The Royals are Cactus League champions. Hooray! But Spring Training isn’t about winning; it’s about getting ready. The players get themselves ready, and the general manager gets the team ready.
Dayton Moore still has a couple of difficult decisions to make before Opening Day on Thursday. How many starters to carry. Final bullpen guys. What to do with Frank Schwindel. Because I took an online class in fortune telling, I can give us a look at the Opening Day roster a little early.
Opening Day Roster Prediction (including projected lineup)
1. Whit Merrifield 2B – this was always going to be the case
2. Adalberto Mondesi SS – it’ll be interesting to see what batting 2nd does for him
3. Alex Gordon LF – hoping we get late-season 2018 Alex, not previous-three years Alex
4. Jorger Soler DH – Just. Stay. Healthy.
5. Ryan O’Hearn 1B – getting on-base for Goodwin and Hamilton
6. Hunter Dozier 3B – exit velocities are great and all but hopefully more hits this year
7. Martin Maldonado C – hit some in four games of spring training, but that’s all gravy
8. Brian Goodwin RF – to say he “won” the RF job is really an insult to winning, but he turned it on late in ST
9. Billy Hamilton CF – cross all appendages hoping his spring carries over at least a little
Chris Owings UT – maybe the contract was worth it?
Cam Gallagher C – always the bridesmaid, Cam, sorry buddy
Terrance Gore OF – 50 SB, 50 PA, mark it
Brad Keller – please be good again, we need it so much
Jakob Junis – defines major league average so far, hoping for more
Jorge Lopez – great stuff, inconsistent … so far
Willy Peralta – looked good this spring
Ian Kennedy – you can’t give someone $70 million and not play them, can you?
Brad Boxberger – getting paid so he’ll play
Jake Diekman – solid lefty option
Kevin McCarthy – being consistently above average is his thing
Tim Hill – glad to see Hill’s going to make it, underrated IMO
Kyle Zimmer – Kauffman will erupt when he takes the mound for the first time
Chris Ellis – I told you all not to sleep on him
Scott Barlow – oddly, he makes the Opening Day roster because he has options
It’s an odd looking Opening Day roster, but it makes some sense. The Royals love inventory, and this roster allows them to stash some pitching depth in Omaha. A few key things to point out:
1) Homer Bailey has already been told he’ll stay behind in Arizona to pitch on a regular schedule and be ready for when his turn comes up in the rotation. He won’t be needed until April 6. As a result, Barlow makes the Opening Day roster over Michael Ynoa because Barlow has options and can be sent down. Ynoa is a non-roster invitee with no options, meaning he would need to be added to the 40-man roster and then clear wavers if the Royals want to send him down when Bailey comes back.
2) If Duffy returns April 11 when the Royals first need a fifth starter, someone else will have to come off this roster (barring injury, which is a real possibility). If that happens, McCarthy, Hill, and Zimmer are the only pitchers who can be sent down without clearing wavers. Ellis could be sent back to the Cardinals so his fate may depend on how he pitches in the first two weeks. None of the position players could realistically be sent down.
3) At this point, if the Royals are trying to maximize their pitching depth and keep Brian Goodwin, I don’t see how Frank Schwindel makes the Opening Day roster. It would be cool for him to make it even as a token gesture until Bailey is needed. But what’s the value of having Schwindel ride pine for a week until Bailey comes back? If Goodwin is in right field, Soler is at DH, which means Schwindel isn’t playing. The Royals could get radical, cut Goodwin, keep Schwindel, and move players around a lot more. Merrifield and Owings would see more time in right field, Schwindel could DH, spell O’Hearn at first, and be the emergency catcher. I prefer this option, but Moore hasn’t asked me yet.
4) I wanted to see Humberto Arteaga make the team, but it seems very unlikely. He’s not on the 40-man roster, and they’ve already got a couple guys who can play all over the field in Owings and Merrifield. If he stays healthy, he’ll see the big leagues this season.
That’s it. That’s all the foresight and insight I’ve got. Keep in mind that the roster will change a lot in the next couple weeks and even more over the course of the entire season. Pitchers, especially, will move between Omaha and Kansas City frequently so don’t go writing this down in pen or anything.
Feature image credit: Bryce Edwards