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Road to The Show™: Royals’ Loftin

Club’s No. 5 prospect hit the ground running in first MLB action
Nick Loftin batted .270 with a .788 OPS for Triple-A Omaha in 2023. (Minda Haas Kuhlmann/Omaha Storm Chasers)
December 19, 2023

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Royals’ prospect Nick Loftin. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. Nick Loftin made the most of his first Major

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Royals’ prospect Nick Loftin. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.

Nick Loftin made the most of his first Major League opportunity with the Royals this September.

Following a successful yet injury-stunted 82 games with Triple-A Omaha, Loftin earned his first big league promotion when rosters expanded on Sept. 1. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance against All-Star lefty James Paxton and narrowly missed a homer in his next trip, settling for a run-scoring double – his first MLB hit, extra-base hit and RBI. The strong debut was the start of a terrific month.

The Royals’ fifth-ranked prospect played 19 games with the big league club to finish the year. He batted .323 with an .803 OPS, five doubles and 10 RBIs. He was also able to show off his defensive versatility, receiving playing time at first, second and third base.

The 25-year-old has long been viewed as a quintessential super-utility man, and he’s lived up to that scouting report in the professional ranks. His bat-to-ball skills, strike zone discipline and defensive versatility have been his headlining characteristics since his amateur days. Loftin has what scouts call “sneaky pop” that pairs well with a selective approach. He has a strong arm and is athletic enough to play all over the diamond. The 2023 season was the first in which he didn’t play shortstop, but he’s gotten reps at the other three infield positions as well as left and center field.

“He’s a gamer and a winner,” Royals director of baseball operations Lonnie Goldberg told after selecting Loftin in 2020. “We think there’s power in the bat. We think there’s a lot of ceiling in him.”

The native of Corpus Christi, Texas, attended Baylor University after going undrafted out of W.B. Ray High School in 2017. Over the course of his high school career, Loftin compiled a .454 batting average with 88 hits and 29 stolen bases.

Even during his amateur days, Loftin bounced around to different defensive positions. He started out as a left fielder for Baylor before shifting to shortstop during his freshman season. On the U.S. collegiate national team in 2019, he started games at five different positions. He even made four appearances on the mound in his first two college seasons.

Loftin batted .323 with 41 RBIs and a team-leading 76 hits during his sophomore season in 2019. He entered 2020 as a second-team All-American and was thought to be a first-round talent in that summer’s Draft. He got to play in 14 games before the pandemic shutdown, batting .298/.339/.544 with eight extra-base hits and 15 RBIs.

The Royals thought very highly of Loftin, comparing his skill set to former Kansas City All-Star Whit Merrifield. The club used their first pick, No. 4 overall, on Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy and were ecstatic to land Loftin at No. 32 overall in competitive balance Round A. Loftin eventually signed with the club for a reported $3 million bonus, which was well above the $2.26 million slot value.

Without a Minor League season in 2020, Loftin spent the remainder of the year at the club’s alternate site. That fall, Loftin got to play in Kansas City for the first time as the Royals held an instructional camp at Kauffman Stadium that included players who were at the alternate training site.

Loftin came back in 2021 and spent the entire season with High-A Quad Cities. Over 90 games, he batted .289 with a .374 on-base percentage, 37 extra-base hits and 42 walks. The highlight of his season came during an August game against South Bend as he went 5-for-5 and capped his first career cycle with a walk-off homer.

In 2022, Loftin advanced from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Omaha and batted .254 with a .736 OPS and 17 homers across both levels. He handled Texas League pitching well, batting .270 with a .776 OPS, and even showed off some speed, swiping 24 bases in 28 attempts. But he struggled in his first International League action after being promoted in August, finishing with a .216 average and .280 on-base percentage. He also struck out in nearly 27 percent of his plate appearances over 38 games, which was out-of-character.

Loftin attributed much of his late-season struggles to his physical endurance and worked to improve on that front in the offseason.

By the start of Spring Training, Loftin gained nearly 30 pounds of muscle and was almost unrecognizable to his coaches and teammates. The work wasn’t meant to add more power to his profile, although that has been a fortuitous side effect, but the emphasis was on his stamina and mobility to ensure he still had his legs by the end of the long season.

Loftin also tweaked his swing, adding a small leg kick to help his timing.

At the time of his promotion, Loftin was batting .270 with 14 homers, 56 RBIs and six stolen bases for the Storm Chasers. A lingering right knee injury kept him out for all of June. Upon his return, he batted .256 with eight extra-base hits, including five homers, in 38 games.

Those numbers don’t exactly demand a Major League promotion, but the Royals gave their youngsters more opportunities late in the season. And Loftin was certainly able to capitalize.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for