As we move into the off-season, I thought we might as well get started on the projected opening day roster for 2011.   This is an exercise that I will do every month or so in the off-season as new information comes to light.

Keep in mind, this is not my idea of the roster, but what I think the roster will actually be based upon what we know for a fact (Yuniesky Betancourt for example) or what we think is a reasonable likelihood.   We are also going to keep the speculation to a minimum (i.e. I will save the Greinke or DeJesus trade theories for another column).   As such, let’s take a look at where the Royals seem to be headed with respect to next spring.

POSITION PLAYERS

Catcher – Brayan Pena, Lucas May

First Base/Designated Hitter – Billy Buter, Kila Ka’aihue

Second Base – Chris Getz

Shortstop – Yuniesky Betancourt

Third Base – Mike Aviles

Left Field – Alex Gordon

Center Field – Jarrod Dyson

Right Field – David DeJesus

Bench – Wilson Betemit, Gregor Blanco, Mitch Maier

The Kansas City Star’s article earlier this week pointed to Aviles at third if Getz can lock down the everyday second base job with Betemit in a utility role, which surprised me some, but I don’t hate the logic, either.    

There was/has been/will be considerable talk of acquiring a veteran catcher to fill the gap before Jason Kendall returns, but I have to wonder if that really makes any sense at all for the Royals.    They don’t plan on contending in 2011, have Kendall coming back at some point and two catchers who are both out of options as it is.  

The odd man out in the above equation is Josh Fields, who might have to rely on Jarrod Dyson getting the bat knocked out of his hands in spring training to open up a spot for him.   At least that is how it stands right now, anyway.

STARTING ROTATION

Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan

To quote The Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was.”   It certainly feels like Brian Bannister is going to be non-tendered and Kyle Davies brought back.    Given that the payroll is reportedly shrinking this year, it is tough to see a free agent acquisition to bolster this group.   Of course, if Bruce Chen can repeat his 2010 performance, Luke Hochevar continues to improve and Sean O’Sullivan develops…..oh, nevermind.

BULLPEN

Joakim Soria, Gil Meche, Blake Wood, Robinson Tejeda and Dusty Hughes all seem to be locks.   The first four are certain unless the club really goes cheap and non-tenders Tejeda, which would not make much sense at all.    Hughes, being left-handed and experienced, would also seem to have a spot – at least for the first couple of months.

I will delve into a little speculation for the final two bullpen openings and project that Tim Collins will make the team out of spring training.   With 329 strikeouts in 223 innings and an outstanding debut in AAA last year (20 IP, 21K, 9 H), it doesn’t seem like there is any reason not to get his career underway.

The final spot, right now, would seem to be a battle between Kanekoa Texeira (who the organization likes) and Greg Holland.      While Holland had some dismal outings in the majors, he has always been a guy who takes a few weeks to get his feet on the ground at a new level.  He finished the year by striking out six of the last eight batters he faced.

ESTIMATED TIMES OF ARRIVAL

These are the names you care about and my educated guess as to when we will see them.   I am only looking at prospects that I think will debut in 2011.

Louis Coleman – May

Mike Moustakas – June

Blaine Hardy – June

Everett Teaford – July

David Lough – August

Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Brandon Sisk – September

With respect to Montgomery and Duffy, the Royals are going to face a real innings crunch with those two.   Even with post-season action, those two will have compiled no more than 100 innings a piece in 2010.   Given that, it would be tough (and probably not prudent) for the Royals to slot them into the rotation in mid-season.   The organization has also seemed to shy away from putting starting pitching prospects into the major league bullpen as way of easing them into the bigs, so that led me to project September arrivals.

A name you are likely looking for is John Lamb, but he will be just twenty next year and having vaulted through three levels in 2010, the Royals might be content to wait until spring of 2012 to give him a look.

Another name is Jeff Bianchi, but given what we saw out of Mike Aviles as he rushed back into action from Tommy John surgery, I am speculating that it might take most of 2011 for Bianchi to round back into form.  

Well, that is pass number one at this exercise.    There is a pretty good chance that come next month, this might look considerably different.   Whether change is good or bad remains to be seen.