Most roster spots are filled before spring training even begins, but it can still by an open tryout for the last few bench and bullpen spots. With rosters expanding to 28 to begin this season, there is a greater chance we could see an unexpected face on the roster. There have been a few surprises when the roster is revealed on Opening Day, here are some from the last ten years.
Miguel Tejada, 2013
It didn’t seem like the former MVP had much left in the tank, having spent three months in the minors in 2012 before being released. But the Royals signed him to a minor league deal hoping he could show a little something, and he earned a spot on the roster, playing adequately in 53 games with a line of .288/.317/.378. A calf injury cut his season short, coupled with a suspension for amphetamine use.
Paulo Orlando, 2015
The 29-year old Brazilian was a long-shot to make the team, but he beat out Moises Sierra and Whit Merrifield to earn a bench spot on the Opening Day roster. He got off to a hot start with five triples in his first seven games and overall hit .249/.269/.444 with seven home runs in 86 games in his debut season.
Reymond Fuentes, 2016
When the Royals lifted their championship banner on Opening Day in 2016, the starting right fielder was Reymond Fuentes, a rookie with all of 23 games of big league experience. The Royals liked his speed and defense, but he would hit just .238 in six games before being demoted, only to return in June. He would appear in just 13 games with the Royals before they released him in September.
Frank Schwindel, 2019
Frank the Tank was a fan favorite after raking in Omaha for two seasons, but he still seemed a long shot to make the team, even after hitting .327 with three home runs in spring training. The Royals wanted to see rookie Ryan O’Hearn at first base, and had inexplicably signed veteran first baesman Lucas Duda, to make for a crowded situation. But Schwindel made the team anyway (remember when they tried to make him a catcher?) and got the start on Opening Day. He would go just 1-for-15 before the Royals sent him down, and he later found success with the Cubs.
Oscar Hernández, 2020
Do you remember the Oscar Hernández era? This was a bit of an anomaly as the 2020 season began with expanded 30-man rosters, so the Royals carried a third catcher. Hernández had appeared in a handful of MLB games with the Diamondbacks and was a bit of a hedge as Salvador Perez had tested positive for COVID-19 just a few weeks before the start of the season. Hernández got into four games with the Royals, going 2-for-4.
Kyle Isbel, 2021
Isbel had a promising start to his pro career, but was coming off a disappointing injury-filled campaign in 2019. The pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season, making the developmental progress for prospects a bit of a mystery to most outside observers. Isbel had apparently impressed Royals brass and hit .333 with two home runs in spring training to earn not only a spot on the roster, but the Opening Day start in right field. He would go 3-for-5 on Opening Day against the Rangers, but was sent down after two weeks, not returning until September.
Who will be the surprise on the roster this year?