Now that the Bobby Witt Jr. contract extension issue is at last happily resolved, the KC Royals and their fans can shift full attention to the Southwest and Surprise, Arizona, where the club begins spring training next week, and where close and casual observers alike hope the seeds of a turnaround will be sown
So, what do fans need to know about spring training?
Where do the Royals train, and when do they begin workouts?
Kansas City's spring training headquarters is at the Surprise baseball complex the club shares with the Texas Rangers. The facility includes Surprise Stadium, where the Royals will play their home Cactus League games, and the Rangers will host theirs.
KC's camp opens Feb. 14 — just a week from today — when pitchers and catchers report and get to work. The full squad, including those members of the 40-man roster and a select group of non-roster invitees who haven't already reported, work outs for the first time five days later.
Who are the most notable non-roster invitees?
This spring's NRIs include outfielder Nate Eaton, pitcher Austin Cox, and catchers Logan Porter and Tyler Cropley, all of whom saw major league action with the Royals last season.
Also slated to be in camp are five members ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Kansas City prospects: catcher Carter Jensen (7th), pitchers Chandler Champlain (11th) and Mason Barnett (12th), outfielder Diego Hernandez (15th), and infielder Devin Mann (28th).
When does spring training end for the Royals?
The club plays its last Cactus League contest March 23, then heads for the Ozarks where it faces the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, its Double-A affiliate, in a March 25 exhibition game. Then it's on to Kansas City for Opening Day March 28.
How many exhibition games will Kansas City play?
The Royals have 32 games on their 2024 spring schedule, including those played on split-squad days when they'll field a pair of different teams in separate contests.
There's also a special "Spring Breakout" game involving Royals prospects playing Milwaukee prospects. It's scheduled for March 17 at Surprise Stadium.
Are any starting position spots up for grabs?
Anything can happen between now and Opening Day, but the Royals look fairly well set with Salvador Perez behind the plate, Vinnie Pasquantino at first base, Michael Massey at second, Maikel García at third, Witt at shortstop, MJ Melendez in left field, Kyle Isbel in center, Hunter Renfroe in right, and Nelson Velázquez as the primary designated hitter.
Massey, however, is one of the infielders most at risk of being displaced. If he doesn't work out, expect Nick Loftin to step in; other candidates in such an event are recent signee Adam Frazier and maybe even new utility man Garret Hampson.
Also keep an eye on returning outfielder Dairon Blanco, whose speed and decent bat could enable him to squeeze into the outfield picture.
And pitching? Unless and until someone like Daniel Lynch IV breaks through, the rotation is probably set with Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo joining incumbent starters Brady Singer, Cole Ragans and Jordan Lyles. A plethora of pitchers will be fighting for seats in the bullpen and, unless general manager J.J. Picollo finds someone different on the market, Will Smith should be the closer.