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Lesky’s Notes: Summer camp is here

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Whoever tells the best horror story gets to start on Opening Day.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals
Sep 28, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Salvador Perez (13) connects for a double in the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As hard as it might be to believe, the Royals are actually going to work out as a team today at Kauffman Stadium. I wasn’t sure we’d actually ever get to this point, but here we are. At some point today as well, the results of the 2,000+ COVID-19 tests will come out and the number seems likely to be in the triple digits and will cause a lot of people a great deal of concern. I think I’ve said this a few times, but I’m going to say this again. They’re going to play whether they should or not, so for the time being, I’m going to be thrilled for baseball to be back for the Royals three weeks from today. And I’m going to have to figure out how to write series previews for the same teams over and over and over again for 10 weeks. And I couldn’t be more excited.

  • One of the biggest questions from these next couple weeks of training is how the Royals handle their fifth starter spot. The first four spots, barring injury, are set with Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis and Mike Montgomery (I think I just noticed how much alliteration they have in that rotation). The fifth spot doesn’t really have many candidates actually. Jorge Lopez is, of course, out of options and the Royals are likely to keep him around to give him one last shot to prove his worth before the prospects start to make their way to the big leagues. They could go with Glenn Sparkman, but they were talking him up out of the bullpen where his fastball can play up in middle relief. I think if we were looking at a full season, Foster Griffin might get a shot to make 8-10 starts, but I honestly don’t see it right now for him. And the other option is for the team to use some sort of opener in that spot, which Mike Matheny has been open to in every interview since he was hired. But ultimately, I think it’s Brady Singer’s job to lose. He was still in camp when things shut down in March and I believe they were looking to get him 20 to 25 starts this season in a full year. With a maximum of 12 or 13 starts, I imagine they’ll want to get as much out of him as they can this season. Where does that leave Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch (and to a lesser extent Kris Bubic)? I think they might have their opportunity with Montgomery a trade candidate, but I’d bet on Singer as the fifth starter to start the season.
  • I’m slightly surprised that the Royals announced a full 60-man roster on Sunday rather than leaving a couple spots open for potential additions, but looking at it, there weren’t too many surprises. I thought they might include Asa Lacy, but I’m not shocked they didn’t. I had heard either Saturday or early Sunday that they were planning to include Seuly Matias, which made me believe they were going to include Nick Pratto as well, so that didn’t really grab me. I think a lot of people look at those two in addition to Bobby Witt, Jr. and feel like the Royals potentially wasted some potentially valuable roster spots. I mentioned this on this week’s Royals Review Radio, but in the past 10 seasons, the Royals have averaged 46 players. That’s in a full season of 162 games that includes early season weather issues leading to double headers as well as potential extra arms needed after extra inning games that we likely won’t see this year. I think there’s a chance for more injuries than usual given the unusual start and training period, but even so, there’s very little chance they ever get to the 50th player on the roster, let alone the 60th, so I think it makes sense to get some of the guys who the organization has the most invested in to work with the big league staff as part of the additional 30-34 players on the roster. And it’s not like they may not be able to add players later on. Yes, replacing a player on the 60-man means having to either release or expose them to waivers, but there are likely to be some guys who end up not working out or even some trades down the road. So maybe come late August the Royals will be hovering around .500 and want to make a move to try to make a run and they’ll add Lacy to the roster and they’ll figure out how to do that.
  • I kind of reminded everyone last week of the storylines we were watching in camp when things got shut down in March, and of those, I think the three biggest ones I’m interested in are (in no particular order) the health of Salvador Perez and Adalberto Mondesi, the young arms and the first base battle. I’ve mentioned the young arms above, but one more point to add is that I do think there’ll be innings for guys like Kowar and Lynch if they want to find them, so I’m not too worried about that. With Mondesi and Perez, there isn’t much to talk about because I just want them to be healthy and productive. But the first base battle is an interesting one to me. Both Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom were playing very, very well in Surprise and my hope is that the Royals are given a terribly difficult decision. What kind of concerns me about McBroom is that the Royals new schedule is one that might make it tough for him to make an impression. They’ll play 46 of their 60 games against the Twins, Indians, White Sox, Tigers and Cardinals. Those five teams have four, maybe five left-handed starters. The other four NL Central teams do have a few lefties, so he’ll get some opportunities, but if it’s a straight platoon, it might be tough for McBroom to find plate appearances, and that’s too bad because I was really looking forward to seeing what he can do after O’Hearn had a rough 2019.
  • Following his breakout last year, there was talk of the Royals looking for a contract extension with Jorge Soler, and now that he’s lost 102 games out of the 324 total he had left under team control, you have to wonder what’s changed there. For one, the team has clearly lost a fair amount of revenue over the first four months of the season, but for another, Soler finds himself so much closer to free agency that maybe he isn’t willing to sacrifice free agent riches. But on the flip side, there’s a pretty good chance the free agent markets over the next couple years at least will be very light, especially for a player like Soler who doesn’t play defense. Of course, the National League likely adopting the designated hitter full time in 2022 will give him more options for teams, but I still think his best path to a payday is going to be with a contract extension in Kansas City. If that’s a good idea is another story entirely, and one that I’m honestly not sure about. I truly do go back and forth on that. But if the Royals came to Soler right now and gave him a three-year deal to start next season that paid him $36 million, I’d have to think he’d at least consider it right now. The number might need to be a bit higher, but Nelson Cruz getting two years and $26 million should tell Soler there isn’t a massive market for a DH-only. Sure, Cruz was heading into his age-38 season, so that’s why there might be some room for a bigger deal, but I would think the uncertainty with future free agency and the collective bargaining agreement might make it more likely the Royals can reach a deal with him than there may have been before.