SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is winding down and it's a good time to take your questions on how this 2017 Royals squad is shaping up.Here we go:
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is winding down and it's a good time to take your questions on how this 2017 Royals squad is shaping up.
Here we go:
The best-case scenario for the Royals is to find out in 2017 if Mondesi can hit at the big league level, especially because if shortstop Alcides Escobar leaves for free agency, Mondesi will be the Royals' shortstop for possibly years to come. To that end, the club has named Mondesi the starter at second base. He doesn't have to be a star, at least not now, though he certainly has the athleticism and the "wow" factor to become one.
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Royals manager Ned Yost likely will do a little more mixing and matching in the late innings than he has in the past, at least until he sorts through his relievers. Left-hander Matt Strahm and right-hander Joakim Soria figure to set up closer Kelvin Herrera quite a bit, but Yost will not hesitate to use left-handers Mike Minor and Travis Wood in the seventh and eighth, either.
Some day we may be talking about Jorge Soler breaking Steve Balboni's club record for homers in a season (36). Soler has that kind of raw power. But the thinking here is it will be tough in his first season, as he adjusts to a new league. I'll put out a name that perhaps few think of in terms of breaking the record: Mike Moustakas. Moose had seven homers last season by early May. If he keeps improving, he may have a whopper year.
The only thing we know for sure is that Mondesi, Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield and Christian Colon won't all be on the 25-man roster. Now that Mondesi has won the second base job, one of two things must happen: Either Merrifield, who has options, gets sent down, or Colon or Cuthbert (neither of whom has options) gets dealt or designated for assignment if no trade partner can be found. I laid out all the scenarios here.
Peter O'Brien showed everyone in Royals camp what kind of power he has. There simply isn't an available roster spot for him, so there is logic to having him continue his development at Triple-A Omaha. And Yost said something interesting toward the end of camp: If the need did arise through injury or trade or whatever, Yost would not hesitate to use someone like O'Brien at the big league level. The Royals like O'Brien's future.
Yender Caramo was one of the big surprises in camp and as of this writing was still in the battle for the final bullpen spot. Yost and his staff love Caramo's heavy sinker and the fact that he throws strikes. Even if he doesn't make the team out of camp, there's a pretty good chance Royals fans will see him at the big league level at some point this season.
Mondesi looks like a different hitter this year. He's more confident and he showed he has the pop to hit home runs and the finesse to lay down a perfect drag bunt. The other impressive young guy is outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, who just crushed the ball during spring. Bonifacio is just 23 and is on the brink of the big leagues -- now he just needs the opportunity.
Do we even have to ask? Cargos.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.