Impending Rule 5 decisions and a potential roster crunch

In case you missed it last week on the Royals Review Radio podcast, Jeremy Greco and David Lesky and I sat down to talk about the players currently on the roster and in the minor leagues that could potentially play a role on the 2022 Royals team. We talked about the starting rotation, the potential infield rotation, and how Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares factor into the outfield. I encourage you to go give that a listen if you find this article interesting because there were a lot of really good thoughts bounced around about how this team is going to look in 2022.

Much has been made about the Royals 40-man roster situation and the decisions they’ll have to make this coming offseason. The Royals 40-man roster currently has 41 players on it with two players (Jesse Hahn and Ronald Bolanos) currently on the 60-day IL.

First, here is a list of players that are either free agents at the end of the season or could easily be cut/moved on from that currently occupy 40-man roster spots:

  • Wade Davis
  • Greg Holland
  • Hanser Alberto
  • Jarrod Dyson
  • Ryan McBroom
  • Ervin Santana
  • Michael A. Taylor

That is the bare bones list. Joel Payamps, Jesse Hahn, Domingo Tapia, Ryan O’Hearn, and Lucius Fox are all guys that I would be willing to add to that list in the right situation. Tapia has done a lot of good things this year that I think deserve an extended look. Joel Payamps and Jesse Hahn have live arms that I’m okay continuing to evaluate. Ryan O’Hearn has revealing pictures of Mike Matheny on his cell phone. And Lucius Fox seems like a guy they’ll want to keep as infield depth.

That’s 7 names that will clear up spots on the 40-man roster immediately, giving us 6 spots on the 40 after Hahn and Bolanos are added after the season. Here is a long list of players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, broken into tiers of how likely they are to be protected:

Locks for the 40-man roster

  • Nick Pratto, 1B
  • MJ Melendez, C
  • Jonathan Bowlan, RHP
  • Dylan Coleman, RHP
  • Jonathan Heasley, RHP

Needs strong consideration / Could see them being taken:

  • Josh Dye, LHP
  • Austin Cox, LHP
  • Maikel Garcia, SS
  • Dairon Blanco, OF
  • Yefri Del Rosario, RHP

Big names that are also eligible:

  • Seuly Matias, OF
  • Yohanse Morel, RHP
  • Zach Haake, RHP
  • Grant Gavin, RHP
  • Gabriel Cancel, INF
  • Rudy Martin, OF
  • Brewer Hicklen, OF

If I was the GM…

40-man adds:

  • Nick Pratto
  • MJ Melendez
  • Dylan Coleman
  • Jonathan Bowlan
  • Austin Cox
  • Jonathan Heasley
  • Maikel Garcia

40-man cuts:

  • Jesse Hahn
  • Ryan O’Hearn
  • Lucius Fox

Combine Hahn, Fox, and O’Hearn with the 7 aforementioned names that are easy cuts and you create 9 spots on the 40-man roster very quickly. Add on my 7 additions and you have 38 players on the 40-man roster heading into the Rule 5 Draft (I’m not going to play the free agency game, that’s something that would obviously require another move or two). I don’t like leaving Dairon Blanco, Yefril Del Rosario, and Josh Dye off the list, as I think there’s a halfway decent chance all three could be selected, but I just don’t know if I expect the Royals to clear space for 10 different players to protect this offseason. Leaving the roster at 38 means they could still add Matias or Blanco, but there’s just too many guys that need protecting.

I’m not willing to leave off Austin Cox or Maikel Garcia if I’m KC. Under no circumstances should the Royals allow either of them to get away. I think it’s a longshot Garcia gets taken but you have enough fat you can trim to make room for him on the roster. Cox would almost certainly be taken by someone, even if just as a flier, but I think he adds fantastic depth to this pitching group and you could always make him the sweetener in a trade for your 2022 Opening Day center fielder if you wanted to clear more space later.

This leads into an interesting conversation about a potential roster crunch on Opening Day next season. I am of the opinion that Kyle Isbel ought to be the every day RF for this team starting day one. Unless they move Benintendi this offseason and LF opens up, Benintendi and Isbel need to be your corner outfielders on day one. Edward Olivares is a fantastic bench option specifically for when the Royals face LHP.

If Isbel is the every day RF for this team, you’re looking at potentially having 9 different players vying for 4 spots in the lineup. Let’s briefly cover the locks for the roster and then we’ll get back to the competition:

Locks
– Salvy, C
– Benintendi, LF
– ___________, CF
– Santana 1B/DH

I firmly believe that the CF for this team on Opening Day in 2022 is either Michael A. Taylor or not currently a part of the organization. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect either Isbel or Olivares to man CF for this team full time, meaning they’re going to have to find someone else to do it. This means that…

  • Kyle Isbel
  • Edward Olivares
  • Whit Merrifield
  • Hunter Dozier
  • Emmanuel Rivera
  • Nicky Lopez
  • Adalberto Mondesi
  • Bobby Witt Jr.

…are going to have to find a way to share time at 4 positions: 3B, SS, 2B, RF. The DH spot could be open, theoretically, but as soon as Nick Pratto is manning first base every day and Carlos Santana is DHing, you lose that spot. You’re also probably going to be having MJ Melendez and Salvy splitting time at DH as well. Meaning 9 players are going to have to share 4 spots somehow. Here is how I *think* the Royals lineup will be at its best in 2022 (both for now and the future, combining preference and realism):

  • LF: Benintendi
  • CF: ………
  • RF: Isbel
  • 3B: Witt Jr.
  • SS: Lopez/Mondesi
  • 2B: Lopez/Merrifield
  • 1B: Pratto/Dozier
  • C: Salvy/ Melendez
  • DH: Salvy/Melendez/Santana

This means that unfortunately you’re going to have Emmanuel Rivera, Edward Olivares, and even Hunter Dozier coming off of the bench at times. If those three guys are your bench/role players, that is a phenomenal outcome. I also think the most realistic and optimistic outcome for this team revolves around Bobby Witt Jr. playing 3B. I think he’s personally best suited at SS, but this team doesn’t have another option for the hot corner that’s better than one of Nicky Lopez or a healthy Adalberto Mondesi at SS while Witt Jr. mans 3B. It’s kind of a catch 22 of sorts.

That’s a lot of words to point out what has been a long foreseen problem, but I wanted to get some thoughts on paper for anyone who is interested. This offseason is gonna be kind of wild and should paint us a pretty good picture of what to expect for not just the Royals in 2022, but 2023 as well.

12 thoughts on “Impending Rule 5 decisions and a potential roster crunch

  1. HI Alex, I appreciate the work you are doing especially as school is starting and time/energy are limited. One of my frustrations with Dayton this year is keeping the veterans who are not only soaking up playing time but taking up 40 man roster spots. KC could get a much better look at younger players in September with release of Erv, Holland, Davis and Dyson. They got a ton of service time and are not helping KC in this last phase of season. Royals can add 4 players for those spots and add more with the September call ups.

    Agreed on your 40 man cuts. This is definitely an offseason to look at dealing a veteran or two in order to create room for the youth movement coming from the farm. Does Dayton think he gets better deals in the offseason than at trade deadline? Seems like he is reluctant to make in season deals of consequence. Royals have to figure out what to do with Isbel and Oliveras. They seem to have too many players for the positions listed above. Time for trade. If KC believes Nicky Lopez is the real deal of 2021, now is the time to deal Whit Merrifield.

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  2. I thought Jesse Hahn was a free agent like Holland, Davis, Santana, Dice, and Taylor. Non-tendering Alberto and McBroom and that should leave you at 33 on the 40. Payamps would be the next guy to go if I made the calls. That would leave 8 spots to add players. I agree with your thoughts that I do not want to loose Garcia but I believe there is a slim chance he is selected. I would add your 5 locks plus Cox, Dye, and Blanco. If we want to add Garcia and/or Rosario we would be looking at dropping one or two from O’Hearn, Tapia, Fox, and Rivera.

    I also strongly believe that the organization deeply values strong and reliable defense up the middle. So next year Witt and Lopez will be the regular double play combo. Mondi and Merrifield will get some starts there when Witt or Lopez are out of the lineup. Also Whit might not get called up until May first as the 40 man roster will be full. After a month of the season a pitcher may need to go on the 60 day IL.

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  3. I spend all winter teaching Mondesi centerfield, trade Merrifield, Witt Jr and Lopez as your middle inf. Merrifield should find you a 3B if you sweeten the deal with Jacob Junis. Putting Mondesi in CF let’s him stretch out his legs, less wear and tear on his arms…………..

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  7. I guess this is the downside of having the #5 system in the league. There are some challenging decisions to make this offseason. I imagine we also don’t see DM making an R5 selection.

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  9. People, this is not fantasy baseball we re talking about here we keep having people talking about trading Whit and I see no way they are better by trading a player who is a threat to lead the league in hits and stolen bases and can play six positions .

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  11. Wow, so much changed after August 23rd in regards to the 40 man roster. Today, I would add Melendez, Pratto, Bowlan, Cox, Dye, Haake to the roster. After the free agents are removed (Holland, Santana, Hahn, Davis) I would remove Scott Blewett, Jacob Junis, Ryan McBroom, Ryan O’Hearn, Hanser Alberto, Joel Payamps, and Gabe Speier. This would get the Royals to 39 players on the 40 man roster. So if someone of interest is on the waiver wire or free agent market they can make a move. I would wait to release Speier until we need that last slot as we could DFA him in Spring Training to open a spot for Bobby Witt Jr.
    I also think this offseason we will see the Royals make one or two significant trades. They have so many players to add to the roster and they will have that again at the end of the ’22 season, it makes since for them to do a 3 for 1 or 4 for 2 deal to add a significant player or two to this roster. The Royals pitching prospect depth really matches up well with the A’s and the Angels among other teams. It should be a fun offseason.

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