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What the Royals Opening Day Roster Might Look Like

Kelsey Higginbotham, Staff Writer

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Spring training is coming up quickly. Pitchers and catchers report on February 13, with position players reporting on February 18. With Lorenzo Cain signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Jason Vargas remaining on the free agent market, and Brandon Moss being traded, the Kansas City Royals roster is rapidly changing, leaving many questions as to what the 2018 Royals will look like come Opening Day. Looking at the Royals farm system, I have predicted, what the Royals Opening Day roster might entail.

Several changes have already occurred, such as trading designated hitter Brandon Moss and left handed reliever Ryan Buchter to the Oakland As in exchange for right handed starter Jesse Hahn and right handed reliever Heath Fillmyer (ESPN). The Royals have also retained shortstop Alcides Escobar, signing him to a 1-year, 2.5 million dollar contract (ESPN). But what about Hos, Moose, and Vargy? Well, according to Jon Morosi, an MLB Network reporter, Hosmer wants a contract longer than seven years, a game changer in contract talks. More than seven years on a contract could put a team in a chokehold. If Hosmer’s performance declines rapidly in last the four years of his contract but he has a no trade clause and is on an all-star salary, it could handcuff the team wanting to dump his contract. Despite the discrepancy in years, the possibility of the Royals resigning Eric Hosmer is likely. I wouldn’t count on it just yet, though, as San Diego and possibly St. Louis are still potential prospects to sign the All-Star MVP. As for Mike Moustakas, there has been very little word on any contract talks, and the same goes for pitcher Jason Vargas.

We’re going to see lots of new faces this year at spring training, such as Jesse Hahn, Heath Fillmyer, Trevor Oaks and Erick Mejia. There are 16 new acquisitions through trade or free agent signings so far this off-season, but only three of them have been invited to spring training, while seven have already been placed on the 40-man roster.

For the purposes of conjecture, I will base this roster off the likelihood that Hosmer, Moustakas, and Vargas will find deals on other teams for the upcoming season. As such, my 25 man roster is subject to change throughout spring training, and most likely it will change. As for now, after dissecting and crunching numbers, I have created a statistically based roster filled with guys I believe have the most potential to help the Royals be a middle of the pack team and hopefully break even at 81-81.

 

ORDER NAME POSITION BAT/THROW GAMES AVERAGE
1 Whit Merrifield 2B R/R 145 .288
2 Cheslor Cuthbert 3B R/R 58 .231
3 Frank Schwindel (AAA) 1B R/R 99 .321
4 Salvador Perez C R/R 129 .268
5 Cody Asche (AAA) DH L/R 87 .292
6 Jorge Bonifacio RF R/R 113 .255
7 Billy Burns (AAA) CF S/R 99 .285
8 Alcides Escobar SS R/R 162 .250
9 Alex Gordon LF L/R 148 .208
Extra Donald Dewees Jr. (AA) CF L/L 126 .272
Drew Butera C R/R 75 .227
Ryan Goins 2B/SS L/R 143 .237
ORDER PITCHERS L OR R RECORD ERA SAVES
1 Danny Duffy L 9-10 3.81 0
2 Jake Junis R 9-3 4.30 0
3 Ian Kennedy R 5-13 5.38 0
4 Jason Hammel R 8-13 5.29 0
5 Nate Karns R 2-2 4.17 0
RP Jesse Hahn R 3-6 5.30 0
RP Heath Fillmyer (AA) R 11-5 3.49 0
RP Brian Flynn (AA) L 5-3 5.40 0
RP Eric Stout (AAA) L 5-2 2.99 5
RP Kevin McCarthy R 1-0 3.20 0
RP Tim Hill (AA) L 1-2 4.17 4
RP Miguel Almonte (AAA) R 0-1 1.50 0
CLSR Kelvin Herrera R 3-3 4.25 26

*All stats come from FanGraphs

 

I believe Whit Merrifield will be the starting second baseman due to his experience and performance from the previous season. Filling the hole that Ben Zobrist left was tough, but he accepted the challenge and filled the hole to the best of his abilities.

Cheslor Cuthbert will be this season’s starting third baseman, assuming that Mike Moustakas doesn’t re-sign, partly because of the trust the team and management have in him. In May 2016 Mike Moustakas went down with a torn ACL, per mlb.com, making Cuthbert the primary third baseman. He played roughly three quarters of that season at third, keeping up with MLB starting third baseman across the league.

In my opinion, Frank Schwindel is best candidate for first base, again assuming Hosmer doesn’t re-sign. He tore up the minors, batting top ten in average according to milb.com. He performed well outside of the batter’s box too, proving himself a very capable first baseman, only commiting two errors in 54 games.

Salvador Perez has been the Royals starting catcher since 2013. He’s the foundation of the team and therefore doesn’t need much explanation. The four-time Gold Glove winner is the staple in the lineup.

Cody Asche is a new acquisition, signing on as a free agent. He has 390 major league games under his belt in five seasons, making him the most qualified designated hitter in the farm system.

Jorge Bonifacio played just over two-thirds of the last season in right field, making him the primary right fielder for the second consecutive season. Bonifacio will continue to be the primary right fielder because of his abilities at the plate.

In my opinion Billy Burns will be the starting center fielder over Paulo Orlando based on age. Not only is he 28, compared to Orlando at 32, hes faster and he’s a switch hitter, making him even more valuable.

Alcides Escobar is another given starter. He just signed a new contract, a year long one. At the end of last season, he regained himself from his below average plate appearances from the first half of the season. Escobar’s defense has always been consistently good, winning a Gold Glove and definitely deserving of more.

Alex Gordon has been the starting left fielder since I can remember, since 2007 to be exact. Even though his at bats have been subpar at best since signing his contract in 2016, but his defense makes up for it, securing his spot as the starting left fielder.

Donald Dewees Jr. is another fast guy to possibly be used as a pinch runner.

Drew Butera is Salvador Perez’s backup catcher and will to continue to be until Cam Gallagher develops into the better option.

Ryan Goins is a more than capable extra infielder. On some teams he could be a starter, in fact he was a starter for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, it is plausible he could take over the shortstop position if Escobar doesn’t re-sign after this season.

I have Danny Duffy as the ace of the starting rotation partly because of the fact he’s the only starter with an ERA under four. He’s also one of the more experienced pitchers on the roster, giving him an edge over the younger guys.

Jake Junis is my number two because of his record of 9-3, the best record from this season. His ERA, although above four, his is the right in the middle. His ability to give the bullpen enough of a lead to win.

Ian Kennedy is third due to his declining pitch quality. 5-13 is certainly not what you call quality. I only put him third in hopes he can turn it around this season.

Jason Hammel is another guy who has declined throughout the past season, with a 5.29 ERA he can’t sustain a top spot in the rotation.

The fifth guy is Nate Karns. He has the least experience, but the second best ERA. His spot could be up for grabs after a few starts, but to me his low ERA keeps him in the rotation for me.

With the bullpen, things can change tremendously within the course of a few weeks and the order will almost never be the same from game to game. This being said, the bullpen could look completely different three weeks into the season.

Jesse Hahn is a starting pitcher that I would turn into a reliever. To the Royals he has more value in the bullpen rather than the dugout.

Heath Fillmyer was in the top of the Texas League in pitching statistics, proving himself capable of a roster spot, beating out more experienced guys than he.

Brian Flynn performed well in 2016 when he played 36 games with a 2.60 ERA, giving management a good reason to put him on the roster.

Eric Stout has the second lowest ERA on the projected pitching staff at 2.99, even if it was only in AAA, he’ll make the team with the only ERA under three, something the Royal need more of.

Kevin McCarthy was up with the team for a 33 game stint last season and improved the bullpen, earning him a spot on this year’s roster.

Tim Hill can be an 8th inning guy, help set up the 8th inning, or even close out a game if necessary. He’s pretty versatile and being able to use him in several ways makes him more valuable.

Miguel Almonte has the potential to be a great reliever this season. He missed a considerable amount of time last season with a shoulder injury, potentially causing his big league appearances to not be of the quality he’s capable of. Giving him a chance to prove he’s the reliever he can could be very beneficial to the Royals.

The Royals currently don’t have much to work with as of now. They only have a few more bullpen guys that have been invited to spring training, but I would be surprised if they make the squad. Until further notice Kelvin Herrera will be the closer. I believe they have another option in Eric Stout, it’s just a matter of if they’ll use him or not. Herrera had five blown saves last year, part of that was him and part of that was not enough run support, but winning games is key, and right now there is no other 20 win closer available in the farm system, so Herrera will be this season’s closer.

So, this is it, my completed 25 man roster that I believe will be the possible team that could be out on the field, of course I probably won’t be totally correct, but I believe that through this rebuilding process, minor league players are key.  I will continue to follow spring training and keep notes for an updated roster prediction before management releases their Opening Day roster.

 

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