Projecting the Royals Opening Day LineupFollow @RoyalsBlue_com
With pitchers and catchers reporting yesterday, it is officially baseball season. Though we still have many long weeks ahead before opening day, the roster has already begun to take shape. The Royals enter 2015 with less question marks to be decided in spring training than any year in recent memory.
The starting 9 are set, with Salvy, Hosmer, Infante, Escobar, Moose, Gordon, Cain and Rios. Newly acquired Kendrys Morales takes Billy Butlers spot as the primary DH.
The starting rotation will be Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie. One of the biggest things left to decide is the order, but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter all that much. Yost had stated he did not want to have 2 flame throwers back to back, so that will separate Ventura and Duffy, and Ventura seems to be the odds on favorite to be the opening day starter.
With the primary positions all but set barring injury, that leaves utility players, 4th outfielders and bullpen. The 4th outfielder is Jarrod Dyson, so scratch that off the list. Christian Colon will most likely be utilized as a utility infielder after showing some promise last year, raising his stock back up ever so slightly after being less than mediocre in much of his minor league career.
Erik Kratz is currently slated to be the backup behind the dish. This is one area that could still be upgraded, though Kratz seems capable, even if unspectacular (lifetime .219/.273/.404 hitter). He provides a little bit of power to a team that has none, though he will most likely find playing time to be scarce. Yost has stated he plans on resting Salvy more this year, so backup catcher could become a point of emphasis for the front office to upgrade if they do not feel Kratz is the man for the job.
Just like that we have 24 players. With recent remarks that the club may carry an 8th bullpen arm in order to protect Luke Hochevar, (still recovering from Tommy John surgery that saw him miss all of 2014) we are suddenly at the magic 25 man roster being full with little to no drama.
That last bullpen spot could go to a number of people and there has been some scuttle that Brandon Finnegan may be in line to be that last guy, though it may be better served for him to work as a starter in the minors if that is where the Royals hope he ends up. The Royals also signed Yohan Pino in the offseason, and he stands to be in line to win a spot in the pen as an early season long reliever/ starting pitching depth. Pino could be above Coleman on the depth chart at the moment. Kris Medlen also signed with the Royals this offseason, but he will not be ready to pitch until mid-season.
The Royals also added flame throwing reliever Jandel Gustave in a trade with the Red Sox. Since Gustave was a Rule 5 pick, if the Royals wish to keep him, he must remain on the Royals roster for the entirety of the season. Barring injury, that would seem tough to do unless the Royals are sure he provides enough value to warrant taking up a coveted spot on a team with playoff aspirations.
Brian Flynn was also added this offseason when Dayton Moore traded Aaron Crow to the Miami Marlins. Flynn will probably not be on the opening day roster, but could see some time during the season as he is able to get left handed hitters out. There aren't too many options for left handers out of the pen, so this alone gives Flynn a little bit of an inside track.
Ryan Madson was signed to a minor league deal in January. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011, but hopes he can be a dark horse to upset one of the favorites as well. The 34 year old is most likely on the outside looking in, but did post good numbers with Philadelphia when he last pitched.
The Royals also announces yesterday that they signed Franklin Morales to a minor league deal. He is a long shot to be a factor right away, but provides excellent depth to an already deep bullpen and may be a factor at some point this season. He was used primarily as a starter last season at Coors, which often has a way to make pitchers look bad, especially when they walk batters and allow home runs as Morales did.
There is still a possibility that some of the lower bullpen guys could be unseated at the beginning of the season, like Collins or Coleman, but with Yost constantly rotating arms in and out of Omaha, it seems trivial more than dramatic in waiting to see who is and who isn’t in or out on opening day. All of these guys and more will get their chance at some point.
With the number of quality options and so few spots, there is most likely going to be a tough decision or two for the Kansas City front office. It would be a luxury to have to make some of those decisions, as that means most or all are healthy. If that is the case, then there is a very formidable table of options to choose from when finalizing the bullpen.
That leaves the unsettled business of order. As stated before, the Royals want to split up the hard throwers, so Duffy and Ventura will probably not pitch back to back. Ventura is the early bet to be the opening day starter. Guthrie seems to easily be the #5 on this rotation, and Vargas is the returning Royal, meaning a possible rotation could look like Ventura, Vargas, Volquez, Duffy and Guthrie, with Volquez, Duffy, and Vargas all being somewhat interchangeable. (How long before we come up with some sort of V brothers nicknames?)
There are some other guys who will be trying to win a spot like Joe Blanton, but for the most part are nothing more than depth at this point.
The batting order has often been a bone of contention with many Royals fans. We will dive deeper into that later, but after Ned Yost found a lineup style he liked last year with speed up top, it seems silly to think he will deviate from what worked. Yost is typically of the mind that alternating between left and right handed batters is the most important thing in lineup construction. I would guess that we can expect to see Alcides Escobar back in the leadoff position, even though he is a sub .300 on base guy, followed by Cain, Hosmer, Morales, Gordon, Rios, Sal, Moose and Infante. That may not be optimal, but with the streakiness of many of the Royals offensive players, its 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).
Its a strange sight when the Royals have 25 (or more) actual big league players to fill 25 spots. (Yes, even you Moose….)
The good news is, baseball is back! Its time to sit back, and be miserable at game decisions and lineups all over again….awesome!
When it comes to arbitration hearings Dayton Moore must shutter like a KU fan come football season. To date, as General Manager of the Kansas City Royals, Moore has signed every arbitration eligible player to a deal before reaching arbitration. What is arbitration? This ... Read more