September 27, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder David Lough (7) scores a run during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A Good Problem to Have

When the Royals pack up and leave Surprise at the conclusion of Spring Training, there will be some players left behind who don’t make it to Chicago for the season opener. The roster crunch is a question every team has to address and the Royals (thankfully, in a way) are no exception.

I say this because for the first time in a while, they have players established in most positions and some players who are more than capable of filling a role if they’re added to the roster. In the past, the team may have taken someone who filled out the roster just because they had to have somebody to fill a spot. The Sidney Ponson signing comes to mind. He had no claim to be anywhere near a major league roster spot. And he started the home opener against the Yankees in 2009.

This year, that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll fret over having Luke Hochevar and I’ll be skeptical about Bruce Chen or Luis Mendoza, but both are better options than Ponson, and they at least have some upside to be average, even if that’s all they can be. The Royals have players who could easily open the year on the roster, but probably won’t.

We basically know the rotation – the only question is who lands the fifth spot out of Chen, Hochevar and, possibly, Will Smith. Most every position on the diamond is set as well, other than second base. The bullpen is loaded.

The Royals finally have some depth of talent but not enough spots to fit it all.

July 16, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Louis Coleman (31) delivers a pitch in the second inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s assume that Chen lands the last rotation spot. The Royals really like Mendoza as a long relief option and Hochevar is out of options and still has the Royals trust. Greg Holland is locked in as the closer with Kelvin Herrera setting him up. Tim Collins has a spot, as does Aaron Crow and then there’s a battle for another left-handed reliever. My money’s on Donnie Joseph, but Everett Teaford or Francisley Bueno could be options. I haven’t even mentioned Louis Coleman and he’s been well above average out of the bullpen the last two seasons. With the four starters in place, Chen as the fifth and a seven man bullpen, that gives the Royals the following pitchers to pick from when leaving spring training:

That’s 18 pitchers. Heck, take out Moscoso and Bueno and there are still four too many. That’s probably going to land Coleman and Smith – both of whom could easily hold their own in just about any staff in the big leagues – back in Omaha. Adcock and Teaford have options, so they’re possibly headed there with them (Joseph does as well, but he’ll probably end up as the best guy for the job, and it’s not like they aren’t going to use Teaford’s options at some point anyway in 2013).

The Royals will start with Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francoeur and Jarrod Dyson in the outfield, assuming everyone is healthy. That crowds David Lough out unless they feel whoever ends up as the utility player can really handle any infield position he might have to play. There will be four bench spots available, and one will be taken over by catcher Brett Hayes, another by Dyson. Does Miguel Tejada make the team? What happens to Irving Falu then? Or Tony Abreu? Would the Royals keep both Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella to platoon at second base? There are also non-roster invitees Brandon Wood, Endy Chavez and maybe even Xavier Nady or Willy Taveras to consider. All of the invitees are longshots but one hot March is all it takes sometimes.

Having Lough ready in Omaha in the case of an injury or ineffectiveness is fine. He’s capable of filling in if necessary and that depth is how good teams keep the ball rolling when surprises jump up. For years, it seemed like the Twins would suffer an injury but have someone ready to plug in the gap and play at at least replacement level. Falu played well last summer. Abreu impressed a lot of Royals officials.

Any of these players could step right in if they were called into action. The troop keeps marching on. If the offense wakes up and the rotation performs as some expect, that depth will come in handy when the inevitable injuries pop up.

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