Lee Judge answered questions he gets from baseball fans, so I thought I’d do the same, answering some frequently asked questions I get. Just remember, I’m not as close to the dirt.
Why won’t Peter O’Brien get a shot to make the roster?
It is all about inventory. The Royals have Christian Colón and Cheslor Cuthbert both out of options, meaning they have to make the team, or the Royals risk losing them to another team on waivers. Assuming Whit Merrifield is the starter at second, those two would join Drew Butera and Paulo Orlando on the bench, with no room for any other players. The Royals could option Merrifield to the minors, and play Colón and Cuthbert at second, but the Royals seem to like Merrifield’s versatility and he seems to be the favorite to play at second based on last year’s play.
O’Brien has had a fun spring, but let’s also be real, we’ve seen lot of players have great spring training stats only to disappear in the regular season. We are talking about a handful of at-bats, many against pitchers that will be in AAA this year. Spring training stats shouldn’t matter much at all. O’Brien does have intriguing power and should get an opportunity at some point this year, but it will be based more on what he has done the last few seasons and not in the dry air of Arizona.
Are the Royals going to re-sign Eric Hosmer?
I don’t have any kind of inside information, but I have always been rather skeptical the Royals will bring him back. I think there is some desire to - they wouldn’t have engaged in talks with him if they weren’t serious. But Scott Boras is talking some crazy numbers right now. I certainly don’t think they’ll sign him by Opening Day, meaning Hosmer at least gets to free agency this fall. At that point, the Royals will be in the mix, but probably not the favorites.
It is interesting though that there isn’t a clear-cut replacement for him. Everyone knows Raúl Mondesí will replace Alcides Escobar. If Moustakas were to leave, Cheslor Cuthbert or Hunter Dozier would be the obvious replacement. Even Lorenzo Cain seems likely to be replaced by Paulo Orlando at this point, although the Royals could opt to go in a different direction. Ryan O’Hearn seems like he could be a replacement for Hosmer, but he isn’t an elite prospect or anything, and his high strikeout rate could be problematic. I suspect this is a big part of why the Royals were at least talking about re-signing Hosmer - they don’t feel like they can lose him.
Who will round out the bullpen?
I think the good money is on Peter Moylan to slot in behind Kelvin Herrera, Matt Strahm, Joakim Soria, Chris Young, Mike Minor, and either Nate Karns or Travis Wood. He was fairly effective with the Royals last year, with a 3.43 ERA in 44 2⁄3 innings last year, so the Royals know what he can do. he has an opt out in less than two weeks, so the Royals will have to make a decision on him. I know the team has been talking up Scott Alexander and Yender Caramo, but both have options and again - INVENTORY. The left-handed Alexander in particular, doesn’t make much sense since the Royals will already have lefties Minor, Strahm, and possibly Wood already in the pen. So look for Moylan to make the team, with Alexander and Caramo ready to be up before too long.
Esky’s not really leading off again, is he?
It looks like the Royals may finally be going back to Alex Gordon in the leadoff spot, although I won’t fully believe it until I see the first batter step into the box on April 3 in Minnesota. Ned says they are getting input from the analytics, but I imagine it is hard for him to shake the fact that he won a championship with Esky leading off. The other factor working against Gordon is that Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer will likely be two of the first four hitters in the lineup, so if Gordon joins them, that means three of the top four hitters are left-handed, making the Royals susceptible to left-handed relievers late in games.
Still, Gordon is the best hitter on the team at drawing walks. If you think last year was just an aberration and he can bounce back, Gordo makes the most sense.