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Inbox: What is the Royals' deepest position?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers fans' questions
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Coming off a strong finish by their young core, the Royals' offseason is upon us.

There are rosters decisions to be made, Rule 5 Draft eligible players to be protected, and work to do to shore up the Royals' bullpen.

KANSAS CITY -- Coming off a strong finish by their young core, the Royals' offseason is upon us.

There are rosters decisions to be made, Rule 5 Draft eligible players to be protected, and work to do to shore up the Royals' bullpen.

With that, let's get to your questions in this week's Royals Inbox:

At what position are the Royals deepest?
-- Michael, Overland, Kansas @MichaelJMally1

I don't recall saying this in many years about a Royals team, but I'd probably say starting pitching. Danny Duffy (if he bounces back), Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, Ian Kennedy, Jorge Lopez, Eric Skoglund, Heath Fillmyer and Glenn Sparkman provide plenty of depth. And you never know if someone like Trevor Oaks or Scott Barlow or Arnaldo Hernandez or Foster Griffin wows the staff in camp.

Ned Yost has agreed to stay for 2019. Who might be his replacement?
-- Jenny, @jennysrc

Well, there's a chance Yost could be back in 2020 as well. He has stated repeatedly he wants to get this group competitive before he steps aside -- he wants his replacement to have a fighting chance at success. And once Yost steps away from the dugout, he likely will remain in a more advisory role. Dale Sveum would seem the logical choice to replace him. The players respect him. And Pedro Grifol merits strong consideration as well. Those would be the internal choices right now.

What are the chances that Frank Schwindel fights for a DH spot?
-- Nathan, @Best4Business15

Video: KC@CLE: Schwindel slugs a long solo homer to tie game

I think Schwindel will absolutely compete for a roster spot next spring. And to answer another question about Frank the Tank that I get asked quite often, I'm guessing the Royals leave him unprotected again before this December's Rule 5 Draft. They survived last year without protecting Schwindel or Ryan O'Hearn, simply because it's hard for teams to stash a backup first baseman on the 25-man roster.

Could you ever see the Royals experimenting with an "opener" or "bullpenning" the way other teams have?
-- Max, @maxrieper

Interesting question. We chatted with Yost about it numerous times this season. At first, he seemed skeptical -- he didn't want to spend his best bullpen arms in the first two innings of a game. And in his defense, it's not like he had his 2013-15 bullpens this year that were deep enough to employ the tactic. But Yost is more open-minded about these matters than he lets on. He simply wants results. I wouldn't be shocked with their rotation depth if they try it in '19.

Is there any talk about turning Duffy back into a reliever? He hasn't been able to stay healthy as a starter. With the late-season emergence of other rotation candidates, Duffy could help bolster a weak bullpen.
-- Jeff, @JeffBachman1

Video: DET@KC: Duffy strikes out 6 in 6 innings of work

Possible, but certainly Duffy will get a long look as a rotation candidate early on. He has vowed to devote this offseason to building strength in his rotator cuff and shoulder area. He's aware he has broken down too much lately and he is aware his fastball velocity has dipped. He believes he can get it back.

Jorge Bonifacio didn't perform well after returning from his PED suspension. Where does Bonifacio fit in the Royals' outfield plans?
-- Joey V., @Yay4Sportsballs

From the coaching staff to the front office, everyone was puzzled by Bonifacio's season -- just four homers once he came back from suspension with a .672 OPS. The general feeling is he's more like the 17-homer, .752 OPS guy he was in 2017. But he needs to impress in spring, not just offensively, but as a defender as well.

Who do you think will be the starting third and first basemen?
-- David, @BaltuskaDavid

The corners should be Hunter Dozier and O'Hearn after the way they performed in the final six weeks. Dozier made huge strides defensively and should keep getting better. O'Hearn needs to take that leap defensively as well. He is aware of it.

The closer on opening day is ... ?
-- Chris, @bballkansas

Video: KC@CIN: Peralta leaves the bases loaded for 14th save

Wily Peralta. Just a $3 million team option for 2019 -- that's cheap. He had to do a lot of dancing out of trouble at times, but he wound up 14-for-14 in save opportunities. Good guy in the clubhouse as well.

Opening Day lineup for next season?
-- BBJ, Gardner, Kansas, @Bbjkc

A very, very early guess:

2B Whit Merrifield

SS Adalberto Mondesi

LF Alex Gordon

DH Jorge Soler

C Salvador Perez

1B O'Hearn

3B Dozier

RF Bonifacio

CF Brett Phillips

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

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