With nearly 100 free agents still unsigned, it may not seem like your typical spring training. Many of those unsigned players will be in a spring camp set up by the players’ union, while clients of Scott Boras such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas will work out at his facilities.
For those players that are signed with the Royals, workouts will begin this week, with actual baseball to be played in just a few short weeks. This year’s squad will look a bit different than the championship-winning team you may be used to. Let’s catch you up to speed with this guide to Royals spring training.
Where is spring training?
The Royals will begin their 16th season working out in Surprise, Arizona, about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix. They share a complex with the Texas Rangers, with fifteen teams in all calling Arizona their winter home.
Surprise was a small town of about 40,000 when the Royals moved their in 2003, but the city has grown to over 117,000.
What are some dates to know?
February 13 - Pitchers and catchers report
February 14 - Pitchers and catchers first workout
February 18 - Position players report
February 19 - Full squad workout
February 24 - First spring training game vs. Dodgers
March 25 - Final spring training game vs. Cubs
March 26 - Exhibition game vs. Storm Chasers in Omaha
March 29 - Opening Day at home against the Chicago White Sox
The Royals will play 33 exhibition games, including an exhibition game against their AAA affiliate, the Storm Chasers in Omaha, Nebraska. You can find the complete schedule here. At least 13 games will air on KCSP 610 Sports in Kansas City, with audio of all games streaming on MLB.com. Fox Sports Kansas City will broadcast ten games, starting with the March 2 game against the Padres.
The final spring training game on March 25 against the Cubs will air on WGN. If you are in the Phoenix area and wish to attend any games, tickets are available on the team website.
The roster is much less set than in previous seasons. The Royals are expected to go with a much younger club, and there could be several roster spots up for grabs.
The Royals are keeping this seat warm for Eric Hosmer, having extended him a seven-year contract offer. In the meantime, they are prepared to go with former first-round pick Hunter Dozier at first base for now, with Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel giving him competition. Samir Duenez is coming off a nice season in AA, but is probably at least a year away. If they aren’t able to re-sign Hosmer, look for the Royals to bring in a cheap veteran to compete, possibly a Mark Reynolds or a Lucas Duda, or they could even bring back local product Logan Morrison, although he is likely expecting a two- or three-year deal.
Lorenzo Cain will be patrolling the outfield in Milwaukee this year, leaving a void at Kauffman Stadium. Paulo Orlando is expected to have the inside track on a starting job, but after a poor 2017 season, he will probably split time with others. Billy Burns is younger and a switch-hitter, bringing plus speed, but his defense is lackluster and he has not provided much offense. Look for former first-round pick Bubba Starling to get a long look, despite many offensive struggles in the minors. The Royals could also think outside-the-box, possibly moving Alex Gordon to center, or moving shortstop Raúl Mondesí to patrol center.
The Royals had the fourth-worst starting pitcher ERA in the American League last year, and have sought to get younger. Danny Duffy has been subject to trade rumors, but he is penciled in as the Opening Day starter. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel slot in behind him, although the Royals may try to move Hammel and his $9 million salary. Jakob Junis, who impressed in his rookie season last year, likely has solid footing in the rotation with Nate Karns having the inside track for the fifth spot.
Injuries or trades could open up a spot for Jesse Hahn, who was a 2.7 WAR pitcher over his first 30 MLB games, according to Fangraphs. Trevor Oaks, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Scott Alexander deal, could also compete for a rotation spot along with Eric Skoglund, Miguel Almonte, Sam Gaviglio, free agent Scott Barlow, and Rule 5 acquisitions Brad Keller and Burch Smith.
Royals fans have been accustomed to HDH, but only Kelvin Herrera remains of that dominant trio, and he is coming off a season of struggles. Herrera is on the trading block, and may not be a lock to be the closer. Brandon Maurer and Wily Peralta are about the only other locks for a roster spot, with the rest of the spots up for grabs.
Many of the rotation candidates could end up in the bullpen, where many starters have enjoyed success in shorter stints. Holdovers like Andres Machado, Kevin McCarthy and Brian Flynn are expected to be in the mix. The Royals added veteran Blaine Boyer last week to compete for a spot. The Royals have some intriguing arms that could make their Major League debut this year, like lefty Richard Lovelady, right Kevin Lenik, and oft-injured right-hander Kyle Zimmer.
Are you planning on going to spring training? Have you been before and want to share your tips and advice for going to practices and games?