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Royals to host Alternate Site at Northwest Arkansas

The Alternate Site players may get to play in actual games.

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MLB: MAR 17 Spring Training - Royals at Rangers Photo by Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Major League Baseball will begin their season in April, looking to get back to a bit of normal. However, with the pandemic still lingering, the minor league season has been pushed back to early May. This means teams will once again set up Alternate Sites, as they did last summer, to host a squad of players available as reserves for the active roster in April. On Thursday morning, Assistant General Manager J.J. Piccolo revealed on The Border Patrol on WHB 810 that Arvest Ballpark, home of the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, would host the Royals Alternate Site in Springdale.

Piccolo explained that Omaha, home of their Triple-A affiliate, was considered, but the stadium had some conflicts, particularly with a new soccer team. The Kansas City Monarchs (formerly known as the T-Bones), who play at Field of Legends in Kansas Ciy, Kansas and hosted the Alternate Site last summer, had conflicts at as well. Piccolo also cited better weather in Arkansas, and the quality of the indoor baseball facilities at Arvest. MLB allows 20 to 28 players that are not on the active roster to work out at the Alternate Site and are available to be called up to the active roster in the first month of the season.

Unlike last summer, the players at the Alternate Site may get some actual game action against opposing players. Piccolo revealed that the Royals had discussed scheduling games against other Alternate Site squads in the region, particularly the Rockies, Cardinals, and Rangers. He explained that they can only play teams in the “testing cycle” and that MLB will not allow teams to be away from the Alternate Site while the Major League team is at home, so that the players can be available as needed. So scheduling games requires navigating the MLB schedules of both organizations.

Piccolo praised the success of the Alternate Site development last year, but added, “I don’t think there’s ever a replacement for game competition.’

As far as Bobby Witt, Jr., Piccolo praised the progress he has made, particularly in working the count and battling pitchers. He was pleased with the way players were performing in spring training, and said he was focused on the quality of how players were performing rather than focusing on a small sample size of statistics. He noted there are still a few roster battles in camp, and that discussions would take place in the next week about what the Opening Day roster could look like.

“There have been years where maybe we have to settle a little bit. I don’t think we’re settling, we’re just putting a team together that allows us to compete at the highest level on April 1. Those games in early April are just as important as games in September. You have to play well in April and May to have meaningful games to play in September.”

The Royals continue to be one of the more active teams focused on player development. They paid their minor leaguers throughout the pandemic, were aggressive in signing undrafted free agents, and Dayton Moore has been openly critical of the movement in baseball to reduce minor league affiliates. Their work on the Alternate Site last summer has been impressive so far, with Bobby Witt, Jr. performing well in spring training, and prospects like Seuly Matias and Nick Pratto looking much more improved than they did in 2019. The Royals should be applauded for looking to get their minor leaguers more game action.