For me, Opening Day always becomes a reality when you can start to see the day on the forecast on whatever weather app you use. So here we are, just over a week from the Royals beginning their title defense and everything is starting to come into focus. Starting pitchers are getting deeper into games, the lineup is starting to play closer to full games and the bullpen looks like it’s in midseason form already.
For me, this is also the time where I start to think about what I haven’t liked during the spring and worrying if it might carry over into the regular season. I just can’t wait to get started. Once things get going, we don’t have to worry about what we think might happen and can finally find out exactly what does happen. And it can’t happen soon enough.
- At this point, it isn’t really a huge deal because Jarrod Dyson should only miss a few games, but I really don’t like the idea of Paulo Orlando starting a lot. It’s mostly just because I don’t think he’s very good. I mentioned that on Twitter the other night, expecting a lot of people to be up in arms with me, but most agreed me. Actually, the most common response I got is that he’s a fourth outfielder, so of course he isn’t that good. And while that point makes sense, I’m not even sure Orlando is a fourth outfielder or even a big leaguer. The power he showed last year was way more than expected, and if that can keep up, then yeah, he is a big leaguer. I’m not sure I buy the power. Personally, I’m not impressed by his defense or his bat. He’s a great story, no doubt, and he played a role in getting the Royals to a World Series victory. But that doesn’t mean that he’s a viable piece moving forward. I’m hoping he proves me wrong because he’s going to get the shot, but I think there are multiple better options in the organization (Fuentes, Eibner, Martinez to name a few). Like I said, I hope he proves me wrong, but what I really hope is that Dyson gets well quickly.
- Boy, the Royals sure do love their inventory. It’s worked out in the past, so I’m not saying it’s a bad strategy, just an interesting one. The other day, they optioned Brian Flynn and Scott Alexander to Triple-A. Flynn was pretty bad throughout spring training this year, but Alexander was incredibly impressive and made a good showing in September last season. Last year, you’ll recall, Flynn was sent to Triple-A in order to keep Ryan Madson and keep inventory high. That decision proved to work out well for the big club but not for Madson. This year, it appears that the decision to option Alexander was about keeping Brian Duensing or Chien-Ming Wang. My guess is the winner of the last bullpen spot will be Duensing since Wang can be sent down to the minors until May 1 before he can opt out. That allows them to keep all four pitchers in the organization. Keeping either of the two guys with options means losing at least one of the non-roster guys who have been impressive this spring. Dave Eiland and the Royals have tightened up Duensing’s slider this spring and it’s led to more swings and misses, so maybe he’ll be another success story.
- The Royals April is littered with some interesting matchups that have had relevance over the last two seasons. They play five of the six teams they’ve knocked out of the playoffs over the last two years (Mets, Astros, A’s, Orioles, Angels) and the other two series are played against division rivals Minnesota and Detroit. Detroit, of course, won the division for four consecutive years before the Royals broke through last season, while the Twins finished second last year, surprisingly. These 21 games are no more important than any other 21 games throughout the season, but they can really set a tone for the entire season. That first road trip where they go to Houston and Oakland is going to be especially big. We can get more into it when we get closer, but if the Royals can go 12-9 to start their year with that schedule, I think they’ll be primed for another big season. The key, though, is really to take at least two of three from both the Twins and the Tigers. It’s too long a year to bury them early, but it won’t hurt to show some dominance.
- The topic of who starts game one has been a big one since Ned Yost hasn’t yet announced who that will be. We know Edinson Volquez has said he’d rather not do it, but we don’t know how serious he was about that. We also know that the Royals believe that starting on Opening Day and being the “ace” last year went into Yordano Ventura‘s rough first half. Volquez pitched a minor league game on Wednesday and Ventura pitched one yesterday. That puts Ventura directly in line to start the opener, but I think some are being a little too simplistic about that. Yes, April 3 would be on Ventura’s rotation, but that doesn’t mean he’s the guy. The Royals have a few options. Volquez currently would be scheduled to go in the last spring game on April 2, which would then make him ready to go in game three. But my guess is Volquez makes his last spring start on Monday and pitches Opening Day. Then Ventura goes on game two and Ian Kennedy opens up the Minnesota series. What I’m more interested in is if the Royals take advantage of their strange first week schedule and go back to Volquez in game four.
- He’s not ready yet, but the spring from Raul Mondesi has been incredibly encouraging to me. No, he still hasn’t hit in the minors, but it’s good to see him have some success, even in a small sample and in an environment like Arizona. The Royals have said a couple times that they see him as a guy who might be better in the big leagues than the minor leagues, which I think is very possible. My point here is that the Royals second base job might very well be his before this season is over, even if he doesn’t put up the numbers in the minors that people want to see before he’s called up. He’ll obviously have to show a little bit more this season than he did last year, and he’ll still be one of the youngest players in his league, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mondesi is playing second base by August 1. It’s not like the trade market has a lot of attractive options on it, so why not give it a shot?