Omar Infante

Royals Roster Coming Into Focus

One thing I like to do at the beginning of spring training is take a look at the whole spring roster and pick out my 25-man roster. It’s sort of like an NCAA tournament bracket, though, because slowly but surely the real thing begins to look very different than what I predicted. This year was supposed to be easy for the Royals, though. There were probably 20 roster spots that you could be sure about and two more that we had a pretty good idea about. But this is March and stuff, so anything can happen.

When spring training opened, there were battles for the fourth and fifth starters, second base, the last two spots in the bullpen, backup catcher and probably the 25th man on the roster. Jarrod Dyson’s injury added one more open roster spot for the time being, too. With just two weeks left before the season, there’s still plenty of time for things to change, but as of now, I think we’re starting to see what the roster may look like.

Let’s dive into the battles.

4th and 5th Starters
This battle seems to be as good as over, but I’m not really sure how big of a battle it really was to start. I kind of expect these two spots to be somewhat fluid throughout the year, but to start the season it looks like Chris Young will be the fourth starter and Kris Medlen will fill the fifth spot in the rotation. I thought it would be the other way around, but it doesn’t really make a huge difference who pitches in what spot.

What Could Change?
I don’t think there’s much of a chance anything changes here without an injury, but Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang are still very much a part of the conversation. Both had chances to start over the weekend because of Edinson Volquez’s tired arm and Yordano Ventura being sick, and both had their moments. Gee was able to go five innings and was generally effective. Wang threw just three innings and was done in by a throwing error and a home run over the comically close wall in right field. I don’t think either has a real shot to break the rotation, but they seem to be the next in line for now.

Second Base
I’ve said this before, but when this competition opened, I didn’t think it was much of a competition. I figured Christian Colon would have to be out of this world while Omar Infante would have to be just regular season bad. Neither has happened. As it stands right now, Infante looks like he’ll be getting the nod to start. He is the better defender, and Colon hasn’t done enough this spring to wrestle the job away. So the Omar Infante Experience looks like it will continue to start, but I expect he’ll be on a short leash.

What Could Change?
Infante could go ice cold, and Colon seems to be emerging with the bat. The Royals might want to play the “hot hand” to start the year given their clear lack of trust in Infante. I don’t think that’ll happen, but you never know. As the season progresses, keep an eye on the young’n, Raul Mondesi. It’s not just the spring numbers (which are very good), but that he looks more comfortable at the plate. He’s got a lot to work on, but hey, it could happen.

Last Two Bullpen Spots
At the start of spring, I fully expected Dillon Gee to make the roster as the long reliever. The Royals clearly liked him enough to give him a very early opt out in the spring. They’ve since added him to the 40-man roster, so he’s essentially made the team. The other spot seemed to be Brian Flynn‘s to lose. He was so good last spring and Ned Yost talked about him being one of the toughest cuts he’s ever had to make and all that. Here’s the problem. He’s been really bad this spring. I haven’t seen a ton of him, but he doesn’t seem to have what he had last spring, and that’s disappointing.

All things equal, I think the Royals would like a second lefty, so that gives Scott Alexander and Brian Duensing a leg up. Both have been really good, but Alexander’s been better. Still, given the Royals affinity for inventory, I think Alexander probably gets squeezed out and Duensing is the guy. Ross Ohlendorf (yesterday was the date he could opt-out of his deal; at the time of writing, he had not yet done that) and Wang are still in the running, but I really do think it’s between the lefties even though Yost doesn’t play matchups all that often.

Update: Ohlendorf has chosen to opt out of his contract. As Rachel Phelps would say in Major League, cross him off.

What Could Change?
Who are we kidding? It’s a bullpen competition in spring training where small sample sizes reign supreme. I don’t think anyone provides what Brian Flynn could provide to the bullpen. If he has a good last two weeks, he could reclaim the top spot in this battle and make the big league roster. That would give the Royals multiple guys who can go multiple innings in Gee, Flynn and Danny Duffy and really round out a powerful bullpen.

Backup Catcher
When the Royals traded for Tony Cruz from the Cardinals for the other Jose Martinez (other as in not the guy who hit .384 in Omaha last year), it seemed a curious move. They already had a backup catcher who couldn’t hit in Drew Butera. But they had already let Francisco Pena go and needed another catcher who would be able to step in. Butera’s been very good defensively this spring and decent enough offensively. Cruz hasn’t been great in either aspect, so with his options, I expect him to go to Triple-A to start the year.

What Could Change?
Catching depth around baseball is ridiculously thin, so maybe the Royals trade one of their backups. Of course, they’re not getting much for either Butera or Cruz. Keep an eye on Parker Morin as a backup option to emerge throughout the season, though. He’s definitely not ever a starter, but he hits lefty and actually hit for the first time in 2015 in Double-A. The easy comp Royals fans will know is Brent Mayne, but if he can actually hit reasonably well, that’s a solid backup.

Paulo Orlando Complement
When Dyson went down, the right field competition seemed to be open enough, but Paulo Orlando would have had to lose the spot. Honestly, Orlando hasn’t been so great after a hot start, but I think he’s the guy to start the year, which leaves really two guys fighting for lefty hitting right fielders. Travis Snider and Reymond Fuentes are the two, and there’s not much of a competition right now. Snider has been nothing short of bad this spring, while Fuentes has lit up the Cactus League. Don’t be surprised if Fuentes even gets the nod on Opening Day since the Mets are starting Matt Harvey.

What Could Change?
Without an injury, not much. Plus, Dyson looks to be on track to return in the second week of the season. I guess Snider could go on an absolute tear and Fuentes could struggle, but based on what I’ve seen of Snider, I don’t see it.

25th Man
This is the spot that I think really opened up with Dyson’s injury, and the frontrunner appears to be Whit Merrifield. He put on muscle in the offseason, has hit very well in the spring and has some defensive versatility. I mentioned in Friday Notes that he isn’t on the 40-man roster, which brings up some logistical concerns, but the Royals seem to really like him. Some believe he could be competing for the utility role with Colon, but he’s very inexperienced on the left side of the infield, which showed on Saturday in San Antonio when he made a throwing error. I’m not sure how comfortable the Royals would be with him at shortstop even for a few innings, so he’s probably relegated to jack of all trades. Personally, I’m not sold, but they don’t let me make decisions.

What Could Change?
I would like to see the Royals have a power bat in this last spot. With four outfielders already and a versatile Colon to help in the infield, that seems to make a lot of sense to me. Snider is really the only guy in camp who fits that mold and could reasonably make the roster, so if he goes nuts, maybe he takes that spot and then keeps it when Dyson comes back and Fuentes could get sent to AAA. But likely not much will change.

So if you’re keeping score at home, here’s what I think the Opening Day roster looks like:

Salvador Perez
Drew Butera

Eric Hosmer
Omar Infante
Mike Moustakas
Alcides Escobar
Christian Colon
Whit Merrifield

Alex Gordon
Lorenzo Cain
Paulo Orlando
Reymond Fuentes

Designated Hitter
Kendrys Morales

Starting Pitchers
Edinson Volquez
Yordano Ventura
Ian Kennedy
Chris Young
Kris Medlen

Wade Davis
Kelvin Herrera
Joakim Soria
Luke Hochevar
Danny Duffy
Brian Duensing
Dillon Gee

With less than two weeks until the season begins, it’ll be fun to see how this plays out to see who’s on that first base line to get introduced while wearing those gold trimmed jerseys and hats.

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3 comments on “Royals Roster Coming Into Focus”

Solid speculation, Dave. I’d guess Merrifield would be the odd man out when Dyson returns.

David Lesky

Seems to make sense. I guess Fuentes could be, given the Royals affinity for versatility. This team often surprises me.

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