3 KC Royals who could surprise in spring training and beyond

These Royals have the most to gain in Suprise.

Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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Nelson Velázquez looks to improve his contact

Picking Velázquez as a Royal with a lot to gain from spring training feels a bit like cheating. The designated hitter position is his to lose after he made his presence felt in Kansas City last summer, and he'll also spend time in the outfield. Velázquez played 40 games with the Royals after coming over from the Cubs, and blasted 14 home runs, drove in 28 runs, and had an .878 OPS. His .346 ISO was also outstanding, His plate discipline, however, leaves something to be desired: he struck out 29.3 percent of the time with the Royals.

Velázquez will undoubtedly smack some moon shots in the thin air of Arizona, but Kansas City coaches will be carefully studying his batting eye and plate discipline. If he shows progress in those areas, he can cement himself into the Royals' everyday lineup, adding length and serious pop to the batting order.

But failing to improve in those areas could mean a shorter leash for the slugger. The Royals might look increase the time spent in the DH rotation by Perez, MJ Melendez, and Hunter Renfroe. Or perhaps it opens the door for someone like Nick Pratto, another player with little to lose and much to gain this spring. If Velázquez struggles too much and Pratto shows progress at the plate, the latter might get more playing time at first base while Vinnie Pasquantino transitions into the primary DH role.

That scenario might not be a betting favorite, but that's one of the great things about spring training — you never know what might happen.

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