Like all other clubs, the KC Royals have identified 60 players who’ll be eligible to play for them this season. Who among the extra players could contribute?
The pandemic shortened season requires special roster rules. The KC Royals will break camp with a 30-man roster which must be reduced to 28 after 14 days, then to a final 26 after another 14 days. Sunday, the Royals identified their initial 60-man “Player Pool”–their 40-man roster plus 20 more players–they may use during the 60-game campaign. Obviously, each active roster player will see action, but what Player Poolers are most likely to contribute this season?
Backup catchers. Cam Gallagher will be Sal Perez’s primary backup, but expect Meibrys Viloria to see some action. Whether Pooler MJ Melendez gets playing time remains to be seen; his 60-man spot may derive more from the club’s desire to get him regular work in the absence of minor league play.
(Major league clubs can travel with three-man taxi squads that must include one catcher; if the Royals choose that option, Melendez or Nick Dini are the most likely picks).
Infielders. Headlining the list of extra infield Player Poolers is 2019 first-round draft selection Bobby Witt Jr. But don’t look for him to make his major league debut this year–like Melendez, the Royals probably want to keep him close by for development purposes.
Kelvin Gutierrez and offseason acquisition Matt Reynolds are likely to get time on the active roster as utility infielders. Gutierrez played 18 games at third base for the KC Royals last year but has played every infield position except second in the minors. He hit .242 in 15 spring contests and had a homer and five RBIs. Reynolds, never a good hitter in two seasons with the Mets and one with the Nationals, struggled at .143 in 13 spring games, but has played every infield position and left and right fields in the majors.
Outfielders. Fans eager to see hot outfield prospects Nick Heath, Khalil Lee and Kyle Isbel may get their chance, especially if Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips still can’t hit. Heath may well be big-league ready, Isbel had some good spring moments and Lee is promising.
An abundance of questions face the KC Royals when Spring Training 2.0 workouts start Friday. The answers will come in the three weeks leading up to Opening Day.