Yes, I write eight or nine columns per year on the construction of the Royals’ – your defending World Series Champion Royals, mind you – twenty-five man roster. Lazy? Sure. Predictable? Probably. However, you cannot stop me, you can only hope to contain me.
Anyway, yesterday we touched on Jarrod Dyson being, at minimum, the left-handed hitting portion of a rightfield platoon for the 2016 Royals. Barring a new acquisition, it would not surprise me a ton to see Ned Yost use Dyson against at least some left-handed pitching as well, but time will tell on that front. We can certainly, however, count on the fact that the Royals’ fourth outfielder will hit from the right-side and there is a better than average chance that it will be Paulo Orlando. Right now, I would be shocked if Orlando is not on the opening day roster. If not as Dyson’s platoon partner, as the fifth outfielder.
Let’s get back on topic, however. When it comes to projecting the 25 man roster for the beginning of 2016, you do not have to go very far out on a limb to speculate that there are really just two spots open. Two.
When it comes to the pitching staff, there are ten locks to make the roster:
- Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, Ian Kennedy, Kris Medlen, Chris Young and Danny Duffy. All in the mix to either be in the rotation and, if not a starter, locks to be on the major league roster in the bullpen.
- Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria. Duh.
- While those ten are virtual certainties, I think you can add Dillon Gee to the mix as an almost certain number eleven. Gee has a mid-March opt out, but will get $2 million if he makes the major league roster (plus incentives for both number of starts and number of relief appearances). Short of Gee not being able to throw sixty feet six inches during the first week of March, I have a hard time seeing the Royals not hanging onto him.
That leaves one spot open on the pitching staff and with Louis Coleman designated for assignment and Tim Collins recovering from Tommy John, I am not sure a favorite for this spot exists. Given Dayton Moore’s rather remarkable ability of late to find reclamation projects can’t you just feel a 2016 coming where Chien-Ming Wang is the next Ryan Madson?
Offensively, the Royals are currently as set as they are with their pitching staff.
- Going around the diamond, the Royals are locked in with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and Kendrys Morales.
- Either Drew Butera or Tony Cruz will be the back up catcher. Christian Colon is almost assuredly going to be the utility infielder (if not the regular second baseman – that’s a story for another day). Those two additions put us at 11 position players.
- As indicated in the opening, Paulo Orlando is certainly the leader for the right-handed portion of the rightfield platoon (if such a platoon is actually allowed to exist) and, given his speed, defense and experience from last year, the fifth outfielder if he loses the platoon spot. That takes us to twelve, one spot left.
Including Orlando as either the fourth or fifth outfielder implies, as the Royals have implied, that the team will open the season with five outfielders. The recently signed (minor league deal) Travis Snider is a left-handed hitter and strikes me as insurance against Dyson going 2-48 in spring training. Cody Decker? He has 17 innings of outfield work since 2013. So that brings us back around to the Omaha crew of Brett Eibner and Jose Martinez as competitors with Orlando for the short half of the platoon with Dyson.
Let’s get creative for a moment, however. While we might be skeptical of Ned Yost resorting to a true platoon in right, he certainly will want to head north with a right-handed hitter outfielder and right now that is either Orlando, Eibner or Martinez. Pick one, put him on the twenty-five and then, just for fun, consider that the final roster spot goes to Terrance Gore. First one who shouted Herb Washington gets a hard candy!
Ned Yost loves a set lineup and he has let more than one backup position player collect cobwebs on the bench during his tenure. That is not necessarily a criticism, just an observation. If Yost was to pinch hit this season – which he has rarely done in the past – it would be for Infante with Colon (or vice-versa, I guess) and the fourth outfielder for Dyson (or vice-versa). When do you see the last bat on the bench getting any playing time?
If that truly is the case and if, like me, you do not believe any amount of time in the minors will ever yield a Terrance Gore that can get on base against major league pitching, then why not carry Gore as a pinch runner? The team might well run into nagging injuries that will force them to get a more potent bat on their bench as the season goes on, but to start the year would they not get more bang for the buck being able to insert Gore onto the basepaths for a Morales or Perez (or even Gordon and Moustakas) in a tie game late?
Is a designated pinch runner any more a waste of the 25th roster spot than a third catcher who will never play (and can’t hit), a second infielder who will really, really never play or a fifth outfielder who cannot change a tie game in the ninth inning with stupid, crazy speed like Gore? Sure, it is a bit of disservice to any hope of Gore developing beyond being just a runner, but baseball is a business and the Royals are completely geared towards winning the next two seasons. That’s life in the bigs.
As an old-time baseballish guy, a designated pinch-runner in the modern game seems silly at first, but as I mull it through the meanderings of my ever shrinking brain, it almost begins to make sense.