs in 2014. In the World Series loss to the Giants, Infante recorded a .924 OPS.
But offensively, Infante was a major disappointment in '15. He had a slash line of .220/.234/.318 with two homers and 44 RBIs. An oblique injury in September sidelined him through the rest of the season and through the postseason, and Ben Zobrist claimed the position.
Infante had surgery last November to remove bone chips in his right elbow and manager Ned Yost said Infante should be healthy and ready to go by Spring Training.
"He should be as healthy as he's been with us," Yost said.
But Colon should present a formidable challenge for Infante. Colon isn't the defender Infante is, but he is a .303 hitter in his brief big league career (64 games) with a .743 OPS.
"You got to play the best guys," Moore said. "It's the Major Leagues. Our expectations are very high."
The competition will start soon.
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Rangers, March 2, 2:05 p.m.
Home vs Mets, April 3, 7:37 p.m.
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.