If reports and rumors swirling through the baseball media world are correct, and there’s no reason to believe they’re not, the KC Royals will begin this season with extra players. Expected soon is final approval to expand active rosters from 26 to 28 players, a logical and necessary consequence of the 99-day lockout that shortened spring training and spawned legitimate concerns about player readiness for the 162-game season.
Who should the Royals consider for their 27th and 28th slots? Candidates abound; here are nine.
The KC Royals can fill an extra slot with an up-and-coming young catcher.
MJ Melendez is a catcher many big league teams wouldn’t think twice about putting on their rosters. But because the Royals have Salvador Perez behind the plate and the rest of their starting lineup appears set, Melendez won’t be easy to squeeze onto the Royals’ Opening Day roster. He won’t displace Perez and he’s too talented to just sit on the bench and spell KC’s All-Star backstop once a week.
A roster pinch, though, isn’t sufficient reason for the Royals to simply write Melendez off to the minors again, not after the explosive 2021 season he had at Double-A and Triple-A (41 homers, 103 RBIs, .288 and a 1.011 OPS). But spring training is the closest he’s come to The Show, so the club needs to see him in real major league action before it finally considers how and where he might fit long term.
The trick for Manager Mike Matheny, then, is to find a suitable way to gauge Melendez’s readiness for the big leagues. He’ll get to Kansas City sometime this season, but the immediate question is when.
How about now, at least for a trial run when extra roster spots are available? Matheny can deploy him several ways—he can spell Perez, DH, play a bit of third base where he has some experience, and perhaps even take a few turns at first or in right field.
Then, as May nears, the club can decide if he’s ready for a longer big league stint.