Can you imagine if we had done this after one week? Or even two? Small sample sizes are wacky and it would have been easy to predict MJ Melendez and Jeison Guzman should be in the starting lineup on opening day. But now it’s definitely safe to go ahead and base decisions on what we saw in Spring Training, right? I mean, that’s the only reason I can imagine why they ended it early - because all the teams collectively came together and said, “Yep. We have enough information to build our rosters, now!
So for the Royals, things ended up shaking out with the lineups in much the way I think most of us expected. Salvador Perez should be the starting catcher by virtue of having the best OPS and Cam Gallagher will back him up. Nicky Lopez will open the season at shortstop and it looks like Whit Merrifield has finally fallen off that cliff Duggan was pushing him toward. That means the Royals twenty-ninth best prospect, according to mlb.com, Gabriel Cancel should be ready to make his debut. The Royals can still use Whit as a super-sub, spelling guys all over the diamond. Maikel Franco didn’t exactly break out but no one else realistically challenged him for the third base position and it was his to lose, so he hung on. For now, at least.
The battle of the Ryans ended up conclusively in O’Hearn’s favor, which is good for him and the team since he’s two years younger than his companion. McBroom still hit more than adequately well, however, and should be in the lineup as an outfielder or designated hitter most days. As for the outfield, there was a lot of fluctuation out there but ultimately it seems as though the opening day group should include Bubba Starling, Alex Gordon, and hotshot prospect Kyle Isbel. Alex said he came back to win and if he maintains that .812 OPS and continues being the worst of the three outfielders that should go a long way toward accomplishing just that.
There was a fair bit of uncertainty about the rotation coming into Spring Training but five guys ultimately stood out and, by all rights, should claim the spots. Jakob Junis and Danny Duffy aren’t surprises in this role at all, but the other three had to pitch their butts off (and watch everyone else who was making an effort completely fall on their face). Jorge López and Brady Singer both had outside shots at the rotation and they both climbed in. The final spot should go to a guy I don’t think many of us expected to see just yet, Daniel Lynch - who doubles as today’s lead photo. All five pitchers are striking out more than a batter per inning, Junis didn’t even walk a single guy all spring. It should be a solid unit if constructed correctly.
Finally, let’s talk about that bullpen. There have been some lights out guys down there all spring and now it’s finally time to see who should make the cut and who will go home. Or...actually... to Omaha and Northwest Arkansas, to be exact. The Royals should carry six righties; Trevor Rosenthal, Josh Staumont, Jake Newberry, Glenn Sparkman, Arnaldo Hernandez, and Yunior Marte. Of those six, only Sparkman allowed a run. Rosenthal was particularly impressive with multiple pitches topping 100 MPH and plenty of strikeouts, but the most promising sign for the veteran righty was his complete lack of walks. The difference, for him, between the dominant closer and the DFA candidate has always been how many walks he’s giving up.
The Royals will also bring two lefties, but they should both be familiar to those who saw the team, last year. Randy Rosario and Richard Lovelady are prepared to hold down the south side of the bullpen. Lovelady has quietly been very nearly as impressive as Rosenthal, he hasn’t allowed a run, struck out 12.5 batters per 9 innings, and didn’t walk a single guy. Rosario has fewer strikeouts but was very nearly as effective, carrying a sparkling 1.42 ERA during the preseason action.
As you can see, a large number of guys who were expected to make an impact fell off while prospects finally started to rise. Hopefully, the Royals will be able to find bench spots for guys like Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier. Ian Kennedy came into the spring as the presumptive closer but just hasn’t looked like his 2019 self at all; still perhaps the Royals can find someone to eat his salary if they add a prospect or two. Dayton Moore has said all off-season that he’s hoping this roster will compete for the post-season this year and it looks like he might have gotten quite a bit closer than most of us expected. The lineup isn’t full of All-Stars, but it should be solid enough behind a sturdy rotation and some lights-out bullpen work to get the job done. The twins had better keep an eye in the rearview mirror or they’ll quickly be eating Royal blue dust.