The Royals are far back in the standings, and while that stinks for fans who can still remember some exciting pennant runs, the losing does provide the opportunity to audition young players at the Major League level to determine who can be part of the future. The Royals will be able to get a look at more young players once the minor league season ends and Major League rosters expand in September. Teams can call up anyone on the 40-man roster, although this may be the last year for “September callups” with talk that baseball may limit September roster to 28 next year. The Royals currently have 36 players on the 40-man roster, so they would have some flexibility to add players to the roster.
Who could we see on the Royals’ roster come September? Here are some possibilities.
Danny Duffy pitched a simulated game on Tuesday and the club will make a decision on whether or not to activate him this week. If the Royals decide to give him more time to return from his hamstring injury, he could come back up when rosters expand.
Cam Gallagher went on the injured list on August 8 with tightness in his side, but the Royals have offered no timetable on his return. If he returns this season, he could be another addition to the roster, and the Royals would likely love to have three catchers in September to allow more late-inning moves.
Jorge Bonifacio has been a bit lost in the shuffle, especially after a down year in Omaha in which he hit 20 home runs, but batted .221/.282/.430. The Royals may bring him back as an extra right-handed bat, but with Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling already up, there may not be many at-bats left over for Boni.
Heath Fillmyer gave up 15 runs in 15 innings with the Royals this year, and has been hurt much of the year with Omaha. He has come back recently as a reliever, and he could return as an extra arm in the bullpen, although the clock is ticking for the 25-year old right-hander.
Brian Flynn would have to be added back to the 40-man roster, so I’m not certain he’ll get a callup. He was designated for assignment back in July, is 29 years old, and hasn’t been all that good, so there’s probably not much more to evaluate with him.
Kelvin Gutierrez appeared in 20 games earlier this year, although his bat was underwhelming and his glove was not as advertised. He has been on fire in Omaha this month, and with Hunter Dozier now playing right field and Cheslor Cuthbert in a slump, the Royals may want to get an extended look at what Gutierrez can do at third.
Eric Skoglund didn’t get into a game when he was called up, but he should be back up in September. The 26-year old lefty has struggled since coming back from a PED suspension, but the Royals need to find out if he has a place in the future with them.
Kyle Zimmer raised optimism in some fans before the year and he has stayed surprisingly healthy. His results have been mixed this year, and the Royals want him to improve his command. A September callup seems like a good time to see if he can throw strikes.
The top prospects
Jackson Kowar has been outstanding at Double-A Northwest Arkansas with a 3.41 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 60 2⁄3 innings after a promotion from Wilmington. Brady Singer has turned the corner after a rough start with the Naturals with a 2.34 ERA in his last seven starts. Khalil Lee has spent all season with the Naturals and has swiped 50 bases while hitting .260/.366/.368.
However the Royals are typically reluctant to add players to the 40-man roster until they have to. None of these players will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter, so the Royals seem unlikely to call any of them up in order to keep spots open to protect other players or pluck players from other organizations. The club has also sugested they will be more patient in promoting players to the big leagues than they previously did, so don’t expect to see any top prospects coming to Kansas City this September.
Guys on the 40-man roster
Scott Blewett had some hype in spring training as a dark horse bullpen candidate, but he had a disastrous season in Omaha and although he is still just 23, he seems like he could be a 40-man roster casualty this off-season.
Conner Greene was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals, but his numbers this year at Double-A Northwest Arkansas were rather underwhelming (5.29 ERA, 7.9 K/9). He has some interesting velocity, so he could get a look.
Arnaldo Hernandez has also struggled in Omaha, although he has pitched a bit better lately. His numbers don’t really warrant a callup, but he is 23 with a live arm, and the Royals may want to get a peek at what he can do.
Guys that may need to be added to the 40-man roster
Grant Gavin is a local kid who has never had eye-popping stuff but gets results at each level. The 24-year old right-handed reliever had a 3.35 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings for Northwest Arkansas this year and would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if left unprotected.
Foster Griffin doesn’t have a pretty ERA (5.35), but he has actually been above league-average (5.92) for the insane offense of the Pacific Coast League. He’s a lefty with a pedigree (former first-round pick), but he hasn’t really lived up to his potential and he went unselected in last year’s Rule 5 draft despite being unprotected.
Nick Heath seems like a good bet to be added to the 40-man roster, the only question is whether the Royals will add him in September and give him a taste of big league action. The outfielder leads all of affiliated professional baseball with 60 stolen bases and the Garden Ciy native has hit .252/.343/.383 across Double-A and Triple-A this season. Complicating things is the fact he hurt his hand this week and will head to the injured list.
Yunior Marte has gone unselected in the last two Rule 5 drafts despite a fastball that can hit 97 on the radar gun. He dominated at Double-A, and gave up a lot of runs at Triple-A, but struck out a lot of hitters at both levels, which could make the 24-year old a guy to take a look at in September.
Prediction: Bonifacio, Duffy, Fillmyer, Gallagher, Gutierrez, Heath, Mondesi, Skoglund, Zimmer