A New Look at the Right Twenty-Five

Miguel Tejada - doing what you have to do to make the Royals. - Tony Medina

The Royals appear to be done shopping this off-season. Could this be the roster that not only takes the field on Opening Day, but also moves the team into contention for the first time in 10 years?

On December 3rd, we took a pass at what the Royals' Opening Day Roster might look like. One week later came the Myers-Shields trade, so now we have a somewhat different view of how the roster might shape up. Let's go through the exercise once more, shall we?

STARTING ROTATION

1. James Shields

2. Jeremy Guthrie

3. Ervin Santana

4. Wade Davis

5. Luke Hochevar

The Royals play nine games in ten days to start the season, but then play just ten games in the next fourteen days thereafter. They will need a fifth starter on April 10th, but could conceivably go without one until the last weekend of April. That entire exercise, however, is irrelevant given that the two guys currently slated to battle for that fifth spot, Hochevar and Bruce Chen, are going to be on the roster no matter what. Barring a trade, of course, which this type of column has a history of spawning: please, please, please!

The nuances of the April schedule, however, would allow the team to break camp with seven relievers as whomever wins the fifth starter spot could be used as the eighth reliever for almost the entire month. It is also worth noting that five of the Royals' first 14 games are on the road in National League parks and they may want an extra bench player because of it.

Curious in all the comments coming out of the organization is the almost complete lack of mention of Luis Mendoza as a player in the competition for the number five spot. All he gave the team last year was 166 innings with a 4.23 ERA and 4.28 FIP and was basically the team's most consistent pitcher until Jeremy Guthrie came along. Mendoza is out of options and given how nervous Dayton Moore was about losing him last spring, it is hard to imagine that Moore has suddenly fallen out of love with the Dozer.

THE BULLPEN

1. Greg Holland

2. Kelvin Herrera

3. Aaron Crow

4. Tim Collins

5. Bruce Chen

6. Luis Mendoza

7. Juan Gutierrez

The trade for Shields and Davis made the battle for the final three spots in the pen all the more crowded. Chen's under contract, Mendoza's out of options and Gutierrez, should he pitch effectively, can refuse assignment to the minors. Others in the mix are Francisely Bueno (also out of options), Louis Coleman, Everett Teaford, Guillmero Moscoso, George Sherrill, Dan Wheeler and even Donnie Joseph.

This is a deep group, particularly if Sherrill were to 'get it back' and one wonders if a GM with some big question marks at second, right and even centerfield might want to utilize this depth to, you know, give himself some better options than Miguel Tejada, Endy Chavez and Xavier Nady.

As I mentioned above, the Royals really have no need to break camp with eight relievers given that they need a fifth starter once in the first three and one-half weeks of the year.

THE CATCHERS

1. Salvador Perez

2. George Kotteras

There is a rumbling here and there that Kansas City might break camp with three catchers (the third being Brett Hayes, who is out of options). The Twins did this for a few years with Mauer, Redmond and LeCroy, but it is pretty rare for any team, much less and AL team, to carry three catchers who really cannot play any other position.

INFIELD

1. Eric Hosmer, 1B

2. Billy Butler, DH

3. Chris Getz, 2B

4. Alcides Escobar, SS

5. Mike Moustakas, 3B

6. Miguel Tejada, UIF

7. Irving Falu, UIF

Second base is still slated to be a battle between Getz and Johnny Giavotella, but given that Getz is the second most revered player on the roster (in the eyes of Yost and Moore) I think he has a decided edge. That, and the fact that Giavotella is likely to commit three to four just hideous defensive misplays during the spring that will send him to Omaha sooner rather than later.

I have a hard time believing Tejada does not have some assurance that he is going to make the roster as long as he does not cause any trouble and at least occasionally hits the ball. As for the final spot, and I think this is the final spot on the entire roster, I think Falu might have the inside track simply because he can play just about everywhere (including the outfield) and that might be the key point given that the Royals have those five NL games in the first couple of weeks.

THE OUTFIELD

1. Alex Gordon

2. Lorenzo Cain

3. Jeff Francoeur

4. Jarrod Dyson

If the Royals don't keep a second utility infielder (Falu) then look for Endy Chavez to get an Opening Day spot as the fifth outfielder. Now something kind of interesting to watch will be what Xavier Nady does. Keeping Nady as the fifth outfielder might be a sign that the Royals actually do have Jeff Francoeur on a short leash.

Of course, trading Hochevar and his salary to clear some room to sign Michael Bourn would be a better sign, but I digress into fantasy.

When I wrote a similar column at the beginning of December, my scientific 'feel' put that roster at around a 76 win club. Using the same exacting metric, this update version feels like 84 wins and that is based on an almost illogical optimism with regard to Ervin Santana AND Wade Davis.

Improved yes. Improved enough?

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