Jeison Guzman hit .158 with four extra-base hits while striking out 27 percent of the time at low Class A Lexington in April.
In November, the Royals added the 21-year-old shortstop to their 40-man roster.
Guzman helped lead the Legends to a South Atlantic League title and was named the club’s player of the year. He hit .253/.296/.373 with seven home runs and 15 stolen bases in 121 games.
Guzman, who had hit just five homers in his first three pro seasons, added two more in the SAL playoffs.
The Royals signed Guzman for $1.5 million at age 17 out of the Dominican Republic as a switch-hitting shortstop, but he has batted only from the left side as a pro.
With big league rosters expanding to 26 players in 2020, the Royals did not want to chance another team selecting Guzman in the Rule 5 draft.
“We protected him because we feel he is a special defender and will stay at shortstop,” assistant general manager of player development J.J. Picollo said. “He has excellent range and arm strength. Being that he plays a premium position, we did not want to risk the chance of losing him in the Rule 5 draft.”
Guzman had been one of the youngest players in the SAL. In 2019, he had 66 plate appearances against pitchers younger than him and 424 against older pitchers.
“He has gotten bigger, stronger and faster as he has matured,” Picollo said. “His bat is coming on and is showing signs of driving the ball to all fields.”
Guzman has plus speed, but needs to learn the nuances of stealing bases and when to run. In 2019, he swiped 15 bases but was caught 13 times.
Guzman is playing for Escogido in the winter Dominican League, and he will likely open next season with high Class A Wilmington.
Guzman’s future position remains to be seen. The Royals have two significant shortstops ahead of him on the depth chart: 24-year-old big league regular Adalberto Mondesi and Bobby Witt Jr., the second overall pick in the 2019 draft and the club’s top prospect.
— Lefthander Foster Griffin, a 2014 first-round pick, was added to the 40-man roster for the first time after being a non-roster spring training invitee the previous two years. He went 8-6, 5.23 in 2019 at Triple-A Omaha and was named to the Pacific Coast League postseason all-star team. His stock rose in the Dominican League, where through six games, five starts, he had recorded a 2.31 ERA with one save, while striking out 31 and walking six in 23.1 innings.
— Outfielder Nick Heath, who led the minors with 60 stolen bases, and 22-year-old righthander Carlos Hernandez were added to the 40-man roster for the first time.