Every other year since we started this site in 2017 I’ve written a piece looking at the possible lineup for the 2023 Kansas City Royals. This will be the 3rd installment of this piece, with #4 coming in 2022 and the final installment coming probably in February of 2023. As I have mentioned before, this is a semi-pointless exercise that should be viewed as more of an inventory check rather than a serious prediction of the exact 26-man roster that KC will roll out on Opening Day in a couple of years.
The real question should probably be, “Why 2023?”
As I’ve maintained for a while, 2023 is the first year that I believe Kansas City HAS to make the playoffs as part of this rebuild. I know the big league club hovering around .500 this year has a lot of folks excited, but I’d actually argue that the club is over performing their ability and is ahead of schedule, at the moment. If the club finishes 78-84 this year, 84-78 in 2022 and barely misses the playoffs, then finishes something like 88-74 in 2023 and makes the playoffs, I’d consider this program working. I am 100% sure there are folks who will disagree, and I can totally understand expecting this team to make the playoffs in 2022 (the Benintendi trade actually kind of has me teetering in my own mind), but I am talking about HAS to in 2023. They don’t have another choice, or there could be some “movement” in the front office.
One last time before we get to the lineup: this should be seen as something as an inventory check rather than an attempt to nail the exact 2023 Opening Day lineup. There’s also a rule that we can ONLY use players that are already on this team, in this system, and under contract in 2023. So Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield, Mike Minor, and Jorge Soler are ineligible for this list regardless of whether I think they’ll be here or not. Before looking at the lineups, feel free to go back and have a good laugh at the first and second installments:
Projected 2023 Opening Day Lineup:
- LF Kyle Isbel
- 3B Bobby Witt Jr.
- SS Adalberto Mondesi
- C Salvador Perez
- 1B Nick Pratto
- DH Hunter Dozier
- RF Edward Olivares
- CF Brewer Hicklen
- 2B Nick Loftin
C MJ Melendez, C Sebastian Rivero, INF Jeison Guzman, INF Clay Dungan
- Brady Singer
- Daniel Lynch
- Jackson Kowar
- Kris Bubic
- Alec Marsh
- Brad Keller
- Josh Staumont
- Scott Barlow
- Jake Brentz
- Grant Gavin
- Yefri Del Rosario
- Austin Cox
- Ronald Bolanos
- As I’ve mentioned in every installment so far, the bullpens are completely impossible to predict. It’s almost not even worth including them but, again, it’s a good little inventory check. I really like Brad Keller and have zero problem with him starting for the foreseeable future. I can just totally see them putting him in the ‘pen as a multiple inning workhorse in a year when they expect to contend all year.
- The rest of that bullpen looks pretty nifty. You’ve got some really talented options there that doesn’t even include the likes of Jake Junis, Richard Lovelady, and Gabe Speier who could be really effective options.
- I can guarantee you that the starting CF for the 2023 club is not currently playing CF in this organization. Could they move, BWJ, Mondi, Loftin, Isbel there long-term? Maybe? But none of those guys have had real time there this year and I’d be willing to bet you anything that the guy patrolling CF for the next playoff team in KC comes from outside the organization unless they move one of their guys there and pray for the best.
- The Royals could have some options behind the dish. I left three catchers on the roster because I think Salvy could DH a lot and I also think MJ Melendez is still athletic enough to play some corner infield at times.
- This team is sort of in need of good outfielders. I’m not confident in their confidence in Olivares. I really think Kyle Isbel will be fine. Erick Pena may be close in 2023 but he definitely won’t be on the Opening Day roster. Can Bobby Witt Jr. slide into the OF? Nick Loftin? Jeison Guzman even?
- This entire pitching staff could have moving parts. The organization is loaded with talented arms and I could see this rotation looking 100 different ways by 2023. I do think they’ll trade one of them at some point but that’s illegal for this exercise.
- Yes, I think Adalberto Mondesi is still going to be in this team’s plans unless he retires.
- Yes, I think Asa Lacy will be with this team eventually, just not on Opening Day.
- Yes, I think Jonathan Bowlan and Jonathan Heasley factor in somehow, just not on Opening Day. (Bowlan’s TJS throws a wrench in this.)
- Yes, I still think Seuly Matias has a future with this team. Just maybe once Dozier’s contract is up.