Moore likes Royals' 'level of talent', expanded playoffs

March 12th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals’ Spring Training complex is looking more like its normal self this weekend with more players trickling into the facility ahead of Sunday’s official report date. On Saturday, pitchers Daniel Lynch and Collin Snider played catch shortly before Lynch threw a side session in front of manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred.

Right-hander Jon Heasley threw batting practice to Kyle Isbel, Nick Pratto, Nick Loftin and Seuly Matias in front of fans that were allowed into the complex to watch workouts for the first time since the pandemic shut down 2020 Spring Training.

And the rest of the Royals’ 61 players who are set to be in Major League camp will arrive Sunday ahead of Monday’s first official workout of the spring.

All the while, president of baseball operations Dayton Moore, general manager J.J. Picollo and their front office team are working on improving the club, with eyes on pitching depth.

The Royals are not expected to be in the running for the big free agents on the market, as their emphasis in 2022 will be on the success of their young players. But there is room to add a starting pitcher or reliever, especially veteran players who can log innings, if the Royals find the right fit.

“One of the things we talked about was the importance of us staying disciplined with this current group of players,” Moore said on Saturday. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to look for ways to supplement our talent. We will. It’s a very young and talented roster with more players and pitchers on the horizon. We’re going to be very disciplined with who we bring in.

“We’re comfortable with who we have in camp, with the level of talent.”

The Royals want to see their young position players -- Pratto, Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez -- be able to transition to the Majors this year and hopefully help spark the offense with the help of established players like Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi.

And the organization wants to see its young pitchers -- Lynch, Heasley, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Kris Bubic, among others -- take the next step at the Major League level.

“It’s time for a lot of our guys to start taking some steps forward,” Moore said. “… Of course, we want to play in October. That’s the mindset of [Matheny] and the coaching staff, and this group of players. For that to take place, we are going to need a lot of our players to step up and become more consistent, and do some of the little things that you have to do to win Major League Baseball games.”

That’s not to say the Royals aren’t engaging in talks with other teams about trades or agents about signing players on the free-agent market. That’s happening, and it’s happening at a quick pace, especially on the pitching side. There is a market for relievers out there expected to move over the weekend, with pitchers like Collin McHugh, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin looking for landing spots. Former Royal Zack Greinke, along with Michael Pineda, are two starters who could log innings.

The Royals also put an emphasis on Minor League signings this offseason, moves they could make during the lockout, for depth. Veteran right-handers Brad Peacock and Daniel Mengden joined the organization, as well as righties Colten Brewer and Arodys Vizcaino. Before the lockout, Kansas City signed reliever Taylor Clarke to a one-year Major League deal, and the former D-backs pitcher was already in camp on Saturday.

The theme of Kansas City's offseason and what the beginning of Spring Training will bring: Depth. The Royals want as much of it as possible.

“I think we got a pretty good feel for what we have,” Moore said. “It’s all about the general health. The guys who you’d expect to be in the rotation are going to be in the rotation, assuming they’re healthy. When you get into a 162-game season, you always want to have as much depth.”

Expanded postseason ‘healthy for our game’

Moore was asked about his thoughts on the expanded postseason in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Saturday, with 12 teams now set to compete in October. The top Royals executive expressed appreciation for it and acknowledged it could help his club in the coming years.

“I think it’s healthy for our game,” Moore said. “It’s such a long season. Truthfully, to be in the playoff hunt, you got to have one great month or two great months, and play around .500 the rest of the way. Sometimes, whether it’s because of injury or weather or you’re playing some team that’s incredibly hot, you can take your lumps over a month. But maybe an expanded playoff gives a team a chance to recover from some bad luck or adversity and keep some fight in them.

“I think, ultimately, it’s probably a positive for our game. Then again, I do believe in the integrity of 162 games. I feel like the best teams do emerge over 162 and should be rewarded accordingly. Hopefully this system will do that.”