Two infielders and two outfielders are good choices for extra Royals spots.
Kansas City’s gold mine of talented infielders seriously complicates Emmanuel Rivera’s chances of ever playing regularly, but he’s a viable candidate for one of the extra roster spots. As they implement the plan to return oft-injured Adalberto Mondesi to shortstop, the need to rest him occasionally, especially early in the season, opens the door for an extra infielder to play third base if Bobby Witt Jr. moves over to shortstop, or second if Nicky Lopez shifts to short.
Rivera is a good option for such situations. Although he’s much more accustomed to the hot corner, he’s played every infield position. And his bat is certainly adequate.
A case can also be made for Clay Dungan to open the 2021 campaign in Kansas City. A ninth round selection in the 2019 amateur draft, Dungan blistered Rookie ball pitching with a .357/.427/.494 line after signing. Like all minor leaguers not selected for Kansas City’s 60-man Player Pool, he didn’t play in 2020, but moved up to Double-A last season and hit .288 with nine homers, 28 steals, and a .357 OBP.
And Dungan continues to open eyes this spring—playing all but one of KC’s seven games, he sports a .429 average, .429 OBP and 1.000 OPS with four RBIs. He’s also played second, third, short and left field professionally.
Jumping from Double-A to the majors is unusual and spending time in Triple-A is best for his development, but a month in the big leagues wouldn’t hurt Dungan.
The KC Royals should consider a pair of outfielders for spots 27 or 28.
For the time being, Kansas City’s outfield is set with Gold Glovers Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor in left and center and Whit Merrifield in right.
But that alignment depends for its long-term success on the health of Adalberto Mondesi—another serious injury to the shortstop will force Merrifield back to second base and throw right field up for grabs.
The Royals will, of course, carry an extra outfielder in any case, but considering the Mondesi situation and early-season roster expansion, may want to start the campaign with another. And if, as is entirely possible, Hunter Dozier (or even Ryan O’Hearn, to whom Kansas City remains almost inexplicably committed) grabs the fourth spot, the fifth will likely go to Edward Olivares or Kyle Isbel, both of whom spent time on and off the roster last season.
In fact, Isbel started in right and collected his first three major league hits last Opening Day, found himself back in the minors before the month’s first season ended, then returned to Kansas City in September and hit .286 the rest of the way to finish at .276. If not for the master plan to reinstall Mondesi at shortstop, it might be Isbel, not Merrifield, projecting to start in right this season.
Now hitting .250 in six Cactus League games, Isbel seems an ideal choice to break camp with the Royals.
And Olivares? Had he not been recalled from, and returned to, Omaha eight times last season, his .238 average probably would have been higher, especially considering the .313 he hit with the Storm Chasers.
His bat is back this spring—although he was 0-for-1 against Texas Friday, Olivares leads the Royals with a .615 Cactus League average and his two home runs tie Bobby Witt Jr. for best on the club.
Olivares’ performance puts him squarely in the extra roster spot picture.
In the end, however, Kansas City might choose either Isbel or Olivares for the 26th slot on the Opening Day roster; in that case, the other could very well end up with the 27th or 28th spot.
The Royals will soon have roster decisions to finalize. Fortunately, they have a plethora of good choices for the two extra places on their Opening Day roster.