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A look at potential Royals non-roster invitees next spring

Last year the Royals had 24 non-roster invitees.

Peoria Javelinas v. Surprise Saguaros Photo by Jason Hanna/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The offseason has slowed back down after a strong splurge of free agent dollars by the Kansas City Royals front office. The only remaining moves before February figure to be depth pieces and minor league contracts. As such, the 40-man roster seems all but set. Players not on the 40-man roster can be invited to spring training as non-roster invitees. Last spring, the Royals invited 24 players to be non-roster invitees to spring training. Some of them figure to be invited once again, including John Rave, Tyler Tolbert, and Logan Porter. Of the 24 invited last spring, 11 would eventually appear in a game for the Royals.

Besides potential return candidates, which players might be invited to Surprise in February? The organization has already signed reliever Dan Altavilla to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Here’s a look at six more players currently in the organization and one potential signee from the free-agent wire.

Dillan Shrum, 1B

Shrum is a soon-to-be 26-year-old first baseman. He will become Rule 5 eligible next winter and the Royals may hope to get a closer look at him in the time between now and then. Following a strong final season at the University of Nevada, Shrum signed with the Royals as an undrafted free agent. He’s been great at getting on base since entering the farm system and has paired that with quality power numbers at the same time. In 2023 for the Naturals, Shrum slashed .235/.399/.433 with a healthy 15.1% walk rate and 13 home runs.

Behind Vinnie Pasquantino, the Royals don’t have a ton of strong depth. Nick Pratto has been highly inconsistent thus far. CJ Alexander is another non-roster option who could factor in. That limited depth opens the door for Shrum to edge his way in.

Peyton Wilson, 2B

Wilson is the Royals 27th ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He had a strong 2023 season in his first stab at Double-A. The organization sent him to Arizona in this year’s Fall League, where he played often and well. The power has been inconsistent but Wilson has a good hit tool and outstanding speed. In 2023, he slashed .286/.366/.411 for the Naturals. Wilson stole 19 bags in 128 games and walked 9.8% of the time. The Royals have plenty of depth already in the infield. With Garrett Hampson, Michael Massey, and Nick Loftin ahead of him, the chance that he earns MLB time this year seems slim.

Regardless of the depth, Wilson will be Rule 5 eligible next offseason just like Shrum and the Royals will want as many looks at him as they can between now and then.

Devin Mann, UTIL

Mann was part of the return from Los Angeles in the Ryan Yarbrough trade last summer. After a strong 127 wRC+ over 89 games for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, he struggled for Omaha. He hit just .198 for the Storm Chasers, but a strong walk rate and on-base ability helped his wRC+ remain around league average (95). At 26 years old, he’s well past the point of being a true prospect. Many felt he could be selected in the Rule 5 draft, but passed through safely.

If the Royals don’t want a look at Mann in spring training then I’m not sure they’ll ever entertain a look at him. He’s built a strong track record in the minor leagues and can play a handful of positions around the diamond.

Beck Way, RHP

If you look at Beck Way’s ERA from last season, you’ll probably scoff at this notion. He finished 2023 with an ugly 6.67 mark and a 6.29 FIP that wasn’t much better. However, the Royals adjusted his role mid-season last year and the improvement in results was clear. Way commands a potential 60-grade fastball and 60-grade slider. His changeup is fine but not great and the command has always been a bit spotty. On June 30 of last season, Way made a start against the Twins Double-A affiliate. He lasted just two outs and that would be his last start until August 29.

The Royals moved Way to the bullpen and he saw immediate improvements. After June 30, Way pitched to a 3.72 ERA over 38.2 IP. He struck out 24.7% of hitters in that span and opponents hit just .162 against him. By August 11, the Royals had stretched Way out to a larger inning workload once again. In his final eight outings of the season, Way averaged just over three innings per outing. His final four were back in the starting rotation, but the results suffered once again (6.91 ERA). Way is worth a spring training look as a reliever.

Walter Pennington, LHP

Kansas City doesn’t have much left-handed depth in the bullpen. Walt is a left-handed reliever on the cusp of the big leagues. For that reason, he makes a lot of sense as a non-roster invitee. He enters his age-26 season in 2024 after spending most of last season with the Omaha Storm Chasers. In 61 innings there, he finished 7-2 with a 3.69 ERA. Control is a concern, as he walked 12% of hitters for the Storm Chasers. However, he also struck out 9.44 batters-per-nine innings.

Spring training will give Pennington a chance to prove his ability and wedge his way in as a key depth piece for the bullpen next season.

Keylan Killgore, LHP

Killgore, like Pennington, is a lefty reliever which helps his chances to get a chance next season. He was taken in the minor league portion of this offseason’s Rule 5 draft from the Phillies organization. After taking one Phillies minor leaguer and helping them find success — as they did with James McArthur — the front office is hoping they can do it again. The walks were way too high (4.55 BB/9) but he struck out 67 batters in just 55.1 IP for Philadelphia’s Double-A affiliate.

Chris Vallimont, RHP

Vallimont was a fifth-round pick by the Marlins back in 2018, and the only player on our list not currently in the organization. Since then, he’s struggled mightily in the minor leagues despite good stuff. FanGraphs grades his fastball and slider both as potential 55-grade pitches. When watching him pitch, you can see the potential. He gets more than ample movement on his pitches but struggles to command them well enough.

The Orioles designated Vallimont for assignment on July 4 and he spent the rest of the season in the Guardians farm system. Before the change, he had pitched to a 4.88 FIP over 57.1 Triple-A innings. In that span, he struck out 10.05 hitters per nine innings. There’s a reason Vallimont is yet to stick in the major leagues. There’s also a reason he was sent to waivers and allowed to enter free agency. However, he is exactly the type of low-risk signing that Kansas City could take a chance on to deepen their bullpen.