Spring Training games start in just 5 days. Starting Saturday, you’ll be able to see your Boys in Blue back in action in a real life game for the first time since last fall. There will be new faces, there will be familiar faces, but the jerseys will be the same and the game unchanged (for now, looking at you Rob).
Spring Training is awesome. One thing I’ve often said about Spring Training, is that it’s the only time you can see your favorite big leaguers on the same field as your favorite prospects. Last year during the middle of a Spring Training game, Royals 19-year old first base prospect Nick Pratto stepped into the box and took established big league veteran Jesse Chavez deep.
Before tanking was a thing, it used to be that everyone had a chance when Spring Training began. Everyone was 0-0. Everyone was in first place in their respective divisions and vying for a playoff spot. That’s not so much the case anymore, but there’s still a feeling of renewal in the air every spring. The new and familiar faces alike prepare to take the field together perhaps for the first time, and fans get a chance to see the preparation that takes place for the 162-game season.
With as much turnover as the Royals have had this off-season, there will be a lot of new and unfamiliar faces in camp this spring. Staples like Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas won’t be in Royals camp for the first time in years. Yet much will be the same, as the Royals will return what will more than likely be 8 starters to the lineup from a year ago, as well as the entire starting rotation.
Spring Training is full of surprises, however, and the guys here at Royals Farm Report think there’s a chance that we’re in for quite a few surprises this spring in particular. Without further ado, here are 10 predictions for this Spring Training.
- Kyle Zimmer breaks camp with the big league team. Zimmer appears to be healthy for the first time in a long time after his stint with Driveline this past off-season, and I can not wait to see him live in action. When healthy, Zimmer has some of the best stuff in the entire organization, and he should be able to slot in nicely to a mid-relief role for the big league club early on.
- One of Brady Singer or Daniel Lynch will break camp with AA. When we rolled out our official Opening Day roster prediction for the Advanced-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, both Brady Singer and Daniel Lynch were apart of the rotation. However, the more I look at that roster, the more I can’t help but notice that they’ve got some serious pitching depth. As it currently stands, Andres Sotillet looks like he’ll have to make a move to the bullpen. I really don’t want to see that happen, and I think Daniel Lynch is perfectly capable of handling AA. With a good spring, I think it’s totally possible either Lynch or Singer is off to Arkansas.
- Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman, and Drew Storen all make the big league roster. When we rolled out our official Opening Day roster prediction for the big league club, the Royals had not yet signed Diekman and Storen to contracts. With their signings, I’m afraid that means that one of Tim Hill or Kevin McCarthy is headed back to Omaha (I’d guess Hill), and Brian Flynn is probably cut from the roster. I think all three of the aforementioned Boxberger, Diekman, and Storen offer low-risk high-reward option for KC out of the ‘pen, and I expect all three will be around on Opening Day.
- Brian Flynn and Homer Bailey are both released. As I mentioned before, the signing of Diekman and Storen may spell the end for Flynn. Homer Bailey has been pretty awful over the last couple of seasons and the Royals are apparently only looking at him for a starter’s job. No shot.
- Brett Phillips will lead the team in home runs in Arizona. Remember when Mike Moustakas went home run crazy a few Spring Training’s ago, and everyone thought it was his coming out party? I’m predicting something similar for Phillips. I have a feeling he’s due to come out of the gates swinging, and may be optioned to AAA to start the year anyway. In any case, this spring feels like a great time to show Royals fans he’s worked on his swing this off-season.
- Danny Duffy’s velocity will be back to form. There’s been mention of Duffy retooling his workout regime in order to get some velocity back, but it’s deeper than that for me. This will be the first off-season in a while it seems that Duffy is reasonably healthy. After having his 2017 off-season cut short due to a shoulder surgery, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Duffy used this off-season to make massive gains toward his game.
- Alex Gordon will look back like his normal self. I’ve got a really weird feeling that we might get something close to 2013 Alex Gordon this year. Ya know, the Alex Gordon that hit 20 HR with a .749 OPS and 104 wRC+. The Alex Gordon that was worth 4.4 fWAR and started winning all the Gold Gloves. Yeah, him. The contract year is undefeated, folks.
- Josh Staumont will actually correct some of his command issues. This isn’t saying much, as Staumont’s career best BB/9 is 6.29, but I think he’ll get that number under 5.5 for the spring, forcing the Royals to make a decision about whether or not he’s a big league reliever.
- Jorge Soler enters the regular season healthy. If he’s even sort of healthy, I think he’s capable of producing some big time numbers. We’ve just gotta get him on the field first.
- The Royals will enter the regular season as the 2nd best team in the AL Central. Again, this isn’t saying much, as the AL Central figures to be putrid, but I think this team is destined to surprise some folks. Color me shocked if the Twins aren’t as good as people think they’ll be.