KC Royals News: Most surprising team, roster moves, uncertain futures

What's up with Kansas City as spring training nears its end?

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By now, less than a week before the KC Royals and Minnesota Twins open the 2024 season at Kauffman Stadium, it's no news at all that Kansas City's uncharacteristically productive offseason work improved its chances to be noticed this year for something other than losing too much. General manager J.J. Picollo's winter efforts might even make his club a contender again.

Do doubters and skeptics remain? Certainly. It's difficult, after all, to have confidence in a team that since 2017 has given its fans so little to be confident about. But perhaps those who believe the Royals won't improve measurably this season should check in with some close-to-the-action observers who live, breathe, eat, and sleep the game.

The players. Many major leaguers believe in the Royals and say so in a survey, the results of which MLB.com's Thomas Harrigan recently reported. In fact, more than 25% of queried players chose Kansas City to be the most surprising club of all. One anonymous player identified only as a "National League pitcher" even said, "I wouldn't be surprised if the Royals are in first place in the [American League] Central...Everyone saw all the moves they made...Now they're bringing in pitchers, they're bringing in veterans. If they're doing that, it's a clear attempt to be at the top of the division."

And: "They can see their division's up for grabs, so I definitely wouldn't be surprised if they were up there."

Kansas City fans hope he's right.

The Royals made more roster moves Friday. Nick Pratto lost out.

Just two days ago, we wrote here that Pratto, whose minor league hitting prowess hasn't surfaced in the majors, posed one of the hardest roster questions for Kansas City to answer before Opening Day. He was, after all, hitting .412 with a .474 OBP at the time, and it seemed he was close, oh so close, to making the club.

But he won't ... at least not for Opening Day. Instead, he'll begin the season at Triple-A Omaha, where he's spent parts of the last three seasons — the Royals announced Friday afternoon they've optioned Pratto, outfielder Drew Waters, and catcher Austin Nola to the Storm Chasers.

Pratto's demotion stemmed not from his sizzling Cactus League performance; the real culprit has to be the numbers puzzle the club faced as so many players competed for so few spots. Pratto's best chance to make the big league roster was as a bench player, but Kansas City wants him hitting every day.

Joining Pratto in Omaha will be outfielder Drew Waters and backup catcher Austin Nola, bith of whom the Royals also sent out Friday.

Has the end come for Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy?

It's been only a few days since we last checked in with former Royals stars Moustakas and Duffy; unfortunately, the pessimism we expressed then about their chances to land major league jobs turned out to be warranted.

The White Sox released Moustakas Friday after giving him plenty of chances (19 games) to convince them he deserved a position on their Opening Day roster. Playing on a minor league contract, Moose slashed .195/.283/.317 with a home run and two RBI in 41 at-bats.

While the Rangers didn't release Duffy, who's also on a minor league deal, Major League Baseball Trade Rumors reports they told him he won't make it to Arlington for Opening Day, but apparently expressed interest in him staying with the organization and pitching again in the minors. Duffy appeared in five Cactus League games this spring and was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA and seven strikeouts in seven innings.

What Friday's moves mean for Moustakas and Duffy is anyone's guess. But while their baseball futures are suddenly more uncertain, don't be surprised if both continue their quests to find major league employment.

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