Spring is just around the corner, but for the Kansas City Royals, it begins this week in the warm sun of the Arizona desert. Baseball is back, but to catch you up to speed, here is a handy guide on what you need to know about Royals spring training.
Where is spring training?
The Royals are one of fifteen teams that train in Arizona. They share a stadium with the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Arizona, about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix. Tickets are available on the team website or by calling (623) 222-2222.
Important Dates to Know
February 13 - Pitchers and catchers report
February 14 - Pitchers and catchers first workout
February 16 - Position players report
February 17 - Full squad workout
February 25 - First exhibition game vs. Rangers
March 8 - Exhibition game against the Venezuelan National Team
March 31 - April 1 - Exhibition games in Arlington, Texas vs. Rangers
April 3 - Opening Day in Minneapolis, Minnesota vs. Twins
April 10 - Home opener in Kansas City vs. Athletic
The Royals will play 35 exhibition games, including a matchup on March 8 against the Venezuelan National Team as they tune up for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Ten spring training games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Kansas City, starting on March 10 against the Athletics. KCSP 610 in Kansas City will air 20 games on the Royals Radio network, and audio of all games will stream on MLB.com. You can find the complete schedule including TV and radio schedules here.
The Royals will have 64 players with them in spring training. Here is a complete roster of players in camp with the Royals.
The roster is set with entrenched veterans and many positions, but there are still a few battles left for spring training.
The club would probably love it if Raul Mondesi lit up the Arizona skyline with dingers and showed he could hit Major League pitching. The 21-year old struggled mightily with the bat in 149 plate appearances last year with a line of .185/.231/.281. He has the speed and the glove to play at the big league level, but the Royals may prefer he develop his bat more in Omaha.
That would leave Whit Merrifield in line to take the starting second base job, although Cheslor Cuthbert did work on playing second base in winter ball. Moving from third to second is a difficult transition, especially for a player not known for his lateral quickness, like Cuthbert. However with Moustakas returning, and Cuthbert out of options, the Royals may have little choice but to let him get some reps at second to get him playing time. Christian Colon could also be in the mix, but he is likely looking at a reserve role.
The Royals found out how important it is to have depth last year, when they suffered a number of key injuries. Drew Butera will return to be the backup catcher, although Brayan Pena was brought in as veteran insurance in case anyone gets hurt. Whoever doesn’t win the starting second base job will likely serve as a utility infielder. Cheslor Cuthbert could have an uncertain role if he doesn’t start at second since he is blocked by Mike Moustakas at third base. The outfield will feature Paulo Orlando as a fourth outfielder, but there may not be room for a fifth outfielder, which could leave speedy Billy Burns (who still has one more option year) and power-hitting Peter O’Brien off the roster.
The first four spots in the rotation are filled - Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, and Jason Vargas. Nate Karns is a heavy favorite for the fifth spot, but if he falters or gets hurt in camp, that could open competition up to other candidates. Chris Young had a disastrous 2016 season, but made a World Series start the year before that and could be due for a bounceback year. The upside of young lefty Matt Strahm is intriguing, but the lure of having him as a shutdown reliever may be too enticing for the Royals. Kyle Zimmer and Mike Minor will both try to prove their health, but are long-shots to make the rotation.
The days of H-D-H are over, and while Kelvin Herrera still remains, the Royals don’t begin the spring with the kind of bullpen depth Royals fans are accustomed to. Joakim Soria will look to recover from an awful 2015 campaign with two years left on his deal. Brian Flynn emerged as a decent left-handed option out of the bullpen last season. After that, the rest of the bullpen looks wide open, with young, unproven arms like Kevin McCarthy, Andrew Edwards, and Scott Alexander competing with veterans like Seth Maness, Al Alburquerque, Brandon League, Bobby Parnell, and Jonathan Sanchez. Dayton Moore has done a good job patching together bullpens on the cheap in his career, but he will have his work cut out for him this spring.