It’s been three full weeks now since I last projected the Royals roster and I think there are some changes, specifically on the position player side that make this latest one interesting. They, of course, made a minor league signing that I think will be a big league starter the day I put that last one out, so big thanks to JJ for that. But we’ve also seen an injury to a presumptive starter occur since then, which changes the calculus quite a bit. Even though this is the first “normal” spring since 2019, it’s still a bit abnormal as the World Baseball Classic gives some guys a chance they may not have otherwise gotten, so I think with a little more than three weeks left, there is some room for change still.
In this edition, I’ll give you my roster with their ever-important spring training stats. I’ll also include the other guys in consideration and what they need to do in order to make the roster.
Salvador Perez - .313/.313/.500, 1 HR, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 SB, 0 CS
Freddy Fermin - .500/.667/1.167, 1 HR, 2 BB, 0 K
This is a change and I’m honestly completely waffling on it even as I write this. I wonder a little if an outfield injury means the Royals would rather carry a backup catcher in the interim and Fermin has played both well this spring and back to the second half of 2022. He’s a guy who can work a walk, has a little pop and gets rave reviews defensively. If the Royals are wanting to limit Salvy’s workload some, having a true backup isn’t the worst idea.
That said, it leaves the roster just a bit unbalanced to have Fermin over someone like Matt Beaty, who I’ll get to shortly. They do have four lefty bats among their every day players, but just one on the bench to pinch hit for a couple of the right-handed bats that might need it. So this is still a bit of a guessing game for me, but I’ve heard enough great things about Fermin from camp that I think he gets on the roster as of this very moment. Ask me tomorrow and it might change, but these are just a snapshot in time, right?
Other Options: None really
Jose Briceño has had a nice camp behind the plate, but the Royals are either going with Perez and MJ Melendez to back him up or Perez and Fermin. For Briceño to make the roster, I would think there would need to be injuries to two of those three players. The other catchers in camp, Tyler Cropley, Logan Porter, Jakson Reetz and Luca Tresh, have essentially no shot unless there are three injuries and even then, I’d say the order would be Reetz, Porter, Cropley and Tresh for inclusion on the big league roster. Not a lot of real competition here.
Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B - .444/.545/.778, 1 HR, 2 BB, 0 K
Michael Massey, 2B - .278/.278/.667, 2 H, 0 BB, 5 K
Hunter Dozier, 3B - .333/.333/.600, 1 HR, 0 BB, 4 K
Bobby Witt Jr., SS - .389/.400/.556, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 K
This group feels pretty set with the way Massey has played lately, both offensively and defensively. I think the Royals are better with Nicky Lopez in a utility role and while many will scoff at Dozier’s inclusion in the starting lineup, he’s on the roster and I think he’s looked good this spring. I’ve heard good things about his infield work too. He’s faster than you think, but his feet are a little too slow, I think, to ever be more than adequate at third, but people who have seen a lot of him this spring say Jose Alguacil’s work with him is showing.
This group will go as far as Pasquantino and Witt will take them. Dozier is a placeholder for someone and Massey is a nice player, who might develop into more, but he’s a complementary piece for now. Pasquantino and Witt are the guys who, if all goes well, will hit in the top half of a lineup in a playoff game. We’ve already seen what Pasquantino can do relative to the league and I’m very interested to see how Witt reacts to year two, especially with some time at the WBC with some of the game’s best players. I think the Royals are in good hands with these two, both as players and personalities to be the faces of the team.
Nicky Lopez - .000/.222/.000, 2 BB, 2 K
Matt Duffy - .600/.600/.800, 3 2B, 0 BB, 2 K
I kind of feel like these two are kind of the right-handed and left-handed versions of each other. Neither has much power. Both can work a walk. Neither strike out much. Duffy has more power and Lopez makes more contact, but both are lighter hitting, but wouldn’t be a surprise to put up a .330+ OBP either. Lopez has more upside and is better defensively, but I kind of like having someone like these two from each side of the plate since they can make contact in a situation that requires contact and can both handle second and third while Lopez can handle shortstop too.
Other Options: Matt Beaty (NRI), Johan Camargo (NRI), Maikel Garcia, Nick Loftin (NRI), Nick Pratto, Samad Taylor
The biggest threat to any of the above on the roster right now is Garcia. He’s looked great this spring and the Royals are even trying him out in the outfield to see if maybe there’s a fit there. He played center yesterday. If there’s an injury, I’d say he’s in. I also think he can continue to earn his way onto the roster, likely in place of Dozier at third. The problem is that Dozier has played well and has looked good and Garcia only has 209 plate appearances above AA, so I don’t think it’s the worst thing to get him a little extra time down there. I’m all for him earning his roster spot, but he’s someone that I think it’s important to remind people that the Opening Day roster is just one roster out of 180+ throughout the season.
As for the rest, I think right now Beaty is the first guy on if the Royals don’t keep Fermin, though there are some roster issues. Their backup first baseman as of right now is Dozier, which is fine, but if they don’t want to move him around, they might be playing someone out of position there on days Pasquantino sits. For what it’s worth, the Rays have never had a real problem doing that. Harold Ramirez had played 12 innings of first base professionally before last year. He started 29 games at first in 2022 for them. We’ve seen them try Jordan Luplow there as well. I guess what I’m saying is that if Edward Olivares is starting at first against a tough lefty, don’t be surprised.
I thought Camargo would get a real crack at the roster and he still could, but he’s been cold out of the gates. And just for an example on the first base thing, he played there yesterday in Surprise. Taylor has shown off quite a bit for this coaching staff, but I just don’t think there’s a ton he can do to make this roster out of the gates. He is absolutely setting himself up for a callup this year, though, with his performance. Loftin is in the same boat. He’s shown a solid approach, some power and played very good defense. He’s positioned well to debut at some point.
And the final player is Pratto, who was struggling until he wasn’t, which just shows how small the sample is. The concern for me is that he’s still struck out five times in 13 plate appearances and that’s what the Royals want to see changes in. My guess is he goes to Omaha and kind of waits out Franmil Reyes or if there’s an opening in a corner outfield spot, maybe he gets the call and rotates around a little, playing five out of seven games. Either way, we know he can pick it at first. We know he can hit the ball a long way. He has to make more contact before he’s on this roster, though, so he’ll have to wait to get back up.
Edward Olivares, LF - .625/.667/1.125, 1 HR, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 SB, 0 CS
Kyle Isbel, CF - .429/.556/.500, 4 BB, 4 K
MJ Melendez, RF - .375/.421/.875, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 SB, 0 CS
Isbel is starting in center field on Opening Day, barring injury. Melendez will be in the outfield on Opening Day, barring injury to him or Perez. I don’t feel confident about Olivares or the positions, but hey, that’s where we are right now. Melendez hasn’t played left in spring training yet, which leads me to believe that when he’s in the outfield, he will be in right field. I wonder if that’s because they’d rather have a revolving door in left and feel comfortable with Nate Eaton jumping in to play right when Melendez catches or sits. I’m not sure if that’s the case or not, but that’s my theory.
The question to me is what is the role for Olivares on this club? He hasn’t played much this spring, but as usual, he’s hit when he’s played. Could Eaton grab a starting spot? It seems pretty possible to me. I’ll get to it in the bench section, but the Royals did just sign a Gold Glove winning center fielder to a minor league deal, so does that change the calculus any? But also, I wonder just how temporary this starting outfield alignment is for when Waters comes back, presumably around the end of April.
Nate Eaton - .333/.385/.333, 1 BB, 3 K
I think Eaton is a backup who will play a lot of games and start about half of them. He’s valuable. He might see time at third and second as well as all three outfield positions, but I see him as a valuable weapon for this team. He might be a bit of a luxury on a bad team, but I think there’s a non-zero chance that he develops into something more than what the prospect pedigree indicates and that’s something bad teams need to be prepared to make concessions for because you never know when someone like him can pop.
Other Options: Beaty (NRI), Dairon Blanco (NRI), Jackie Bradley Jr. (NRI)
I said in the infield section that I think Beaty is actually not that far from making the team. But I wonder if the Royals like what they see from Bradley if he ends up on the roster, at least to start the season. As I’ve said so many times, the Royals have one healthy true center fielder on their 40-man roster and are playing a catcher in one corner and an outfielder who has shown to not be good defensively in the other. They could opt to have two defensive specialists on the bench with Bradley. I also wonder if they see how things go early and let Bradley stay in extended spring training since he hasn’t even seen game action yet.
I also don’t think Blanco has a real shot at the roster, but he’s getting a lot of looks with injuries and the WBC guys gone and the Royals had him up for a short time last year. I didn’t mention Tyler Gentry, John Rave or Tucker Bradley, but those three have been impressive at various points this spring. Gentry, I think is a future starter in a corner for this team, but Rave and Bradley may now be on the radar if a need arises.
Franmil Reyes - .364/.385/.909, 1 HR, 2 BB, 6 K
When the Royals signed Reyes, I immediately believed that he was going to be on the roster. When he showed up in shape and hit a 460 foot home run, I was pretty confident of it. I think the Royals want a little more thump in the middle and Reyes definitely has thump. The Waters injury makes his spot on the roster make even more sense, but it does take away some of their versatility. What happens when Perez doesn’t catch and is the DH? Does Reyes go to left field? If you’ve watched any of spring training, you have to hope not. Though I guess maybe in a smaller park it could work. I don’t know. The point is that after a rough 2022, he’s going to be in a spot where he needs to continue proving himself all season and his first checkpoint will be when Waters gets back.
This group includes two players who are not currently on the 40-man roster. They have one easy spot with Diego Hernandez, who is out for a few months. He can be placed on the 60-day IL to open up some room, but that means there’ll be a need for one more opening, which will likely come from the pitching staff. An injury could open this up for the Royals, but otherwise they’ll be looking for someone to DFA or maybe to make a late-spring trade. That’s another reason why it would be tough to keep more than two of Duffy, Beaty, Reyes and Bradley. It’s not that they don’t have expendable pieces, but something big would have to give to see more than two.
Tomorrow, I’ll take my third crack at the pitchers, but as of right now, I don’t believe I have anybody who will need a 40-man spot, so at least it’s just one for the moment.
More great stuff from David and Inside the Crown.
David, you've worked a miracle: you have actually made me anxious for the regular season to start. It's been many years since that happened. Thank you!