From March through August and in the playoffs, a Major League Baseball team can field a roster of 25 players. Teams aren’t necessarily required to keep 25 players on the roster—a team might function with 24 players if there’s an injured player they don’t want to send to the disabled list—and rosters do expand to 26 on days in which a doubleheader is played. But 25 is the roster count.
However, for one glorious month, the month of September, active rosters expand. All players on the 25-man roster must be a part of the 40-man roster, a list of players that includes additional players on the 10-day DL and in the minor leagues. And in September, any player on the 40-man roster can play in an MLB game.
As the Royals flirt with a playoff spot, they will use expanded rosters as a chance to round out their roster and plug some leaks. The Royals have somehow dealt with both a lack of bullpen arms as well as a thin bench, and they’ll be able to massage those hurts with some extra guys.
Who knows—we might even see the Major League debut of someone interesting! Last year’s callups were headlined by the Major League debut of top prospect Hunter Dozier (even though he barely played).
This year, we might see more callups than normal, as their 40-man is populated by lots of AAA players with prior MLB experience in Kansas City. Here’s a look at who the Royals could call up to the big leagues.
Two years ago, Gore put up a .367 on base percentage in AA Northwest Arkansas in his age-24 season. That led to some excitement that Gore could be the next Jarrod Dyson. But in the intervening time, Gore’s offensive numbers in the minors have been rather flaccid—a 26-year-old with a .625 OPS in AAA isn’t exactly a top guy.
Still, Gore is an annual September callup for his speed and ability to swipe bags, and so he will be this year. Gore might just be the fastest player in professional baseball, and he boasts a 90% stolen base success rate in his pro career, which is as absurd as it sounds.
Yes, he was just on the team, but Cam ‘Sonic Slam’ Gallagher will likely be back as soon as rosters expand. Adding a third catcher on the roster allows a team more leeway in pinch running and pinch hitting for their other catchers. For example, it would allow the Royals to use Salvador Perez at DH the whole game, and if Drew Butera got on in the later innings in a tight spot, they could pinch run (with the aforementioned Gore) and put in Gallagher at catcher afterwards.
Torres has played in 23 games this season in a standard utility infielder role, despite making his debut on June 7 and despite Kansas City’s insistence that Alcides Escobar play every single inning at shortstop for the rest of time. He’s a speedy guy who can pinch run and play all infield positions well.
The starting second baseman for the Royals to begin the season has not played at the MLB level since May 21. Since then, all he’s done is mash at AAA Omaha, where he’s posted a cool .304/.342/.544 with phenomenal defense at shortstop and second base.
Kansas City loves the kid—he made his MLB debut in the 2015 World Series as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, and he somehow beat out Whit Merrifield for the starting second base job this year—so it’s pretty clear that he’ll return as soon as he’s able.
Paulo Orlando, Billy Burns
Remember Paulo, starting right fielder out of spring training? Ah yes, Paulo. He was bad, then he injured himself when he was sent to AAA Omaha, and hasn’t been great in Omaha.
But the Royals don’t truly have a backup center fielder on the team, so expect Orlando back on the team come September. The same logic applies to Burns, who has spent periodic time on the MLB roster this year.
While Soler was eclipsed by Jorge Bonifacio and has generally been a big disappointment, he’s beat the stars out of the ball at AAA, mashing 19 home runs in only 65 games. He’ll need to produce at the MLB level at some point, and the mere possibility of unleashing his power on opposing pitchers in September will be enough for the Royals to call him up.
Poor Dozier has had a terrible time this season. He began the year with an oblique strain, keeping him out for weeks. Then, less than a week after playing at AAA Omaha, Dozier broke his wrist. Shortly after getting back from that, Dozier was clocked by a pitch and broke his nose (though that didn’t stop him from continuing to play).
Despite all this ridiculousness, Dozier has a nifty .881 OPS in 23 games played this season. He’s spent time at first base, corner outfield, and third base defensively. He’s got some good offensive upside, so look to see him called up to contribute.
Brian Flynn, Sam Selman, Richard Lovelady
It’s the bullpen brigade! Flynn has experience in Kansas City and has been working his way back from broken ribs in a freak off-season barn accident. He has been stretched out as a starter recently in Omaha, and could fill any number of roles in Kansas City.
Now, Selman and Lovelady are two lefties who are not on the 40-man roster. Both have done well this year at multiple levels, and neither have made their MLB debut. There are a few DFA candidates on the 40-man roster, though, so adding them shouldn’t be too difficult. It just depends on how much help the Royals think they need in the pen.
Odds and ends
Bubba Starling is not likely to make his MLB debut this September, he is out for the year with an oblique injury. Frank Schwindel is a non-prospect, a right-handed, 18th round pick, 25-year-old first baseman who just saw his first action at AAA this season. That being said, he’s posted an impressive .328/.351/.552 line between AA and AAA this season, and could be a dark horse candidate for a cup of coffee and a chance to contribute some good at bats for a club that will need some.
Miguel Almonte has not pitched since late July, and he was recently placed on the 60-day disabled list due to a right rotator cuff strain. He will not be available for the rest of the season.
Kyle Zimmer has had a bevy of injuries and spooks, again, and hasn’t been particularly sharp even when on the field. He is currently suffering from “arm fatigue” after leaving his most recent outing hitting just 83-85 on the radar gun. If he returns soon, he could get a mercy callup, it’s more likely that he gets cut from the 40-man roster for a guy like Selman or Lovelady, who can both pitch without their shoulders and arms shredding apart with every pitch.