It’s cold as hell here in Kansas City, but the boys of summer are back at, some of them REALLY in the best shape of their lives (Hosmer an added 10 pounds of muscle, Duffy an extra 17-20 pounds) and other saying they are (even though they say it every year, like 90% of baseball players) down in the desert sun in Surprise, Arizona after what seemed to be the longest offseason in forever, even though it was the shortest. This time of year, all 30 teams and their fans do not lack an abundance of enthusiasm. For the Royals, this optimism is legit. The fans? More excited than forever.
The Royals enter 2015 with less question marks than in any year in recent memory. With it, comes high expectations. And, rightfully so, coming off a World Series appearance and MOST of the roster still intact. That said, with a s few new faces and Billy Butler and James Shields gone, the roster may not be as good as last year’s. But, that is a story for another day.
The starting nine, the rotation and most of the bullpen is set. By our count, there’s 22 “locks.”
12 position players:
- C Salvador Perez, Erik Kratz
- 1B Eric Hosmer
- 2B Omar Infante
- 3B Mike Moustakas
- SS Alcides Escobar
- OF Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios, Jarrod Dyson
- IF Christian Colon
- DH Kendrys Morales
The starting rotation (5) (Yost has said that he does not want to have two flame-throwers back-to-back, so that will likely separate Ventura and Duffy, and Ventura seems to be the odds on favorite to be the opening day starter, so Vargy could be the No. 2 and Duffy, 4, but below is how it SHOULD be):
- Yordano Ventura
- Danny Duffy
- Edinson Volzquez
- Jason Vargas
- Jeremy Guthrie
HDH + Papa Hoch + Jason Frasor
- Kelvin Herrera
- Wade Davis
- Greg Holland
- Luke Hochevar
- Frasor (obviously)
With Colon’s versatility, it makes sense for the Royals to carry just one backup infielder (hell, Ned carried just one backup infielder last year and that said infielder, Danny Valencia, hadn’t played either middle infield position in his big league career AND Ned didn’t carry another reserve middle infielder (remember when Valencia had to play second base when Infante went down with an injury?)…so, we’re in better shape this year). Of course, the Dyson is a shoe-in in the outfield. The only question that follows is, will there be a fifth outfielder on the roster? With Dyson doing what #thatwhatspeedo does – doubling as a defensive replacement/pinch-running specialist, it could be smart to carry another outfielder.
Here’s the candidates in order of likelihood:
- Raymond Fuentes: The 24-year old OF may be better known for his elfish bad looks and being the cousin of Carlos Beltran, hit .294/.363/.416 over two minor-league levels last year. The left-handed hitter hit .152 (5-33) in limited action in San Diego late in the season.
- Moises Sierra: Sierra, who hit .230/.265/.342 in 161 AB in 2014, was claimed off waivers back on October 24, but we designated for assignment less than two months later, taken off the 40-man roster and outrighted to the minors, where he will more than likely just fill in as organizational depth, but if the Royals are looking for a right-handed backup OF with MLB experience, Sierra could fill that role.
- Lane Adams: Adams has climbed up the Royals prospect ranks after hitting .264/.342/.401 in six minor league seasons. The chances of making the big league roster are slim, but a good spring may give him a chance.
- Terrance Gore: We’d be tempted to put the dude who is arguably the fastest player in baseball, at any level, on the roster because of his unique skill set, but that same uniqueness makes him a one-dimensional situational player who’s value greatly declines over a 162-game schedule than it does in a postseason format. But, the dude can’t hit the baseball, and likely will never be able to, so keeping him in a situational role won’t stunt his progress in the minors.
Yost said last week that he is considering carrying 13 pitchers – leaving the Royals with a 3-man bench – and it all depends on Hochevar’s health. So, we’re going to present you with two scenario’s. If Hoch is ready, it’ll be 13 pitchers. If not, Raymond Fuentes is our 25th man.
So, whether it’s two or three bullpen spots up for grabs, who are the candidates?
There will most certainly be AT LEAST one lefty in the pen, and so that will likely go to Tim Collins. The other candidates are:
- Franklin Morales: Playing for the Colorado Rockies in 2014, he is coming off an unimpressive season. He was used primarliyas a starter last year and the results weren’t very good, sporting a 5.46 ERA in 118 2/3 innings as a starter and was slightly more effective as a reliever (4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 IP). Morales has primarily been used as a relief pitcher in his career, and has actually been better in the American League (3.90 ERA) than in the National League (5.10 ERA)
- Brian Flynn: The 6-7, 250-pound southpaw struggled with control last season, walking 50 batters in 139 2/3 innings with Triple-A New Orleans and turning in a 4.06 ERA and 1.57 WHIP (8.52 ERA, 2.211 WHIP in 12 2/3 IP in Miami) but the Royals liked him enough to bring him over in the Aaron Crow deal. With a good spring, Davis could end up as Ned’s No. 2 lefty in the pen, but we think Morales has the inside track on that.
In addition to the two other lefties, these following righties are the hopefuls for filling out the pen:
- Jandel Gustave: Unless the Rule 5 pick who hasn’t pitched above High-A ball, is absolutely horrid in spring training, Gustave will likely make the roster, most likely in a mop up role to protect him or offer his rights back to the Astros. But, it’ll be a huge risk. Dude has a 9-18 record with 5.73 ERA in five minor league seasons, including a 5-5, 5.01 ERA in 79 innings for Quad Cities in 2014.
- Yohan Pino: Pino signed a one-year, MLB deal, but don’t let that fool you. The 30-year-old went 2-5 with a 5.07 ERA in 11 starts as a rookie in 2014 for the Twins last year. If he makes the team, something went wrong.
- Louis Coleman: Coleman answered his career-year of 2013 with the opposite in 2014, but was strong down the stretch, lowering his final line to 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.304 WHIP.
There’s also dark horse’s attempting a comeback:
- Ryan Madson: Even with a really strong spring, it’s still unlikely that Madson makes the roster since he hasn’t pitched in a game since 2011, where he saved 32 of 34 chances for the Phillies.
- Joe Blanton: Like Madson, Blanton took a year away from baseball, after retiring after two uninspiring starts for Triple-A Scaramento. He last pitched in the majors in 2013 for the Angels, posting a 2-14 record with a 6.04 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 132 2/3 innings. Blanton can request his release if not on the MLB roster on April 1 and/or May 15, but he indicated over the past couple of days that he is open to proving himself in the minors after a shitter year and essentially year away.
We’re split on whether Hochevar will start the season on the disabled list. So, here’s our projections, based on the two scenario’s:
- With Hochevar: Collins, Gustave, Morales,
- Hochevar on DL: Collins, Gustave, Morales, Fuentes
One thing to consider, we think GM Dayton Moore really likes Gustave’s potential and will do anything he can to keep him, so even with Hoch on the DL, we could still see an 8-man pen. If so, Coleman is next in line.
NOTE: Brandon Finnegan would be our choice to fill a LHP role in the Royals bullpen, however, Yost announced that he’ll start the year in the Triple-A Omaha rotation.
DL – Kris Medlen
What batting order will Nedly write on the lineup card on Opening Day, April 6 (What better way to start the season than seeing Chris Sale on day one, right?)?
We’ve had many endless debates on this topic on social media and message boards. Who should bat leadoff, who is our cleanup hitter, blah, blah, blah. You get the gest. One thing we can expect is for Ned to move people around. We also know that Ned loves to use the L-R-L-R approach. Because nothing short of batting Gordon leadoff and Hosmer second, there’s nothing Yost can do to surprise us. That’s why we think he’ll mimic the postseason lineup by simply sliding Rios into Nori Aoki’s spot and Morales into Butler’s:
- Moustakas/Colon (we expect Colon to ne Moose’s platoon partner, except maybe Opening Day)
You can’t really blame him, though, because it worked down the stretch and into October. But, just because something worked doesn’t make it right. It’s flawed. Escobar is not a leadoff hitter. Sure, he flourished there, but again, it doesn’t make it right. His sub-3 career OBP tells us he isn’t a leadoff hitter. Alex Gordon is our best offensive player. He gets on base better than anyone on the team. That pretty much seals it for us. It killed us to see Gordon down in the lineup, usually hitting fifth, so often last year. He should be hitting leadoff or second, every game. We know he won’t though, and it makes us sad. There is no reason your three best hitters should not hit in the first three spots in the order.
If Ned asked our advice to fill out the lineup card, we’d suggest this:
It’s really hard to say what is and isn’t a good idea (except that one of the worst on base guys on the team PROBABLY shouldn’t lead off). The Royals lack a true 3, 4 and 5 hitters, so it’s kind of put the pieces together. Again, your best three hitters should hit 1-2-3 in the order, because you want your best three hitters getting the most plate appearances. Infante/Escobar in our collaboration of an ideal lineup would be interchangeable at 7 or 9, really. We have Perez five because he has some pop, more so than Rios, anyway. Moose, the worst offensive 3B in baseball over the last three years, absolutely has to hit eighth – where you would ideally want your worst hitter. Gordon was the only hitter in the lineup who was nearly unanimous in his spot. Because of that, Hosmer hitting third and Cain second (the duo split votes at each spot) makes sense for the L-R-L set-up.
It’s early. We did our best to project the roster and batting order. Enjoy.
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