The Royals may be off to a hot start in 2021 but it’s hard not to keep one eye on the future stars we have heard so much about.
Due to the pandemic, the minor league season is delayed until early May. Following last season’s format, each team is having an alternate site camp for the top prospects and 40-man roster players who are not with the big club play to stay ready for when their season begins.
This year, the Royals’ Alternate Site is located in Springdale, Arkansas at Arvest Ballpark, home of their Double-A team, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The Alternate Site players include Edward Olivares, Ryan McBroom, Lucius Fox, Kris Bubic, and top prospects Bobby Witt Jr., Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar.
For a four-day stretch from April 15-18, Arvest Ballpark allowed a limited capacity to attend the spring training-style intrasquad matchups. One of those nights, I got a front row seat to get a taste of what the Royals’ future holds.
Game Notes from the Intrasquad
- Daniel Lynch is a stud. I only wish I would have kept track of how many batters Lynch struck out because it had the feeling at times that he didn’t need his fielders behind him. He finished his six innings without a runner getting to second base.
- Jackson Kowar battled all night holding his own though he clearly didn’t have his best stuff. The only blemish for the right-hander was a two-run home run Ryan O’Hearn belted to left-center.
In a battle of former #NWANaturals, 1B Ryan O’Hearn gets the better of RH Jackson Kowar with a 2-run during tonight’s Simulated Game. #TogetherRoyal #ArvestBallpark pic.twitter.com/aE0nZbTjhj— NW Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) April 18, 2021
- Bobby Witt, Jr. was a victim of Lynch’s dominant night going 0-4 with 3 K’s. However, he did look comfortable playing third which included making the play of the night. A diving stop to his left, then throwing out the hitter from his knees.
- Lucius Fox is an exciting name to watch. The switch-hitting shortstop who came to the Royals in the Brett Phillips trade with the Rays last season has elite speed and athleticism. The 23-year-old got to show his wheels when he beat out an infield hit off of Lynch.
This week, a group of the alternate site squad headed south in a two-game exhibition series with the Texas Rangers’ Alternate Site team. These games were covered by Andrew Felts of the Round Rock Express.
On Friday, Daniel Lynch continued his strong 2021 campaign going 5 1⁄3 innings allowing one earned run, with four walks and five strikeouts. The bullpen consisting of Grant Gavin, Andres Sotillet, Gabe Speier, and Jace Vines combined for 3 2⁄3 innings giving up one run.
The offense gave Lynch an early cushion with two runs in each of the first three innings. Edward Olivares got things started leading off the game with a single and then scoring on an Emmanuel Rivera double. Bobby Witt, Jr. then got Rivera home on a single. In the second, Gabriel Cancel belted a two-run home run to take the 4-0 lead. The Royals squad led from beginning to end, winning 7-2.
Saturday afternoon, the two-game exhibition series ended with a 10-inning battle that ended with the Rangers alternate site team winning 4-3. Kris Bubic took the bump and was solid over five innings work, allowing one run and striking out six. Jackson Kowar went the rest of the way giving up three runs on three hits.
The Royals’ offense went quiet for the first seven innings until they scored two in the eighth thanks to a pair of singles by Meibrys Viloria and Clay Dungan. Edward Olivares got another one across with a sac fly. The Royals attempted a tenth inning comeback but fell one run short after a Kyle Isbel sac fly scored Olivares.
With the minor league season start approaching soon there will be a lot of fan and media scrutiny over which players are placed where. Expect all players from the Alternate Site roster to be placed either with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals or Omaha Storm Chasers.