KC Royals: Searching for final pieces of 25-man roster

Preseason standings may or may not mean much. In 2015, the KC Royals were one of just two teams to win 20 spring games.

Everyone knows our KC Royals went on to win the World Series that year. Last year is a clear indication of just how little those games mean: Cleveland won 18 games, but the Cubs won just 11 games to finish near the bottom of the Cactus League. Again, we know how that played out.

In that sense, Royals fans can take what they want from the 2017 preseason thus far. As of Saturday night, Kansas City was 11-10, further making any predictions about the upcoming season impossible.

Regardless of predictions, the Royals are now moving players around in preparation for the upcoming season. Last Friday, the organization optioned six players to Triple-A Omaha. The battle for spots on the 25-man roster continue.

 Royals displaying power in Arizona

Some off-season acquisitions gave Royals fans a reason to be optimistic. Outfielder Peter O’ Brien has done his part. Not hired as an average guy – O’Brien has batted just .176 in his 74 big league at-bats – O’Brien needs to display some power to make it in Kansas City.

Five of his first ten spring training hits were long balls, and he now has six home runs in just 41 at bats. More impressively, he’s upped his batting average to .341 in Arizona.

Jorge Bonifacio is another outfielder showing promise early on. The 23-year-old is batting .414 in his 29 at bats. Three of his 12 hits have cleared the fence. Bonifacio has a career batting average of .267 in his seven minor-league seasons. Late last week, Bonifacio received the news he would be opening the season in Omaha.

Kansas City will have no shortage of infielders in 2017. Raul Mondesi is doing his part to secure a spot at second base. He’s batting .430 with two home runs.

Newcomer Hunter Dozier is pushing Mike Moustakas at third with a .409 average and two homers. Moose is coming along with a .200 average and a pair of long balls. Moustakas’ job is safe for now with Dozier getting optioned to Omaha last week.

Through Saturday night, Kansas City was tied for fifth in the league with 29 homers, just six shy of the leaders from Milwaukee. Obviously, the pitching in Arizona is not what the Royals can expect to see all summer, and the ballparks out there are a far cry from Kauffman Stadium, but Kansas City hit just 28 home runs in 31 spring training games in 2015.

Pitching coming along

There are a plethora of reasons not to trust spring training numbers when it comes to pitching. Pitchers are trying out new things and facing batters of various talent levels. But like batting numbers, there are some reasons for early optimism.

Travis Wood threw 61 innings for the Cubs last year, working his way to a perfect 4-0 record. The 30-year-old lefty is 2-0 with seven strikeouts in his 13.1 innings of work this spring.

The bad news is batters have hit three homers off Wood and are hitting at a .308 clip. According to a report in the Kansas City Star on Saturday, Wood is in a battle with Nathan and Chris Young for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Chris Young has been impressive with a 2.13 ERA in his 12.2 innings of work to lead that charge. Karns has an ERA of 7.36 in his first 11 innings.

Mike Minor is coming along nice with eight shutout innings that include five strikeouts and three hits. Minor had a career 4.10 ERA in his five years in Atlanta but has not pitched in the bigs since 2014. Minor made just one appearance out of the bullpen while in Atlanta but could be a fixture in the Royals pen this summer.

Matt Strahm continues to impress. After striking out 30 batters in his first 22 innings in the majors last year, the 25-year-old has struck out nine in his 8.1 scoreless innings of work this spring. Scott Alexander and Eric Stout have allowed a combined two earned runs in 15.2 innings of work. The duo has split 12 strikeouts and are a combined 3-0 in Arizona.

Less than three weeks remain until Opening Day, and Royals Manager Ned Yost will have his hands full picking his final roster with key races in the outfield, middle infield, and starting rotation.

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