It may be a bit surprise to hear that spring training starts week, since over 100 players are still unsigned. But Royals pitchers and catchers will report tomorrow, with their first full workout on Wednesday. The rest of the team will report on Sunday, February 18 with the first full workout on Monday.
Many familiar names will be absent, and a rebuilding movement may require a program to figure out who is on the field. You can see the 40-man roster players that will be in camp. Let’s get to know some of the players not on the 40-man roster who have been invited to camp. They can be divided into two groups - minor leaguers in the Royals organization who aren’t on the 40-man roster, and veterans the club signed to minor league deals.
The youngsters in camp
Humberto Arteaga is a glove-first utility infielder who was originally signed for a bonus of $1.1 million out of Venezuela back in 2010. Now 24, Arteaga has never really come around with the bat, with a career line of .243/.280/.308. He spent last year in AA Northwest Arkansas, and will likely move up to Omaha. The Royals reportedly like his glove a lot, and you could see him called up to Kansas City some day if there is an injury, but he likely will be nothing more than a reserve infielder.
Scott Blewett was a second-round pick back in 2014 out of high school, and posted a 4.07 ERA in 27 starts for Wilmington last year. The 21-year old right-hander has an imposing frame at 6’6’’, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has been rather unimpressive. He has the stuff to make a jump in performance, making one of the better pitching prospects in the system.
Donnie Dewees was acquired from the Cubs a year ago for pitcher Alec Mills. The left-handed hitting centerfielder batted .272/.340/.407 with 20 steals in 126 games with Northwest Arkansas. The Florida native doesn’t stand out in any one area, but does everything well, hitting for some average, some power, drawing some walks, and playing solid defense. He will likely head to Omaha, but could be an option in center for Kansas City in a year.
Nick Dini hit .310/.381/.380 as a catcher for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals last year. He was a 14th round pick in 2015 out of Wagner College. While he doesn’t have much power, he has consistently hit at each level. He is in camp mostly to provide more catchers for pitchers to throw to, but you could see him in Kansas City someday as a backup catcher.
Terrance Gore should be familiar to most Royals fans as he has appeared in 49 Major League regular season games (plus eight post-season games) over the last four seasons as a pinch-runner. Likely the fastest man in baseball, Gore has 21 steals in 25 opportunities in the big leagues. His bat is not strong enough to make him a big leaguer, however, as he hit just .249/.310/.307 across AA and AAA last year. Now out of options, Gore would have to clear waivers if the Royals added him to the big league roster and later wanted him off the roster.
Foster Griffin is one of the better pitching prospects in the organization after posting a 3.35 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 161 1/3 innings across High A and AA last year. The lefty doesn’t overpower hitters, with a fastball in the low-90s, but he works effectively with a changeup and curveball. The 22-year old represented the Royals in the Futures Game last year and is likely headed to Omaha with a chance to be in Kansas City by the end of the year.
Kevin Lenik is an intriguing arm signed out of the independent Frontier League last year. He gave up just five runs in 24 innings (1.88 ERA) with 24 strikeouts for Omaha after joining the organization. Lenik has a deceptive crossfire delivery and can hit the upper-90s, making him a dark horse to make the Royals bullpen.
Jack Lopez was a promising prep player when he was drafted by the Royals in the 16th round in 2011. But his bat has never really come around, at age 25 he may not have many more chances in the Royals organization. The shortstop did have perhaps his best offensive season last year with Northwest Arkansas, hitting .281/.332/.366 in 95 games before struggling after a promotion to Omaha.
Nicky Lopez has drawn a lot of buzz after a solid campaign in Wilmington last year and an outstanding performance in the Arizona Fall League. The former Creighton Blue Jay was one of the hardest players to strike out in the minors last year, and he can draw a few walks as well. The shortstop did struggle after a promotion to Northwest Arkansas last year, so he could begin this year back in AA. He has good speed and draws raves for his attitude and leadership.
Richard Lovelady is already a legend in Kansas City for his unique name. But the left-handed reliever has a shot at making the bullpen with fastball that works in the mid-to-upper 90s. The 22-year old had a 1.62 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings across High A and AA last year, and has given up just one home run in over 90 professional innings. Lovelady has a plus slider, but has not had much of a platoon split, working equally well against both righties and lefties.
Erick Mejia was acquired from the Dodgers in January in the Scott Alexander deal. The 23-year old switch-hitting infielder hit .289/.357/.413 in 102 games in AA last year with seven home runs and 25 steals. He can play all over the infield and has flashed decent power for an infielder. He has a solid 9% career walk rate and could be up before long as a utility infielder.
Parker Morin is in camp to provide more catchers for the pitchers. He has been with the organization since 2012, but has never hit much, typically moving up and down the minor league ladder filling in wherever a catcher was needed.
Ryan O’Hearn was curiously left off the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, but the first baseman was not selected. He has some of the best power in the organization, knocking 22 home runs across AA and AAA last year with a line of .253/.330/.455. The 24-year old left-handed hitter could be in the mix at first base if Eric Hosmer does not re-sign, although he is probably a year away.
Frank Schwindel was probably the top hitter in the organization last year, hitting .329/.349/.541 with 23 home runs across AA and AAA. The 25-year old was also left unprotected, and there are doubts the first baseman’s success can translate at the Major League level due to his inability to draw any walks.
Glenn Sparkman made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays last year, after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He lasted just one inning, giving up seven runs, before being returned to the Royals. He has had Tommy John surgery before and has had trouble staying healthy in his career. The 25-year old right-hander could be an option for the Royals’ bullpen this year with his mid-90s fastball.
Josh Staumont has the most electric fastball in the organization, easily hitting triple digits on the radar gun. However, he has struggled mightily with command, walking over 200 hitters the last two seasons combined. Staumont took a big step backwards last year, posting a 6.28 ERA in Omaha before being demoted. Either he will need to throw strikes or a move to the bullpen will be in order.
Chase Vallot has tremendous power upside and the ability to draw walks, but has struggled to make contact. The 21-year old hit .231/.380/.438 with 12 home runs in the tough hitter’s environment in Wilmington. There are concerns his defense is not good enough to stick at catcher, but for now he will be in camp to help the pitchers.
The vets in camp
Cody Asche was a starter at third for the Phillies for about two seasons, but failed to hold onto his job and was let go. He spent 2017 with the White Sox, appearing in just 19 big league games. The former Nebraska Cornhusker is a left-handed bat with modest power, a low on-base percentage, and shaky defense. The 27-year old seems likely to spend the year in Omaha.
Blaine Boyer retired from baseball in 2012, but Dayton Moore talked him into coming back the next year. He pitched in Omaha for just a month before the Royals let him go, but he has pitched at least 40 big league innings or more in each of the last four seasons. The 36-year old is one of the lowest-strikeout pitchers in the big leagues, although his rate did spike last year. He posted a 4.35 ERA with a 3.59 FIP in 41 1/3 innings with the Red Sox last year.
Mike Broadway is a 30-year old right-handed reliever, who like Boyer, began his career with the Braves when Dayton Moore was there. He pitched 22 innings with the Giants from 2015-2016, even spending some time in Japan. He has become more of a strikeout pitcher in recent years, coming out of the bullpen.
Tyler Collins is perhaps best known for giving fans the finger during his time with the Tigers. The 27-year old left-handed outfielder has hit just .235/.299/.380 in 183 big league games, all with the Tigers. He will be competing for a fifth-outfielder spot and will likely spend time in Omaha.
Ryan Goins is a glove-first infielder who was the starting second baseman for the 2015 Blue Jays that faced the Royals in the ALCS. He is known to Royals fans for being the second baseman that allowed a fly ball to drop in front of him when he thought Jose Bautista had called him off. The 29-year old has hit .228/.275/.335 in five big league seasons.
Seth Maness was with the Royals last year, giving up four runs in 9 2⁄3 innings. The 29-year old right-hander made 244 relief appearances from 2013-2016 with the Cardinals, posting a 3.19 ERA. He suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament with them, but opted for an experimental procedure instead of the usual Tommy John surgery. Maness is a low-strikeout pitcher who relies on groundballs to get outs.