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Previewing the Royals 30-man roster and beyond

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The 30-man roster is but a moment of time. It is the Royals duty, therefore to use it, not to misuse it.

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Workouts
Jul 3, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) prepares to bat during summer workouts at Kaufmann Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

As it was, it was going to be hard enough to keep track of a 26-man roster rather than the 25-man version we’ve known for so long. Now with the shortened season and relatively quick Summer Camp, each team will start the 2020 season this week with a 30-man roster. After two weeks, they’ll cut down to 28 and then down to 26 two weeks after that. So let’s take a look at what that roster might look like when they start, but I want to also keep in mind how many players will be playing for their jobs before the roster size begins to cut down throughout this shortened season. I’m obviously assuming health for everyone, which is a risky proposition, but I also can’t see the future, so I’m not going to pretend to try.

Catchers

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, this was a very easy answer. Salvador Pérez and Cam Gallagher were going to be on the big league roster with Meibrys Viloria keeping fresh on the 60-man ready to go if needed. Then, the rash of COVID-19 hit the Royals catchers, taking down Pérez, Gallagher and Nick Dini while Viloria was placed on the IL with an undisclosed ailment. It sounds like Viloria is ready to come back, so if the Royals believe he’ll be ready for Friday, that would be helpful. They brought in Oscar Hernandez to help fill some of the gaps. His last big league action was in 2016 when he had 11 plate appearances as a 22-year old. He did post a .258 OBP last year in the Red Sox system, so that’s something to dream on.

30-Man Roster Projection: Salvador Pérez and Meibrys Viloria

Players at Risk: Viloria is probably the odd man out when Gallagher gets his two requisite negative test results. I don’t think that’ll happen before Friday, but it might, and when it does, he’ll probably take that spot.

28-Man Projection: Salvador Pérez and Cam Gallagher

26-Man Projection: Salvador Pérez and Cam Gallagher

Infielders

Kansas City Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez (1) grounds out in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park. Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

This group is pretty easy to look at and see how it’ll shake out. Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom were in a very real battle for first base, but then O’Hearn tested positive and pretty much guaranteed he wouldn’t be available for Opening Day, though he could come back at any time once he gets his two negative tests. Back in the real spring training, Maikel Franco was struggling a bit, but he’s started to hit in Summer Camp and with Adalberto Mondesí fully healthy now, the infield looks like complete with Lopez. The backups are interesting because two of them are starting outfielders. One, however, is not on the 40-man currently, but Erick Mejia has been getting rave reviews since spring. A lot of people want Bobby Witt, Jr. on this roster, and while some are joking, some aren’t. Those people who aren’t will be quite disappointed, but his great camp might get him pushed in the minors next year.

30-Man Roster Projection: Ryan McBroom, Nicky Lopez, Maikel Franco, Adalberto Mondesí and Erick Mejia

Players at Risk: Mejia is almost a lock for the 30-man, but he’ll need to really do some work to stay on the roster once it reduces to 26. His ability to play all over the field is nice, and he’s even been getting some reps as a catcher, but the Royals overall versatility makes Mejia’s a bit important on this particular roster. He did show a decent approach in his September call up, so if he can continue to hit, he might be able to keep his spot. A lot of that depends on the outfield situation.

28-Man Projection: Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan McBroom, Nicky Lopez, Maikel Franco, Adalberto Mondesí and Erick Mejia

26-Man Projection: Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan McBroom, Nicky Lopez, Maikel Franco and Adalberto Mondesí

Outfielders

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The starters, Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier are pretty easy to identify. Jorge Soler is also a duh roster spot. If Gordon looks as good during the season as he did to start last year and during intrasquad games, this is the best unit on the team, and it’s not close. Even if he doesn’t, it might still be the best. The rest of the roster is in question a bit, especially with the acquisition of Franchy Cordero in exchange for Tim Hill. Cordero is all tools with both top end power and speed. He’s likely to get some consideration in a fight with Brett Phillips for a roster spot. Bubba Starling was so good in spring and Summer Camp that he has excluded himself from that conversation for the time being. Options will likely play a role here, which I disagree with, but it’s the way of the Royals.

30-Man Roster Projection: Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler, Nick Heath and Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips

Players at Risk: This one is easy. Any or all of those last three could lose their roster spot if they don’t play well. With Mejia and McBroom’s ability to pay outfield, if they all struggle, they could all be off the roster by the time it drops to 26 or even before that when it drops to 28. Of course, the team wouldn’t have a true center fielder on the roster if they do demote all three. Plus, Starling and Phillips are both out of options. Someone is going to have to be removed from the 40-man to add Mejia as well (though he could take O’Hearn’s spot for the time being), so maybe I’m way off here and Phillips doesn’t even make it and Cordero is his replacement on the roster. The first four are obvious. Starling is basically a lock. The rest of it is throwing darts and these are the darts I’m throwing at this time.

28-Man Projection: Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler, Bubba Starling and Nick Heath

26-Man Projection: Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler, Bubba Starling and Franchy Cordero

Starting Pitchers

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When Brad Keller tested positive, it left the Royals with three experienced starters, none of whom elicit especially high levels of confidence. Keller is back now, and says he could be ready to go by the second series of the year, so I think he’s at least going to be back in the rotation even if he can’t get up to 80-85 pitches. He’ll join Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and Jakob Junis. The fifth starter could be a traditional starter, and I maintain if that’s the case that Brady Singer breaks camp with the team. They could also give that spot to Glenn Sparkman or Jorge Lopez or they could go with Foster Griffin, who wouldn’t require a 40-man roster spot to be cleared since he’s already there. Griffin in the rotation would likely require the Royals to split he and Montgomery up, which might be what they’re doing by scheduling Monty to pitch the first exhibition game. Just something to consider.

30-Man Roster Projection: Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Jesse Hahn (I guess?)

Edit: This might be a new record, but apparently Junis is now on the IL, so the original was already outdated.

Players at Risk: If this is the group, likely nobody is at risk of losing their roster spot unless Singer just completely looks overmatched. If any of the others are the fifth starter, they’re all in trouble as the roster shrinks.

28-Man Projection: Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Mike Montgomery and Brady Singer

26-Man Projection: Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Mike Montgomery and Brady Singer

Relievers

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Workouts Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This is the craziest group. The Royals are likely going to keep 16 total pitchers, so if they go with the five as projected above, that means there’ll be 11 relievers to start the year. Let’s start with the locks. Ian Kennedy, Scott Barlow, Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont are going to make the team. Kennedy and Barlow proved themselves last year while Rosenthal was so good in spring that he was added to the 40-man back in March. And Staumont has been absolutely filthy. The organization has been talking up Randy Rosario for months, so I think he’s there too. Kevin McCarthy has also been getting a ton of attention with his new splitter. Oh and don’t forget Greg Holland. He hasn’t been added to the 40-man yet, but I’d be surprised if he isn’t. Then take Jorge López and Jesse Hahn who are out of options and Glenn Sparkman, who the Royals still really like (and I would like to see as a middle reliever). That means they’ll have anywhere between one and four spots available for Chance Adams, Richard Lovelady, Jake Newberry, Braden Shipley, Gabe Speier and Tyler Zuber. The Tim Hill trade and Daniel Tillo injury clear this up a little, but still not a ton.

Note: I have the Royals not rostering Stephen Woods, Jr. I’m just having a hard time finding the spot for him now, but it could come at the expense of Zuber or McCarthy to start the season. Or they could decide to go with a 12th reliever. If they do, add in Woods here and probably say goodbye to Heath above. ETA: I wrote this before Junis went on the IL, which likely frees up a spot for Woods now.

30-Man Roster Projection: Ian Kennedy, Scott Barlow, Trevor Rosenthal, Josh Staumont, Randy Rosario, Kevin McCarthy, Greg Holland, Jorge López, Jesse Hahn, Gabe Speier, Stephen Woods, Jr. (he made it!) and Tyler Zuber

Players at Risk: Honestly, any after the top four could be dropped and/or optioned at a moment’s notice. Adams, Lovelady and Newberry will be locked and loaded ready to go, and the team could always look at Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch in a bullpen spot to get them some big league innings. This group could really go a number of difference directions.

28-Man Projection: Ian Kennedy, Scott Barlow, Trevor Rosenthal, Josh Staumont, Randy Rosario, Kevin McCarthy, Greg Holland, Gabe Speier and Tyler Zuber

26-Man Projection: Trevor Rosenthal, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, Greg Holland, Tyler Zuber, Kevin McCarthy, Richard Lovelady, Gabe Speier and Randy Rosario

So there it is. Your 2020 Royals. It may only last a couple months, but it’s all we have this year. Plus, they’ll probably be mathematically alive into September, so that’s, uh something.