Baseball is finally kinda sorta back. I mean at least players are wearing uniforms now and there are reporters there to document their stretching and light throwing. This is one of the most parts of spring, though, because everybody feels great, everybody looks great and optimism can go crazy. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I’m really excited for the first time a reporter talks to Salvador Perez about catching someone and Perez talks about how filthy the stuff is. It’s just one of those things. Of course the Royals aren’t going to be good this year, but this is the time when you can squint and wonder if Maikel Franco puts it together and Adalberto Mondesi can play 140 games and Nicky Lopez added enough pop to make him dangerous and Brad Keller can strike out a batter or two more per game and all that good stuff. Sure they’re probably going to be out of it by Memorial Day but none of that matters today.
- Outside of the bullpen hodge podge, which I’ll get to in a minute, there are really only two camp battles. The first is at first between Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom. I just hope they both homer on St. Patrick’s Day. The way they’ve been talking up O’Hearn makes me wonder if this is even a real competition, especially considering that McBroom has options (so does O’Hearn, by the by). But I just have this strange feeling that McBroom is about to have a massive spring and actually make the Royals make a decision. He didn’t show much power in his small sample in September, but he was able to work some counts and he crushed offspeed pitches with an average exit velocity of 95.7 MPH. The sample is too small to matter, but it’s also the only sample we have. I just feel like he’s a good bet to take advantage of late inning at bats and the thin Arizona air. The other competition is the fifth starter role, which now appears to be between Foster Griffin and Brady Singer, though Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Jorge Lopez, Glenn Sparkman and Eric Skoglund have been mentioned. Yeesh, it really falls off after Lynch, huh? I’ve mentioned this before, but I’d like to get Singer some time in AAA before he comes up. I don’t really care about service time with a 24-year old pitcher, but I would just rather someone they’re pinning a lot of hopes on is actually ready when he makes his debut. They’re not winning this year, so I’d rather he come up a month late than a month early. I’d probably go with Griffin if he can maintain the velocity bump he saw this winter. Give him a chance to hold down the job and maybe the Royals find something like the Orioles did with John Means.
- The bullpen competition is one that I’ve talked about a few times, and it’s really interesting simply because of the sheer number of names, but if you read between the lines, there might only be two spots truly available. We know that Ian Kennedy, Scott Barlow and Tim Hill are basically locks, assuming health. It sure sounds like Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland are going to have to lose their spots rather than gain them (and I could be wrong but that’s my perception). And I think that Jorge Lopez is going to be given one final shot at the big league level. That’s six relievers and with a maximum of 13 pitchers on a 26-man roster, there are only two slots left. Stephen Woods, Jr. has the inside track to one of them as a Rule 5 guy, though the Royals have moved on from some in the past couple seasons. So what I was looking at a couple weeks ago as a competition among 20-25 names really boils down to one or two spots. Now, things could easily look different if Rosenthal continues to walk the world or Holland can’t get anyone out, but even in his worst struggles over the last few years, Holland has limited hits and hasn’t been terribly homer prone. I think it’ll be a pretty big uphill battle for a lot of pitchers to find that last spot or two in the bullpen and, as of right now, I’d give the edge to one of Randy Rosario or Gabe Speier and maybe Chance Adams. I hope that Richard Lovelady can have a good camp now that his knee injury is behind him. If so, that’d be big for the unit. It’s not the most encouraging thing ever, but that’s where we stand about three days into camp, in my opinion.
- I was on Cody and Gold on 610 the other day and Cody Tapp asked me a question of if I think the Royals will carry three catchers at any point. With the extra roster spot, I honestly never considered them using it on a catcher, but as I thought about it, it sort of made sense with Salvador Perez working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He just had the surgery in early March, which means Opening Day is less than 13 months after. Of course, Perez himself threw some cold water on that idea when he said he wasn’t interested in being a first baseman/designated hitter. Still, even with how fast he traditionally heals, the Royals would be silly to have him behind the plate as often as he was before the injury. Mike Matheny has had a workhorse at catcher before in St. Louis with some guy named Yadier Molina, so we’ve seen how he handles that kind of player behind the plate. It seems that once Perez is ready to go every day, he’s going to go every day. So no, as I think about it more, I don’t think the Royals will use that roster spot to house both Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria. And as much as I thought it was unlikely to be the case, I think Gallagher ends up the beneficiary of the extra playing time while Perez is sitting every few days and hopefully can pick up where he left off when he hit .327/.400/.612 in 55 plate appearances from July through his last game on August 4. He rated very well in framing runs and was above average in blocking runs, so if he can hit a bit, he’s a heck of a backup catcher.
- What I appreciate about the Astros scandal is that it’s a story that doesn’t appear to have an end in sight. The initial article after Mike Fiers blew the whistle came out in November and then punishment came in January. Since that punishment came down, there’s been a consistent barrage of stories going deeper and deeper into things and now we’re finding out (I guess we probably already knew on some level) that Rob Manfred, as yet another gold star next to his name, did nothing when this was reported to him prior to anything going public. Add to it the Astros making some of the worst apologies of all-time and this has the makings of an issue that’s going to go on all year. I remarked on Twitter yesterday that I would take the over on basically any line for IL trips due to HBP. That wasn’t a joke. Astros hitters are going to get plunked and get plunked often. While some may try to injure, most won’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. This is a big ol’ ugly black eye on baseball that isn’t going away anytime soon, and the Astros can stand at a podium before every team workout this spring to try to make it go away, but until they stand up and say they’re sorry and actually make people believe they mean it, they’re likely going to pay the price for it all year.