Not until March 28, when they open the 2024 season at home against defending American League Central champion Minnesota, will the KC Royals begin the quest to redeem themselves from an embarrassing 106-loss, last-place 2023 finish.
Between now and then, we'll learn more about the club's 2024 makeup than we know now. They're not collectively an infallible predictor of Opening Day roster composition, but Kansas City's 31 Cactus League games will provide more than just guesses about which Royals will make the 26-man roster, which pitchers will start and which will relieve, and who'll play where defensively.
And what about second-year manager Matt Quatraro's batting order? Because he and his staff must check out so many players this spring, his lineup may not begin to take season shape until late in the exhibition schedule.
What, though, might it look like if the season started today?
The top third of the order probably won't surprise KC Royals fans
Expect Quatraro to give third baseman Maikel García, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., and catcher Salvador Perez the first three spots in his Opening Day lineup. He hit them at the top much of last season.
García hitting first makes sense. He led off 72 of the 123 games he played last season, and only four times after June — a span during which he hit .272 — did he bat in any other spot. He posted an identical .272 season average, and .267 batting first, his best mark of any slot in which he spent significant time. Importantly for a leadoff hitter, García is a legitimate threat on the bases (23 steals last season), and he and Quatraro seem quite comfortable with him batting first.
Witt may be close to an ideal No. 3 hitter, but he'll bat second instead, which isn't surprising considering the 99 times he hit there last season and the 75 games he occupied the spot as a rookie the year before. He was especially good in the 2-hole in 2023, slashing .303/.345/.535 with 19 of his 30 home runs and 65 of his 96 RBI. And, as his 49 steals in 2023 and 30 in 2022 prove, he's even more of a force on the basepaths than García, which will serve KC well if its leadoff man fails to reach base or gets caught stealing.
Batting third, Perez will return to his familiar spot in the order, where he'll try to achieve some interesting career milestones. He may not hit for the kind of high average many managers prefer there, but he hit .271, homered 16 times, and drove in 46 runs across 76 games in that slot last season.
How about the next three spots?