The Kansas City Royals are roughly half way through Spring Training. What is the status of the club now?
At the start of every year before spring training, we fans debate over the team and the coming season. Once play starts, the reality of the new season comes into view. This year the Kansas City Royals already have injuries, good and bad play making new debates about the clubs prospects for the year.
With a couple of weeks left before the regular season starts, what is the status of the players still in camp? Who will be there when camp breaks to go north?
The biggest loss so far is Salvador Perez. The Royals signed Martin Maldonado to counter that issue. Defensively, this is a good move. His presence behind the plate should help with all the new arms on the team. His backup will probably be Cam Gallagher. We will miss the offense Perez provided the team. However, I believe this is a better situation than a Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria combination.
Danny Duffy’s struggles to get healthy are a concern as well. This has been an on going issue for him and the Kansas City Royals. How many innings can he be counted on during a season? This is a question that has been on going throughout his career. Only time will tell what that answer is this season. The question will also arise again as to whether he is a better fit in the bullpen or as a starter. I’m honestly not convinced that will make any difference with his health.
The outfield situation is settled except for the right field battle. Brian Goodwin, Brett Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio are all struggling. With about two weeks left this spring, there is not much time left for one of them to step up and claim that spot. Jorge Soler could end up there, but for now seems to be slotted for DH this season.
The bright spot outside of these four players is Bubba Starling. If the season started now, he would be my choice to go north. Though his hitting has cooled a little bit, his slash line of .417/.517/.750 is still one of the best this spring.
His defense has been excellent as well and would make a potent combination with Alex Gordon and Billy Hamilton. Talk about a shutdown defense! If the pitching can keep the ball in the park, these three will most likely chase it down.
The infield is settled at shortstop and second base with Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield. Ryan O’Hearn will man first base, but if he has trouble with lefties, I can see a platoon situation with either Chris Owings or Frank Schwindel coming up after the season starts.
Schwindel is a defensive liability. I have seen him play at first base and third base this spring. He was okay at first. He seems to have poor footwork over there and trouble with throws in the dirt. He looked out of place at third.
Hunter Dozier is essentially a lock to start at third at this time. He will also platoon with O’Hearn at first against lefties, which will let Owings take over him. His spring has been mixed at the plate, though lately he is doing better. This is a make or brake year for Dozier. Cheslor Cuthbert and Owings are having productive springs and look healthy. They could make a run for the spot if Dozier falters.
The starting pitching is looking fairly good right now. Despite Duffy, all of the potential starters have got some innings. Ian Kennedy, Brad Keller and Heath Fillmyer have given up a few runs but are throwing well. Jorge Lopez and Jakob Junis are looking really good this spring. Most important is they are all healthy. None have over 10 innings yet and Junis has only pitched in one game. All will play more as we get closer to opening day.
The bullpen has been all over the place but several players are showing a lot of promise for the coming season. Top of the list is Kyle Zimmer. Even in our wildest dreams we could not have hoped for this much production after his last ditch effort with Driveline. He looks healthy and confident on the mound and has yet to give up a run this spring!
Michael Ynoa have been opening some eyes as well. Wily Peralta, Tim Hill and Kevin McCarthy are putting in good innings. Jake Diekman is similar to Hill in his delivery and should be a weapon against lefties. After a rough start he is throwing really well with a fastball in the mid 90’s.
Brad Boxberger has been bothered by a leg problem and has yet to show much. Both Rule Five draftee’s have been struggling so far. One may get a bullpen spot just by default and hope for the best during the season.
So far nothing good or bad has changed my view of the up coming season. I still expect the Kansas City Royals to end the year somewhere around the .500 mark. Depending on how the dice fall during the year. That number could go up or down five or so games.