Trim the Fat

Much has been made about the 40-man roster decisions that the Kansas City Royals will have to make this offseason, including another piece I wrote here at Royals Farm Report. Luckily for the Royals, the MLB playoffs are still taking place and the MLB offseason won’t officially begin until November 4th, so they’ve got some time to mull things over. One of the decisions they’ll have to make this offseason is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, so they’ll get a nice long look at him as well before their official decision is due. The Royals have 15 prospects left that are Rule 5 eligible this offseason, and while not all 15 deserve a lengthy discussion, there are 8-10 that could warrant a serious look. In case you missed my last article, here is a quick refresher on the prospects that are Rule 5 eligible:

  • Nick Pratto, 1B
  • MJ Melendez, C
  • Jonathan Bowlan, RHP
  • Josh Dye, LHP
  • Austin Cox, LHP
  • Maikel Garcia, SS
  • Dairon Blanco, OF
  • Yefri Del Rosario, RHP
  • Seuly Matias, OF
  • Yohanse Morel, RHP
  • Zach Haake, RHP
  • Grant Gavin, RHP
  • Gabriel Cancel, INF
  • Rudy Martin, OF
  • Brewer Hicklen, OF

The Royals currently have 44 players on their 40-man roster, four of those players are on the 60-day IL and will have to be added to the roster when the official offseason begins. Again, in case you missed it, here are a list of players that are either scheduled to become free agents, or that I think warrant a discussion about cutting from the 40-man roster:

  • Wade Davis
  • Jesse Hahn
  • Greg Holland
  • Hanser Alberto
  • Ryan McBroom
  • Ervin Santana
  • Ryan O’Hearn
  • Lucius Fox
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Gabe Speier
  • Scott Blewett

That’s 11 players that are either going to come off the roster when the offseason begins, or that could easily be cut to make room for prospect additions. A couple of months ago when I wrote that original article on the upcoming roster crunch, I listed a few names that could potentially be cut to make room for five prospects on the 40-man roster. Two of those five have already been added (Jon Heasley and Dylan Coleman), lowering the number of “must protect” prospects to three, but the more I think about it, the more I think the “must protect” list is getting longer. Mostly because the Royals need to, in my opinion, begin trimming the fat at the bottom of the roster.

Wade Davis, Greg Holland, and Ervin Santana are all set to become free agents at the end of the season. Jesse Hahn is currently on the 60-Day IL and would have to be added to the 40-man roster at the end of the season. The four of them, along with Scott Blewett, Ryan O’Hearn, and Ryan McBroom should all be cut the second the official offseason begins. This would get the 40-man roster down to 37 and allow the Royals to add MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, and Jonathan Bowlan to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft. (They don’t actually have to do this immediately, but you get the point.)

Those are the three biggest “must adds” in my opinion. Seems pretty obvious, right? From there, now we can have a conversation about other players that need added that aren’t exactly “must adds,” but need heavy consideration. Here is a quick recap of guys that I’d like to see KC move on from that I’ve already mentioned:

  • Wade Davis
  • Greg Holland
  • Ervin Santana
  • Jesse Hahn
  • Scott Blewett
  • Ryan O’Hearn
  • Ryan McBroom

That’s 7 of the original 11 candidates from Jump Street. That should be the seven easiest cuts of the offseason. From here, let’s take a look at the other four potential cuts, and compare them with the four best prospects remaining that need protection from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason:

  • Hanser Alberto
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Gabe Speier
  • Lucius Fox

or…

  • Austin Cox
  • Seuly Matias
  • Zach Haake
  • Maikel Garcia

We could go round for round about whether you want to include Yefri Del Rosario or Josh Dye on this list instead of Zach Haake, but Haake has the best stuff of the bunch and he’s also the oldest, so I’m going to consider that he’s probably the most likely to get poached in the Rule 5 Draft.

Let’s play a little game of “Would You Rather”:

Hanser Alberto or Maikel Garcia

This isn’t particularly close to me. Maikel Garcia is one of the best middle infield prospects in the entire system. He posted a 108 wRC+ and 0.60 BB/K as a 21-year old in High-A this summer to go along with some pretty impressive defense at SS. He’s probably not going to get drafted, to be honest. But there is NO WAY I’m going to let the Baltimore Orioles Victor Reyes him in 2022 because they can’t find a suitable alternative at SS. Not for Hanser Alberto. The Royals have plenty of middle infielders that will need looks in 2022 and, if we’re being honest, Adalberto Mondesi could be a much better option to serve a similar role as Hanser Alberto. I’m going to guess that the likelihood of the Royals cutting Alberto to save Garcia is 0.5%, but this isn’t a move I’d overthink, personally.

Lucius Fox or Seuly Matias

I’m less convicted about this one. Matias still strikes out so damn much that I don’t think he would survive more than a month in the big leagues before his drafting team cut bait. The problem with Matias is that he’s so oft-injured that you might be able to Elvis Luciano him if you’re the Orioles or Diamondbacks. Draft him, play him 10-15 games, and then magically discover an injury that puts him on the 60-Day IL for the rest of the season. Is it likely? Probably not. I’m less concerned about losing Matias than Garcia because Garcia offers more defensively and has a significantly better hit tool, but you can still boil it down to this: are you willing to risk losing Matias to keep Lucius Fox (or Hanser Alberto, sort of interchangeable here) on the roster? I’m going to assume the Royals will keep one of Fox or Alberto around, meaning one of Matias or Garcia probably gets exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December.

Gabe Speier or Austin Cox

Would anyone be surprised if Austin Cox pitched better than Gabe Speier in the big leagues in 2022? I’m probably a bigger fan of Speier’s than anyone and this isn’t even close to me. You’ve got Jake Brentz in the bullpen already. Mike Minor probably ought to make a move to the bullpen at some point in 2022. That’s two good lefty relief options that don’t require Speier to be apart of the bullpen. Austin Cox could legitimately start in the back of a big league rotation in a couple years. You don’t risk losing an arm like that to keep Gabe Speier around. I actually think there’s a better than 50% chance Cox is protected this offseason, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.

Kyle Zimmer or Zach Haake

Similarly to the Fox/Matias debate, I could flip a coin here. I’m not one to accuse anyone of cheating but Zimmer looked pretty pedestrian after MLB cracked down on the sticky stuff this year. Is Zimmer’s 2020 just a mirage? A product of foreign substances? I honestly couldn’t tell you, but Haake has the kind of stuff teams are looking for to add to their bullpens in the Rule 5 Draft. Flip a coin, but I think it’s worth a conversation.

2022 Roster?

If the Royals made 8-9 of these cuts, here’s what your Opening Day roster could look like in 2022:

Catchers:
– Salvador Perez
– Cam Gallagher
– MJ Melendez

Infielders:
– Bobby Witt Jr.
– Nicky Lopez
– Whit Merrifield
– Adalberto Mondesi
– Carlos Santana
– Nick Pratto OR Vinnie Pasquantino?

Outfielders:
– Andrew Benintendi
– Michael A. Taylor
– Kyle Isbel
– Hunter Dozier

Pitchers:
– Brad Keller
– Carlos Hernandez
– Daniel Lynch
– Brady Singer
– Kris Bubic
– Mike Minor
– Scott Barlow
– Dylan Coleman
– Jake Brentz
– Ronald Bolanos
– Jackson Kowar
– Jakob Junis
– Domingo Tapia
– Joel Payamps?

Any questions? I put “?” next to Payamps and either Pratto or Pasquantino depending on how many pitchers you want to carry, but that roster looks pretty damn good to me. Moving on from a bunch of guys like I’m proposing isn’t always practical, but the Royals actually have the depth to make it work. You can get Hanser Alberto’s, Greg Holland’s, and Ervin Santana’s literally whenever you want. They’re a dime a dozen. Don’t lose out on prospects, in a rebuilding year, to keep around players you can get off the scrap heap in the middle of July. Trim the fat.

Photo Credits: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

6 thoughts on “Trim the Fat

  1. I like your plan. My comments are get rid of Gallagher, Santana, and Minor, add Rivero, use Melendez as a back up 3rd baseman if needed, move Witt to right field (long term to center), and look for a free agent pitcher
    with a large, but short term contract.

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  2. Assuming that service time gets overhauled and that time on the 26 man is less of a factor, I’d non-tender Cam Gallagher, try to bring him back on a minor league deal, and let MJ be the backup. Salvy is going to try to play 162 again so whoever the backup is won’t be playing all that much anyways. The kid has already proved he can do it in the minors, let him come up and get his first taste of the big leagues while learning from one of the best in the game.

    Under that same logic, I’d bring up Pratto to be the starter at 1B and let Santana DH where he can hopefully improve enough to be a solid contributor on a Royals playoff team or be trade bait to anyone needing a DH (which should be more teams given universal DH will probably happen).

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  3. Great article. Thank you. I’m guessing they sub Zuber for Speier. Trade/sell Gallagher to the Yankees (I think he’s a better player than most think), McBroom to the Pirates. Expose Matias & tender Alberto (gotta’ have someone jumping around like a maniac rooting their teammates on).

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  4. Thanks for covering the roster decisions as these will be important decisions the next two years. I am curious why you are quick to remove Zimmer from the roster after a bad second half but you don’t have Junis or Payamps on the list of potential cuts. Personally out of those 3 guys, I would cut Junis first. We know what he is, a pitcher with one major league quality pitch – the slider. Everyone knows this also so they lay off the slider and smash the fastball when it comes.
    I also don’t see Matias as a big leaguer. He obviously cannot read the spin on a pitch and it is very hard to imagine him hitting major league quality pitching. He looks great in batting practice and has big power, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t tell what the pitcher is throwing at you.
    Lastly, I think Fox makes the Royals roster as the 26th man – pinch runner and backup in center. Fox will only play when they give Taylor a break and will fill that Gore/Dyson role of elite runner of the bench late in games.

    Cut – Blewitt, McBroom, O’Hearn, Junis, Speier, Alberto.
    Add – MJM, Pratto, Bowlan, Haake, Dye, Cox.
    Cut Payamps if you need to add Garcia also but I am not sure an A ball shortstop who hasn’t developed any pop yet will be selected in the Rule V draft.

    With all these prospects to protect, the Royals would be wise to make a trade to upgrade in COF or for a stud pitcher to lead the staff.

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  5. Alberto and Junis would make way to much in arbitration, easy non-tenders.

    I’d protect all of Cox, DelRosario and Dye for sure or make a trade of one of them before the roster deadline. They look like future major leaguers.

    Matias went undrafted last year in rule V and not much has changed unless he breaks out in the fall league, I’d leave him off again.

    I wouldn’t protect Fox just for roster balance. There will be plenty of AAAA middle infielders on minor-league camp invites to bring in as insurance

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