What questions surround the KC Royals as they prepare for Opening Day?
That the KC Royals finished spring training with the best record in the Cactus League is all fine and good, but the games are for real now and we’ll soon see how improved this club may be after General Manage Dayton Moore retooled it over the winter. Opening Day is Thursday, and answers to the many questions surrounding the team will start coming with the first pitch.
Those questions abound. Who will be the fifth starter when it’s time to add one? Who might flop, and who might have a breakout season? Will the bullpen hold up? Will Bobby Witt Jr. debut? Will Nicky Lopez be back?
Those are important questions, but let’s start with center field, where the Royals are relying on Michael A. Taylor to stabilize a position that’s been shaky since Lorenzo Cain left. Taylor’s issue isn’t his defense, it’s his chronically weak bat. His seven-year career slash is a worrisome .237/.291/.395, but he started and stayed hot this spring with a .333/.438/.615 line and 1.053 OPS. Yes, it was only spring training, but if he can split the difference between those two slash lines, KC will be fine in center.
Then there’s Andrew Benintendi, the Boston star with whom Moore ended his long search for another lefthanded bat to take Alex Gordon’s place. The Benintendi question is simple—can he rediscover the punch at the plate that made him so good for the Red Sox from 2016-2018? He very well might.
And right field? As of this writing, it appears the Royals will pin their early season hopes on rookie Kyle Isbel, who’ll appear in his first major league game if he makes the start Thursday. Isbel has no experience above High-A ball, and was a longshot to make the club until it sent Nicky Lopez and his bat to the minors, a move that likely shifts Whit Merrifield from right to second base. The challenge for Isbel is huge.