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Lesky’s Notes: We’ll see what speed can do

There have been a lot of old friend alerts this off-season that have been homecomings.

Before we really get started, I just want to address the elephant in the room. If I decide that this edition of Lesky’s Notes has gone on too long, I absolutely refuse to roll it. That’s not how I’m built and that’s now who I want to be. Phew. Glad we got that out of the way. So far, it’s a pretty uneventful spring, which is actually a good thing. As I wrote on Inside the Crown this week with my second roster prediction for the hitters and the pitchers (won’t you please subscribe?), things are pretty well set for the vast majority of the roster, but there’ll be some bullpen battles, and those can always be fun. I really wanted to get into a breakdown of how spring is going for some players, but when I thought about what I wanted to say about Ryan O’Hearn going 2 for 7, I realized that it might be a touch too early for that, even if maybe it never isn’t too early in the spring. Hey, at least we get Brad Keller vs. Clayton Kershaw on television today.

The big news of the week for the Royals is bringing back Jarrod Dyson on a one-year deal for $1.5 million. As far as I know, the club hasn’t confirmed yet, but I have to imagine with Covid protocols that a physical during spring training maybe takes a little more time to get everything in order. From a pure fan perspective, it’ll be really great to see Dyson back in a Royals uniform. He was still weirdly polarizing during the short-lived glory years, but he was incredibly valuable to those teams and just played a huge role in the team’s success. My concern, though, is that he might just not be especially good anymore. He’s hit .213/.296/.288 over the last three seasons, and his sprint speed dropped in 2020 from 28.4 ft/s in 2019 to 26.9 ft/s.

That number is a bit odd to me as it’s a big drop after sitting between 28.2 ft/s and 29 ft/s between 2016 and 2019, so maybe there’s an injury, but Dyson is now 36. At some point, he was going to slow down, so it could have happened. It’s a small deal, so it can’t be that bad, but I’m skeptical. I don’t mind the idea of getting someone if they want to get Edward Olivares and Nick Heath every day at bats, and there wasn’t really anyone else available who can handle center and hit lefty, so maybe this was the best they could do. Now I just wonder if we see Nicky Lopez give up his number so Dyson can wear #1 again.

The announcement that the AAA season was going to be pushed back a month to match the rest of the minor leagues is one that I don’t think I was expecting, but maybe I should have. It’s a fair point that minor leaguers don’t travel charter when flying, so there is much more risk for them as MLB is working hard to mitigate the risk of bringing in potentially infections to the clubhouse. Instead, there’ll be alternate sites again for at least the first month and likely beyond that, though I’m not entirely sure how those will work. Maybe I’m way overthinking this, but I wonder how teams will fill out their alternate site.

While it looks like teams can potentially play some exhibition games against other alternate site groups if it’s close enough to travel without exposure to the public, there’ll be games far more easily played during minor league spring training. It might be tempting to put someone like Kyle Isbel at the alternate site, would the Royals prefer he continue to play games? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe a better question is for pitchers like Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar who seem to be on the precipice of their big league debut but it would probably be best to keep them fresh rather than intrasquad games and maybe the occasional game against a nearby alternate site, if there even is one.

After Hunter Dozier’s contract extension that was announced earlier this week, the question now becomes who is next. The obvious answer is Salvador Perez, and I’m just waiting for the news that comes out about that one because it seems pretty inevitable. But other than him, there are a few options. I have talked quite a bit about a Brad Keller extension over the last few months because it seems so obvious, but in thinking about it, the Royals love him and have likely been trying to sign him long-term for awhile. I’m not saying it won’t get done because I wouldn’t be surprised if that news breaks at any minute, but I just don’t think it’s necessarily right around the corner. I think they’ll want to wait a bit on Andrew Benintendi just to make sure he really has rediscovered what made him so good before his struggles.

Maybe Adalberto Mondesi is the guy they choose to extend, and maybe it’s the perfect time because he can probably be had for a reasonable price that could work even if he never really becomes anything more than passable with the bat and a good defender. I don’t think Brady Singer is the guy who will sign away the next few years of his career because I’d assume he believes in himself to the point that he wouldn’t do that for the discount it would require for the Royals to do it, but maybe Kris Bubic is someone who could be in that sweet spot. I’m curious to see how his command improves in year two, and I don’t know that he’s the guy either, but we haven’t mentioned him and I could absolutely see it.

The Royals yesterday announced there would be about 10,000 fans in the stands for the month of April, which will be a welcome sight after seeing baseball played in empty stadiums all throughout 2020. There will be monthly evaluations, and what I had heard back in late December or early January is that they were hoping to get to full capacity by around the All-Star break. I don’t know if that’ll happen or not, but it will be so nice to get out to a game and feel a little more like some normal times. For season ticket holders, be on the lookout early next week (I think Monday) for an opportunity to pick your seat, since you’ll likely have to move from your purchased seat for distancing purposes. While the Royals do have 13 home games in April, which is pretty normal for a month, they don’t have a single division home game in the month, not playing their first until May 3.

That could be a bit of a benefit for the Royals if the capacity increases significantly after April. I don’t expect it to, but you never know and maybe that gives the Royals a bit of a boost in the division with more fans in the stands for the games that theoretically are a bit more important given the unbalanced schedule. Looking ahead to after the break, they have their home series against the Yankees, Cardinals and Astros along with the usual assortment of division games to close things out. Maybe it’ll mean nothing, maybe it’ll mean something, but I think I’d personally prefer to have the big games with more fans in the stands if that does end up coming to fruition in 2021.