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Position Battles: Royals Second Base/Third Base

In case you missed it, I've already broken down position battles for the Orioles' closer and Diamondbacks' first baseman/left field gigs. Next up in the series is the battle between four players who will be vying for two starting infield jobs in Kansas City. 

Mike Aviles vs Chris Getz vs Wilson Betemit vs Mike Moustakas

Tale of the Tape

Aviles: 29 years old, est. $475K salary 2010 stats: .304 BA, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 63 R, 16 2B, 3 3B, 20 BB, 49 K in 424 AB's, 14 SB  2011 Outlook: Favorite to be starting 3B, could be 2B if Betemit or Moustakas win 3B job.

After Tommy John surgery cost Aviles a majority of the 2009 season, he returned with a successful 2010. In his two full big league seasons (2008, 2010), the right-handed hitter has shown the ability to maintain a .300 BA and the potential to add 10-15 HR's and 15-20 SB's over a full year. His .801 OPS from the #2 hole last season should solidify his spot in the lineup. The only question is whether he plays second base or third base.

Getz: 27 years old, est. $440K salary 2010 stats: .237 BA, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 23 R, 9 2B, 19 BB, 28 K in 224 AB's, 15 SB 2011 Outlook: Favorite to be starting 2B

Multiple injuries (oblique, concussion) cost Getz a chance to stay on the field consistently in his first season with the Royals after being acquired from the White Sox last offseason. When he did play, he didn't hit much but the left-handed hitter showed an ability to work the count, take a walk, and wreak havoc on the basepaths (15 SB in 17 attempts). He'll likely have a couple of months to prove that he can provide enough offense to be a big league regular. If not, he'll likely have to make his living as a utilityman.

Betemit: 29 years old, $1MM salary 2010 stats: .297 BA, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 36 R, 20 2B, 36 BB, 74 K in 276 AB's 2011 Outlook: Should see good number of AB's at 3B, DH, 1B, LF

Even after resurrecting his career with an .889 OPS and finishing the season as the team's primary third baseman, Betemit is more likely to get his AB's at another position in 2011. The Royals probably want to get a good look at second baseman Getz early in the season, keeping Aviles at third base. Even if Getz can't hold onto the job, Moustakas should be in Kansas City no later than mid-June. Still, the switch-hitting Betemit is versatile enough that he'll get his share of AB's somewhere and could claim the designated hitter role full-time if Kila Ka'aihue struggles. 

Moustakas: 22 years old, est. $414K salary 2010 stats: .322 BA, 36 HR, 124 RBI, 94 R, 41 2B, 34 BB, 67 K in 484 AB's, 2 SB (AAA/AA) 2011 Outlook: Long shot to be starting 3B on Opening Day, Favorite to be starting 3B by mid-June

Like Buster PoseyMike Stanton, and Stephen Strasburg in 2010, Moustakas is expected to spend most of April and May in the minors before a permanent call to the big leagues. It doesn't mean he won't have a chance to break camp with the team but he'll have to put up huge numbers in Spring Training in order to force the Royals' hand. Between Aviles and Betemit, the team should be able to stand pat and allow Moustakas to continue developing in the minors. 

Final Word

While there is little doubt that Moustakas will be the Royals' third baseman at some point in 2011, there is a good chance he starts the season in Triple-A. With that in mind, the Royals can use the early part of the season to determine if Aviles or Getz will be the starting second baseman for the remainder of the season once Moustakas arrives. Betemit could be a trade chip later in the season, especially if he continues to hit as he did in 2010, but he'll need ABs in order to build up his value. 

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