The idea of expanding baseball to additional cities has been a topic that pops up a couple of times a year. Therefore, the question comes to mind. Who should the Royals protect if an Expansion Draft were to happen?
It never fails, sports always expands. Whether it be to a new city or a team returning to a city that once had a team. For baseball, Montreal has come up a few times for an expansion team and I’m sure other cities would like to have a team as well. Due to the shutdown, MLB Trade Rumors has been going through each team, including our Royals, creating a list of players that each team should protect if an Expansion Draft were to occur.
When the Royals time came, it got me thinking. “If baseball was going to expand and I were in the meeting with Dayton Moore and John Sherman on who should be protected, who would I want to protect?”
Before we just start naming off players, rules have to be implemented. These rules narrow down the list of potential players that could be taken, therefore making it “easier” to decide on players. Since we don’t truly have an Expansion Draft happening, MLB Trade Rumors used the same guidelines that were implemented during the 1997 Expansion Draft. Here are the rules:
- Each team can protect 15 players in the first round, add three more players in the second round, and three more players in the third round.
- Teams must protect any player with a no-trade clause or 10-5 rights.
- Each team will lose exactly one player in the first and second rounds. No team will lose more than one player in the third round.
- All players in an organization were eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major-league experience who had less than three years of service if signed at age 19 or older, or had less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.
- Free agents cannot be protected.
Players eligible for the Expansion Draft
According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Royals would have 31 players eligible for the Expansion Draft. Here are the players:
- Jorge Soler
- Whit Merrifield
- Adalberto Mondesi
- Hunter Dozier
- Brad Keller
- Salvador Perez
- Chance Adams
- Scott Barlow
- Danny Duffy
- Maikel Franco
- Jesse Hahn
- Tim Hill
- Cam Gallagher
- Kelvin Gutierrez
- Jakob Junis
- Jorge Lopez
- Nicky Lopez
- Richard Lovelady
- Ryan McBroom
- Kevin McCarthy
- Mike Montgomery
- Jake Newberry
- Ryan O’Hearn
- Brett Phillips
- Randy Rosario
- Glenn Sparkman
- Gabe Speier
- Bubba Starling
- Josh Staumont
- Meibrys Viloria
- Kyle Zimmer
Before you ask, the Royals actually have three players who they would not be eligible to save since they will become free agents after this year. Those players are Alex Gordon, Trevor Rosenthal, and Ian Kennedy.
So who makes the most sense to protect?
Before going into the rational with some players, let’s start with the most logical choices here. Soler, Merrifield, Mondesi, Keller, Perez, and Dozier take up the first six spots. All six play a vital role in the success the Royals can have. I don’t feel like much argument can be had there.
Which leaves us with nine available spots. When making my decision I went through different criteria in my head:
- Years of control left
- Upside and contribution
- Minor league depth
I did my best to leave “emotional attachment” off this list. Therefore, here is the process of picking I went through.
The next nine on my list
Even though many would argue this point, I want to try and protect as much of a “starting lineup” as possible. Therefore, here would be my additional nine I would protect:
- Duffy: starting pitcher – 2022 free agent
- Junis: starting pitcher – 2024 free agent
- Montgomery: starting pitcher – 2022 free agent
- Staumont: bullpen pitcher – 2026 free agent
- Lovelady: bullpen pitcher – 2026 free agent
- McBroom: first baseman – 2026 free agent
- N. Lopez: second baseman – 2026 free agent
- Phillips: outfielder – 2025 free agent
- Gallagher: catcher – 2025 free agent
Follow me down this rabbit hole and let’s go through the criteria for these nine picks.
Years of control left
Every one of these nine players has team control for the next four years with the exception of Duffy and Montgomery. Minimal turnover is not a bad thing at the big league level. Especially when most of the players are young players who have a chance of making a positive impact.
Duffy and Montgomery are the odd men out in this explanation. However, to avoid forcing the Royals to use pitchers that might not be ready to start at the big league level, keeping both will only force the Royals to potentially need one starting pitcher from within; making the rotation be Keller, Duffy, Montgomery, Junis, and whatever starter they feel is ready.
Which leads to my next piece of criteria
Obviously the Royals don’t have a lot of players the nation is talking about frequently. However, when protecting players I looked at positions as well. If I’m the Royals, I want to try and keep as much of my starting lineup as I possibly can. Therefore, with just my protected players, here is what my lineup would be:
- Catcher: Perez
- First base: McBroom
- Second base: Lopez
- Third base: Dozier
- Shortstop: Mondesi
- Leftfield: (no one protected)
- Centerfield: Merrifield
- Rightfield: Phillips
- Designated Hitter: Soler
- Starting Pitchers: Keller/Duffy/Montgomery/Junis
- Bullpen Pitchers: Staumont/Lovelady
- Bench: Gallagher
With the rosters expanding to 26, that would mean the Royals would only need to fill 11 spots on the team based on players who were not selected in the Expansion Draft.
Pitching is obviously where a lot of attention is happening. 6-of-15 spots went to pitchers. However, my rationale for that leads me towards my next point. Upside and contribution.
Upside and Contribution
We have all seen it during the shutdown, however, we knew he was capable of doing this before the shutdown. Staumont can throw straight gas. Before seeing him throw 103.5mph in a throwing session, his velocity was intriguing. His command day-in-and-day-out was the question. But I don’t believe it would be a question that would deter an expansion team from taking a chance on him.
When looking at the roster, we see a lot of veteran leadership, but we also see young players or unproven players that have shown to have some upside. McBroom was .293/.361/.360 in his first 23 big league games. While his power didn’t shine, he has plenty of it. In Arizona during Spring Training, he slashed an impressive .314/.368/.657 with three doubles and three homeruns. While some will say “that’s due to Arizona weather”, he hit 29 doubles and 26 homeruns last year in Triple-A over 117 games. It’s there, he just needs to play more.
We also know what Nicky Lopez has done in Triple-A, so he has all the signs of a player who is ready to consistently contribute each game offensively. While his .240/.276/.325 last year over 103 games is less than ideal, during his last 43 games he slashed a much better .273/.307/.385 and actually during his last 10 games of the year he slashed an even better .433/.485/.667 against good teams.
I am also a believer in Phillips. I believe teams see what he contributes on the defensive side of the game, and how close he is to clicking offensively, he would get some serious consideration in an Expansion Draft. He may not, and the protection for him wouldn’t be necessary, but that wouldn’t be something I would be willing to risk. We have seen what he is capable of doing while he was playing consistently in Omaha. After making some adjustments to his approach (swing, glasses, etc.) he hit .283/.405/.618 the last 66 games he was in Omaha in 2019. I have a hard time believing that’s not possible at the big league level with consistent playing time.
Gallagher is also someone I would protect, but he leads more into my last criteria. Minor league depth.
Minor League depth
Gallagher has been an interesting case for the Royals. No, he isn’t the flashiest catcher in the game, but he is a solid backup catcher. Who if needed, can contribute well offensively over stretches of time. My main reason though is support for Perez. Perez is getting up there in age and has a lot of mileage on his body. Giving him days off and allowing him to play another position is something the Royals may need to start doing more frequently. Which, when looking at the minor leagues, the catching position has Viloria, Nick Dini, and Sebastian Rivero. Neither of those three options is very appealing as a backup to Perez right now.
Which then leads us to the position throwing to Perez and Gallagher, starting pitching. While Brady Singer seems to be knocking on the door for the big leagues, not many other starters are quite there yet. Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jonathan Bowlan have had a lot of success, but I would hate to rush them to fill multiple places in the rotation. Which is why keeping four starters protected was vital.
While not giving a rationale for every player, my hope is that some are a given as to why they are protected. If needed though, ask below and I’ll give you the rationale!
The Royals are in an interesting situation though if an Expansion Draft ever was to occur though. They do have a lot of good prospects working through the system. However, most aren’t exactly knocking on the door yet. In a few years they should be though. So do they protect players that allow a buffer of time? Do they protect players they could be planning on trading in order to get prospects in return? Or do they gamble in the draft and potentially rush players to the big leagues to fill whatever holes are created? Being a few years away from competing, they have many different directions they could go.
What do you think Royals Nation? Would you protect different players if an Expansion Draft were to happen? Does your list match my list? What’s your rationale?