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The roster comes alive
The Royals are closer to unveiling their 26-man roster for Opening Day. We can sort through the news and figure it out. For the most part.
So the headline of this issue may seem kinda strange. (Some behind-the-scenes newsletter info: Headlines are usually the last things I write. And the most difficult.) However, JJ Picollo and Matt Quatraro have convinced me that the Royals’ 26-man roster is a living, breathing organism. It’s going to evolve throughout the season. The 26 guys that open the year in Kansas City? I’d almost wager that half of them won’t be around in September.
So while there will be changes throughout the season, we can still celebrate the 26 who break camp with the big club and claim a spot for Opening Day. The picture gained a bit more clarity on Monday night as it was reported that Matt Duffy and Jackie Bradley, Jr. will make the squad. The Bradley news pretty much broke the night before. Duffy, while not entirely a surprise given his defensive flexibility and his solid spring (.324/.350/.459 in 37 spring at bats), also will apparently be going north.
So with about 48 hours to go before we fully unshackle ourselves from winter, here’s how the roster looks.
I mentioned this during my weekly appearance on The Zone on WHB, but I’m surprised—and a little disappointed–that the Royals are going to roll with just two catchers, meaning Melendez is going to get plenty of reps behind the dish to give Perez his days off. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. It’s just that for a young player, who was struggling to make his mark in the majors last summer, bouncing between the outfield and the catcher spot doesn’t seem like the best balance of time.
I would expect Freddy Fermin to get a call at some point this season.
Bobby Witt, Jr.
I really, really dislike checking spring training numbers, but I will note that Massey led all Royals with four dingers in the thin Arizona air. Then he hit another on Monday at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Cool.
The prospect hounds said Massey had plus raw power. Then, he clubbed 21 dingers at High-A Quad Cities in 2021. Last year, all he did was blitz through the system with 20 more long balls split between Double and Triple-A and the majors. I’m trying not to get too carried away.
I continue to believe that the Royals will give Dozier every opportunity at the hot corner. Yet there is Lopez and Duffy…lurking. The leash should be short. The Royals have made enough organizational noise about players having to earn their spot in the lineup (or on the pitching staff) that it would be incredibly disappointing if it turns out that’s not the case. Or that Dozier gets special consideration.
Jackie Bradley, Jr.
I tried to go left to right on the spots, but whew…who knows. Anne Rogers reports that Quatraro will have Melendez playing more in right than in left. I’ll break out my mat to jump to conclusions and speculate that Olivares is the primary left fielder. For the moment.
You know how there are all kinds of sizes of Swiss Army knives? Eaton is the largest one. The dude can—and will—play anywhere. I listed him in the outfield, but you can throw him in the third base mix. And damn if he isn’t a fantastic defensive outfielder.
Looking at the list of names above can make you dizzy. In a good way. There is just so much versatility in this lineup. So many guys can play so many positions…and most of them can play them well. That note above about the Royals making players earn their spot? The roster is literally loaded with guys who can replace each other.
I’m going to roll with a little faith that Quatraro and bench coach Paul Hoover will rotate enough to keep guys fresh while giving the majority of the playing time to their best—and most optimal—lineup.
Meanwhile, I’m starting to think that the breakout candidate of this bunch could be…Isbel? I may not be the only one.
While the Royals haven’t made it official, I’ll go ahead and pencil Bubic in as the club’s fifth starter. He made his final exhibition appearance on Monday, throwing 70 pitches against the Rangers. He picked up 14 misses on 32 swings while throwing a slider 24 percent of the time. He also picked up four swings and misses on a change that was chased out of the zone half the time.
If that slider sticks—and it certainly seems like it will—we’re going to see a brand new Bubic this summer. I don’t think he has Singer-like upside, but he could make a similar jump in improvement.
We’ve heard less about the bullpen than any other spot on the roster. It’s more about who won’t be in Kansas City (Richard Lovelady, Josh Staumont, Josh Taylor) than those who will. It’s through this process of elimination that I think we can take a decent stab at how the bullpen will set up for the first week of the season.
Get it? I said the first week. This is where I reiterate the fact that there is going to be a ton of movement in the bullpen this year. I think the top four listed above are the only “sure things” that we’ll see in Kansas City—provided they stay healthy and until trades are made. The other four spots will be that revolving door. The only guys listed above who don’t have options are Chapman and Garrett. And they’re the two most likely to get traded. It’s going to be a busy season for the gang at Roster Resource.
Hernández and Yarbrough will be the “length” guys, especially early in the season as Bubic and Singer continue to build up to regular season strength. Then, there’s the Greinke factor.
With this 26-man roster, that means three non-roster invitees (Bradley, Reyes and Duffy) will make the team. The club will need to free up some space on the 40-man.
The two obvious moves will be Jake Brentz (who was signed when the Royals put Angel Zerpa on the 60-day IL) and outfielder Diego Hernandez will be placed on the 60-day IL. That leaves one more move to make. Not counting Zerpa, the team currently has 24 pitchers on the 40-man roster. That’s…a bit imbalanced. Yet when I scan the roster, I don’t see an obvious move.
A DFA? A trade? I suppose anything is possible.
Let the transactions—and the 2023 season—begin.