It appeared as though the Kansas City Royals truly had a battle for their fifth outfielder spot. Both Justin Maxwell and Carlos Peguero were out of options, and needed to perform well in order to earn that coveted final spot on the Royals bench. Both players have certainly done their part to try to convince the Royals to keep them around. Maxwell has produced a .419/.409/.605 batting line with five extra base hits, while Peguero has a .348/.483/.522 batting line. At this point, it would seem as though it would be a flip of a coin to determine which player would be on the Royals Opening Day roster.
That decision appears to have already been made. With twelve days to go until Opening Day, manager Ned Yost has stated that Justin Maxwell is likely to break camp with the Royals and be a part of the team that takes on the Detroit Tigers.
“He’s going to be on our club,” Yost said. “We’ll just mix and match. We have two guys who are everyday players in left and right. Maxie will fill in, he and [Jarrod] Dyson.”
While neither player has had a lot of success at the major league level, Maxwell has had his moments, including his memorable walkoff grand slam last season. Maxwell also has experience playing all three outfield positions and has demonstrated an ability to hit left handed pitching, while Peguero is limited only to the corner outfield and has generally struggled overall.
In the end, that ability to play anywhere in the outfield may have been the difference over Peguero’s power potential. Lorenzo Cain is not a given to remain healthy, and Justin Maxwell can fill in should Cain be injured once again. Maxwell, along with Danny Valencia, can also serve as a pinch hitter against a tough left handed reliever, giving Yost more options with his bench.
While it may have made more sense to keep a utility infielder instead of a fifth outfielder, the Royals had a choice to make between likely losing Maxwell of Peguero. This could partially be a decision made by trying to determine which player would be easier to get through waivers and into AAA, but that seems unlikely. The Royals appear committed to putting the best team possible on the field, not the team that will cost them the least in the long term.
Justin Maxwell won his roster spot through his production thus far in Spring Training. With that decision, the Royals Opening Day roster is getting closer to being complete.