KC Royals Spring Training: Quick takes from 2 big wins

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals, who’ve been good all spring, were especially so Monday and Tuesday. They beat Cleveland 19-9 Monday and Seattle 11-4 Tuesday.

It’s only the Cactus League, of course, and things don’t start for real until the Royals open against the Guardians April 7, but scoring 30 runs in two days is a good thing whenever it happens. (They also put up 12 against the Cubs Sunday, but lost).

And take it with a grain of salt, but the wins gave Kansas City the best exhibition record in the majors through Tuesday—the Royals lead the Cactus League (Arizona-based clubs) with a 7-3 record (the Cubs and Angels are 7-4), while Atlanta tops the Grapefruit League (Florida teams) at 6-2.

Besides the boost to their record, what are some Kansas City takeaways from the pair of lopsided wins?

Big things continue for three KC Royals with big things to prove this year.

Carlos Santana, Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier came to camp burdened by the baggage of disappointing 2021 performances. The Royals signed Santana after the 2020 campaign to do three things—fill their first base void, hit home runs, and get on base (he brought a .366 OBP to town)—but, hampered much of the season by a hip issue, his 19 homers were less than expected and his OBP was a disappointing .319. O’Hearn struggled at the plate for the third straight time (.195 in 2019 and 2020, .225 last year), and although he homered 16 times, Dozier hit .216.

Consequently, all three have much to prove: Santana that he can rebound and help the club before he’s traded, O’Hearn that he can rediscover his productive 2018 stroke (12 homers and 30 RBIs in 44 games), and Dozier that he deserves a regular spot in the lineup.

The trio continued to make progress Monday and Tuesday. Santana went a combined 5-for-7 with two RBIs and is now 10-for-20 with six RBIs and a .500 OBP in seven games. Dozier was 3-for-7 and drove in two runs to raise his Cactus League Average to .500, and O’Hearn went 1-for-3 Tuesday before leaving the game with a groin issue. He’s also hitting .500 (12-for-24).

KC Royals pitchers Daniel Lynch and Jonah Dipoto had impressive performances.

Rookie lefthander Daniel Lynch pitched so badly—0-2 with a 15.75 ERA—in his first three big league games last May that Kansas City sent him back to the minors before the month ended. But he proved with the second chance the club later gave him that he can pitch: he finished the campaign 4-6, 5.69, and arrived in Arizona this month with a spot in the rotation all but locked up.

Tuesday, he took another step toward fully securing that spot. He allowed Seattle only a run, struck out two and scattered five hits in five innings. He’s now 1-0 with five strikeouts and just one walk in 7.2 innings.

Then there’s Jonah Dipoto, a promising righthanded reliever who’s 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA and 11.0 SO9 after two minor league seasons across Rookie ball and High-A. He threw a scoreless, one-strikeout inning against Seattle Tuesday, and did it in style—as reported by mlb.com’s KC beat writer Anne Rogers, Dipoto’s father, Mariner President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto, and other family members were on hand.

Dipoto will likely begin the season back at High-A Quad Cities or at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Salvador Perez finally broke out at the plate Monday for the KC Royals.

Salvador Perez’s bat, which made so much noise last season, has been strangely quiet this spring.

Until Monday, that is.

Perez entered KC’s game against the Guardians hitting .118, but came alive with two doubles, a single, a walk, and two RBIs. His 3-for-3 afternoon raised his spring average to .250 and his OPS to .786. He took Tuesday off and let Cam Gallagher and Freddy Fermin catch.

A position change doesn’t appear to be affecting Whit Merrifield’s bat.

Whit Merrifield, the Royals’ most versatile player who performs well wherever Manager Mike Matheny puts him, is moving out of the infield and into right field as part of the club’s plan to reinstall Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop. The transition is having no ill effects on Merrifield’s hitting.

He clubbed his first homer of the spring Monday and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, then added a 1-for-3 day against the Mariners. Most impressive, though, are his .474 average, .500 OBP and 1.395 OPS in seven games.

A KC Royals pitcher is steadily making his case for a 2022 roster spot.

Collin Snider may have been surprised when Kansas City added him to its 40-man roster last November, but he’s pitching like he belongs, and maybe well enough to move up to the club’s Opening Day roster.

Although Seattle tagged him for a run and three hits in the one inning he worked Tuesday, Snider is making himself part of the Opening Day discussion. He’s 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five games and the run he gave the Mariners was the first he’s surrendered this spring.

He might be a long shot, but don’t be shocked if Snider lands one of the two extra roster slots the Royals are allowed through April.

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A lot of good things happened in Kansas City’s two big recent wins.