Baseball is aiming to return in July, if it can develop appropriate safety protocols and work out compensation issues with the players’ union. Players will likely have a truncated spring training to get back up to speed, but that likely won’t be enough to get them fully ready for regular season action.
Accordingly, MLB has proposed expanding rosters to 30 this year, in addition to having a 20-man taxi squad of reserve players in case there is no minor league baseball played this summer. This would allow managers to ease pitchers back into their regular workload, and give regular players more off-days to reduce the risk of injury. The taxi squad would be used to replace injured or ineffective players, in the same role as the minor leagues typically serve. Presumably players not on the 40-man roster can still be on the taxi squad, but will have to be added to the 40-man once they are added to the active roster. It is unclear whether inactive players can be added to the taxi squad.
The Opening Day roster for the Royals was starting to come into focus when spring training was suspended in mid-March, but there were still some roster spots up for grabs. These are just my projections, of what an expanded roster and taxi squad might look like this summer.
Catchers (2): Cam Gallagher, Salvador Perez
Salvy’s back! The Royals will likely want to rest him a lot after he missed an entire season after Tommy John surgery, and Gallagher filled in admirably as a backup last season with solid defense and good framing behind the plate. Meibrys Viloria seems to be next in line if the Royals need a third catcher, and Nick Dini may be on the taxi squad too just in case.
Taxi squad (2): Nick Dini, Meibrys Viloria
Infielders (6): Maikel Franco, Nicky Lopez, Erick Mejia, Ryan McBroom, Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O’Hearn
The starting infield is already, with Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom likely forming a “loose platoon” at first base. Nicky Lopez will start at second and the hiatus will likely give Adalberto Mondesi enough time to recover from his shoulder injury and be ready for the start of the seasons. Maikel Franco will start at third. An expanded roster give the Royals more flexibility to add a reserve infielder, and it will likely come down to Humberto Arteaga, Erick Mejia, and veteran journeyman Matt Reynolds. Mejia has a bit more offense, is a switch-hitter, and is capable of playing the outfield, so I predict he’ll get the nod.
Kevin Merrell has some versatility as well and is a good speed option the Royals may want to get a look at down the line, so I can see him on the taxi squad with glove man Humberto Arteaga, third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, who is recovering from a foot injury, and Reynolds.
Taxi squad (4): Humberto Arteaga, Kelvin Gutierrez, Kevin Merrell, Matt Reynolds
Outfielders (6); Hunter Dozier, Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Brett Phillips, Jorge Soler, Bubba Starling
The starters are set with Gordon, Merrifield, and Dozier in the outfield and Soler likely spending most of his time at DH. Both Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling are out of options, but with expanded rosters they each stand a much better shot at making this team as a defensive reserve.
Nick Heath could be considered later this season as another speed option, and the Royals may want to get a long look at Khalil Lee at some point.
Taxi squad (2): Nick Heath, Khalil Lee
Starting pitchers (6): Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Jorge López, Mike Montgomery, Brady Singer
The Royals were considering Brady Singer for a spot in the rotation before the pandemic hit, so with expanded rosters and potentially no minor league season, it makes it much more likely he begins as a starter with Kansas City. To ease starters back into action, teams could deploy six-man rotations, which means the Royals could carry Singer as well as López, who is out of options.
If the Royals are done seeing what López can do as a starter, other starting options could be Foster Griffin or Jesse Hahn. Eric Skoglund was nursing an injury in camp, but could be an option as well, and Jackson Kowar could make his MLB debut this year.
Relief pitchers (10): Scott Barlow, Jesse Hahn, Tim Hill, Greg Holland, Ian Kennedy, Randy Rosario, Trevor Rosenthal, Glenn Sparkman, Josh Staumont, Stephen Woods, Jr.
Ian Kennedy and Scott Barlow are locks, and the Royals purchased the contract of Trevor Rosenthal back in March, meaning he will make the team as well. Jesse Hahn seems like a good bet to be in the bullpen if he doesn’t make the rotation, and Tim Hill has been a valuable lefty specialist. The Greg Holland reunion had mixed results in camp, but the Royals seem likely to keep him if he can stay healthy. The Royals were talking up Glenn Sparkman as a reliever in camp, and Josh Staumont looked very impressive in spring training play. The Royals would have to keep Stephen Woods, Jr. or return him to Tampa Bay, and Randy Rosario would have to pass through waivers if he’s not on the active roster.
Richard Lovelady is recovering from knee surgery, but he could be up pretty soon. Expect to see Kevin McCarthy, Jake Newberry, and Gabe Speier on the active roster quite a bit. Kyle Zimmer will need to iron our his command issues. Tyler Zuber looked impressive in camp and has a promising future as does Daniel Tillo. I don’t have Braden Shipley on this taxi squad, although he could take the place of Eric Skoglund, Randy Rosario, or Heath Fillmyer if those players don’t make the roster.
Taxi Squad (12): Chance Adams, Foster Griffin, Heath Fillmyer, Jackson Kowar, Richard Lovelady, Kevin McCarthy, Jake Newberry, Eric Skoglund, Gabe Speier, Daniel Tillo, Kyle Zimmer, Tyler Zuber
What do you think? Who would be on your 30 man roster?