With Spring Training essentially starting this week the season of early overreactions has finally arrived! Manager Ned Yost will be asked many different questions when it comes to the Royals this year due to the rebuild. Many of his answers will allow fans to react differently and after Thursday’s comments, fans are doing just that.
Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com and Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star were around during today’s interview and provided the fans with some interesting news. Some of what Yost said was simple statements, while others took fans by surprise.
Players “firmly” in place
Before going into Spring Training, only a few positions seemed to be set. Ned Yost confirmed some of those predetermined thoughts on solidified positions. He told reporters that Salvador Perez at catcher, Alex Gordon in left field, Alcides Escobar at shortstop, and Whit Merrifield at second base were fairly firm with their position. That leaves competition at first base, third base, center field, right field, and designated hitter. That is not necessarily a big surprise.
This does leave it up to fans to predict who will be at the vacant positions. Jorge Bonifacio seems like a lock to be the Royals right fielder, Hunter Dozier at first base and Cheslor Cuthbert at third base. Designated hitter seems to belong to Jorge Soler, but how he looks in Spring Training could change that. Same with Paulo Orlando in center field.
Center field competition
When asked about who will man center field. Yost made it clear that the position was open for competition.
Two surprise names here would be if the Royals really put Gordon in center field and if Bubba Starling makes his MLB debut in 2018. They played with the idea of having Gordon play in center field a couple games last year. While Gordon made some amazing plays in center field, without question he would better assist the team playing left field. As for Starling, fans are ready to see what he can do. Lately, when he has been healthy it has been positive news. However, he never seems to be healthy and productive long enough to get the call-up.
I will say that I fully anticipate Orlando to break camp as the teams starting center fielder. However, if Starling can be productive and start hot in Triple-A, I would not be surprised if he gets called up.
The potential answer at first base
Everyone is tired of this conversation. What will the Royals do at first base? Will it be Eric Hosmer? What about Logan Morrison? As of right now, the answer seems to be Dozier. Even though he has very little experience at the position, the organization seems set to give him a chance.
Dozier also recognizes that his opportunity to make his big-league move and impact is right now.
I personally know that I would rather see Dozier at first base if Hosmer does not re-sign, and as of right now it seems that Dozier is the guy. He will definitely be someone to watch during Spring Training.
This is where the confusion and overreactions kick in. I neglected to add the tweet under the “Players ‘firmly’ in place” section because it would have given away the overreaction. While Yost was giving his list of players that are “firmly” in place, Yost dropped an interesting statement.
- Has Merrifield not earned and solidified his spot with the team after his last two years?
- If Mondesi is an option at second base, why was he not an option at shortstop?
I understand that Merrifield is considered to be a “super-utility” player and could play third base, first base, and outfield if he is not at second base. But leading into the second question, if Mondesi is capable of playing second base why did the Royals sign Escobar? How is someone potentially ready to play second base but seemingly not ready to play shortstop?
If Mondesi can stay healthy and be productive offensively then the Royals do have to find a spot for him. It just seems that shortstop would have been the ideal spot for Mondesi post-Escobar extension because it was an open position. That also would prevent the Royals from moving a player that stabilized a position that has been more than unstable for years.
Last year during Spring Training Mondesi looked ready to make the jump. He finished playing 25 games, hitting .333/.345/.556 and three homeruns. However, once the regular season hit the struggles hit him hard. Mondesi hit just .170/.214/.245 and one homerun over 25 games.
Something to keep in mind as well, Spring Training for pitchers predominantly pitcher working on location and working on a particular pitch. So Mondesi could look like he’s ready again, but not be. However, looking at his Triple-A numbers from last year, it does provide hope. Over his 85 games at Triple-A Omaha last year Mondesi had an impressive .305/.340/.539 with 13 homeruns. The offense is there, it’s just a matter of transferring that to the big leagues.
I feel like the Royals are going to create a lot of headlines in Kansas City this year. This team is going through a rebuild and a lot of names that fans have not heard or faces they do not recognize will dominate conversations. All I can say is Yost did a great job building interest in the team already with some of his comments Thursday. Which, for all we know, could be the reason he made those comments.
What do you think fans? Have you heard anything that caused you to overreact yet? Did Yost say anything that resonated with you? Let us know your thoughts!