We’ve had about two weeks of Spring Training, now. That seems like plenty of time to make roster decisions, right? Well, I’m doing it anyway.
As we all know by this point, Salvador Perez is out for the year after having Tommy John Surgery earlier this week. That makes Cam Gallagher the de facto starter. The Royals are allegedly still talking to Martin Maldonado - who just made his second agent change in the last year - but things don’t look promising.
Can't imagine the Royals would offer him anything more than a one-year deal. https://t.co/gJFzcu3VbG— Royals Review (@royalsreview) March 8, 2019
I would argue this is a good thing. I lobbied for Nick Dini or at least Xavier Fernandez to take over the backup role but the Royals seem to be sending signals that Meibrys Viloria would be the guy. My biggest issue with this is that Viloria is actually a pretty promising prospect who has not spent significant time above A-ball. I would think sitting on the bench for a significant number of games this season would be very bad for his development. However, if they platoon him with Gallagher, it might not end up being that bad.
Frank Schwindel has an outside shot to get some playing time here; he’s smashing Spring Training pitching for the second year in a row and was actually drafted as a catcher. But as much as I would love it, I’m not holding my breath.
This is probably the position group on the roster with the least amount of volatility. Ryan O’Hearn, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, and Hunter Dozier all played well enough last year and with little enough competition in the form of minor league prospects to have a lock on roster spots. Chris Owings got a major league deal to be a backup to the entire roster so he’ll be around, too, and I’m counting him as an infielder because it’s easier.
There are a few easy calls, here. Alex Gordon, Billy Hamilton, and Jorge Soler all have large enough contracts and extensive enough histories that they’re going to be out there. Soler is probably going to be the DH with Hamilton in center and Gordon in left. Which begs the question, “Who is the right fielder and who is the backup outfielder?”
The Royals gave Terrance Gore a big league contract. He can’t be a starter, but he can be a pinch runner - though with a roster this fast it’s unclear how often he’ll get to run. Also, with Owings and Merrifield on the roster, the Royals have a couple of guys who are considered infielders who could easily shift to the outfield. I think that makes Gore the guy as the backup.
But that still leaves right field. If you were going only by playing time you’d think it was going to be Jorge Bonifacio. But just taking a quick glance at the games played leaders it’s primarily guys who aren’t likely to make the opening day roster like Nicky Lopez, Cheslor Cuthbert, Humberto Arteaga, and Schwindel. My guess is the Royals are playing the guys who won’t make the roster a lot early to see what they’ve got before demoting them to minor league camp as they let the starters play more innings. Bonifacio also hasn’t been performing well but his most obvious competitors - Brett Phillips and Brian Goodwin - have been even worse.
You know who’s played phenomenally so far this spring, including a two-homer day and, more importantly, more walks than strikeouts? Bubba Starling. We are two weeks into spring training and if the Royals had to make their 25-man roster today I think Bubba would be on it. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and go out on a limb and predict that he is your Opening Day starting right fielder. Mark it down.
We came into spring with three locks - Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, and Brad Keller. It has been suggested that Ian Kennedy might be headed to the bullpen but I find that idea implausible. Which means there is one spot remaining. Based on appearances so far this spring and how they performed last year I can’t see the Royals giving that spot to anyone other than Jorge Lopez. If Kennedy or Lopez aren’t in the rotation for some reason I would not be at all surprised to see Homer Bailey make it. Just a gut feeling
That leaves seven spots in the bullpen. Jake Diekman and Brad Boxberger both got new big league contracts so they’re probably in. Wily Peralta was the closer at the end of the year so I expect him to make the roster even if he loses that particular role. Brian Flynn makes a good swingman and just got an arbitration deal so he’s probably gonna stick around. Tim Hill and Kevin McCarthy were two of the better relievers last year so they probably have inside tracks. Kyle Zimmer, if healthy, probably needs one of those spots and he appears to be finally healthy *knocks on wood*.
So that’s 24 guys. Where does the final spot go? I think it will go to Rule 5 draft pick Sam McWilliams. If the Royals don’t keep him on the big league roster he has to be offered back to the Diamondbacks. He hasn’t pitched super well so far this spring but that could always change. Keeping him also aligns with general manager Dayton Moore’s apparent mission to never let a pitcher leave if he can help it. With the versatility of Merrifield and Owings and manager Ned Yost’s unwillingness to pinch hit most days, they don’t need a particularly deep bench, either.
So to summarize:
C Cam Gallagher
1B Ryan O’Hearn
2B Whit Merrifield
3B Hunter Dozier
SS Adalberto Mondesi
OF Alex Gordon
OF Billy Hamilton
OF Bubba Starling
DH Jorge Soler
C Meibrys Villoria
UT Chris Owings
OF Terrance Gore
SP Danny Duffy
SP Brad Keller
SP Jakob Junis
SP Ian Kennedy
SP Jorge Lopez
RP Brad Boxberger
RP Jake Diekman
RP Kevin McCarthy
RP Tim Hill
RP Wily Peralta
RP Brian Flynn
RP Kyle Zimmer
RP Sam McWilliams
What do you think? Am I out of my mind? Where am I wrong? Who would you rather see even if you think I’m right?