Assuming, it is a pretty big assumption right now, that Omar Infante is healthy, you know exactly what the Royals’ 2015 starting lineup is going to be and the starting rotation AND the first five guys in the bullpen.
A bad elbow and mending wrist notwithstanding, this is your 2015 Kansas City Royals:
C – Salvador Perez, 1B – Eric Hosmer, 2B – Omar Infante, SS – Alcides Escobar, 3B- Mike Moustakas, LF – Alex Gordon, CF – Lorenzo Cain, RF – Alex Rios, DH – Kendrys Morales
Starting Rotation – Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie
Bullpen – Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor and Chris Young
Bench Locks – Jarrod Dyson and Eric Kratz
That is twenty-one players locked in to the roster and, honestly, the twenty-one that are going to play and pitch the most. One could make the argument (again, not factoring in injuries) that whatever the Royals decide to do with the remaining four spots will have little impact on how the season plays out. That may very well be true and it could mean good things or bad things for how this team will perform in 2015. Time will tell, duh, and this isn’t my ‘if this goes right and this goes right and that breaks just right’ column, nor is it time for Craig’s ‘if this happens it will be bad and then that will bad and then I’m going to spend the summer tweeting about soccer’ column.
Back to the roster for now.
As we discussed yesterday, a third bench spot is likely destined to be Christian Colon’s, but it could end up in the hands (or is it the rear?) of Ryan Jackson or Ryan Roberts. Somebody to spell Infante and maybe Moustakas against a tough lefty now and then. A guy you can put in if Alcides Escobar gets spiked at second and has to sit out his three innings per year. Now we are at twenty-two.
With more and more rumblings pointing towards Luke Hochevar not being quite ready for the start of the season and non-roster invitee (and lefty) Franklin Morales pitching well, it would seem the Royals will break camp with two Morales on the roster. That’s twenty-three.
We also know that few teams, if any, can seem to function without a seven man bullpen and the Royals are absolutely on board with that. Frankly, I am not sure I have ever heard a manager worry more about overusing his bullpen than Ned Yost does. Hell, I don’t know, maybe he’s right in doing so. Bottom line: the Royals will carry at least seven relievers and that, to me, indicates that the out of options Louis Coleman will get at least a temporary reprieve and stay with the team to start the season. I would advise a extended stay hotel as opposed to an apartment, Louis, as it would seem that Luke Hochevar’s return would knock Coleman from the 25 man roster. Coleman or maybe Ryan Madson or Brian Flynn or Yohan Pino…one of those guys gets this spot and now we are at twenty-four.
Wait, wait, wait, you say?! What about Rule 5 guy Jandel Gustave. He of the 100 mile per hour fastball who must stay on the major league roster all season to remain a Royal? Go back to my previous paragraph about Ned Yost and bullpen usage. In a season where Kansas City intends to compete for the division title, do you think Ned will want his seventh spot – however, unused it might realistically be – occupied by a guy he doesn’t really want to pitch unless up 10 or down 10? Couple that mentality with Dayton Moore’s valuation of inventory (i.e. what if Louis Coleman goes somewhere else and pitches 31 good innings?) and I think Gustave goes north ONLY as the reliever number eight.
Now, the Royals are at twenty five guys and only three of them are bench players and one of those is Jarrod Dyson, who you would like to use as a late inning weapon on the basepaths or for defense. Or would you?
I seriously doubt whether the Royals will remove Alex Rios for defense early on this year. I mean, messing with domes and such. Go back up and look at the starting lineup. Who in that list would you pinch-run for? Before your answer, keep in mind the premium that Yost puts on defense and that Colon is likely a downgrade defensively from the starters at second, short and third. Ned is probably not pulling Perez, Moustakas or Infante for a runner unless one of them is on representing the tying or winning run in the bottom of the ninth (maybe you throw Rios in there, but he runs pretty good…and domes, you know).
If Dyson is going to be a seldom used pinch-runner and a possibly never used (at least for a the first month or so) defensive replacement then do the Royals need a four man bench? Yost is not going to pinch hit and he is not going to platoon. Really, the bench comes down to giving guys a day off here and there. A team that is not going to use its bench for in game strategy does not need very many guys sitting on it.
It remains possible that Yost will surprise me. He might pinch run Dyson often. He might tell Rios to live with it and play Dyson in the field every eighth and ninth inning of the season. He might pinch hit for Moustakas and sit Infante often (Ned might not have a choice there). He might….
More likely, however, is the Royals breaking camp with eight relievers or, at least, going to eight relievers as soon as Luke Hochevar is ready to join the big league team in mid to late April. At least Eric Kratz will have room to spread out and be comfortable as he watches 140 games this year.