SURPRISE, Ariz. -- All eyes will be on the battle for the right-field job this spring in Royals camp.It is perhaps the only position battle on hand, though the club may shuffle a bit at first base with a "loose platoon" involving Ryan O'Hearn, Hunter Dozier and maybe Chris Owings,
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- All eyes will be on the battle for the right-field job this spring in Royals camp.
It is perhaps the only position battle on hand, though the club may shuffle a bit at first base with a "loose platoon" involving Ryan O'Hearn, Hunter Dozier and maybe Chris Owings, according to manager Ned Yost.
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The candidates for the right-field job are Jorge Soler, Brian Goodwin, Brett Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio.
"There are a lot of factors that will play into it," Yost said.
Here's some early handicapping of the race:
Soler has been hurt much of the time in his two seasons with the Royals. But before he went down with a fractured toe in mid-June last season, Soler was showing everyone why the Royals were willing to give up closer Wade Davis in a trade with the Cubs to acquire Soler.
Soler was hitting .265 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs, perhaps headed for a 20-25 home run season. The Royals would love for Soler to have an incredible spring and simply claim the job because he also has some upside defensively.
"He's improving out there," Yost noted.
The main thing is Soler's offensive ceiling, though. Club officials from the start have thought Soler could evolve into a 35-homer guy if healthy. Soler certainly will see time at DH as well.
Projection: Will play the most between RF/DH.
The Royals really don't know exactly what they have in Goodwin, who was acquired from the Nationals in the Jacob Condra-Bogan deal. Goodwin started out blazing, hitting .417 in his first five games with Kansas City in late July. Then a groin injury knocked him out for all of August and he wound up hitting .246 in 27 games.
Goodwin, 28, worked hard in the offseason, though, with a track coach to improve his sprint speed, which could help his defense covering the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield. Goodwin has two other things going for him: He's a left-handed bat and he is out of options.
Projection: Will make the team and see considerable playing time.
Phillips is really the wild card here. He is by far the best defender of the group with the strongest arm and the best range. But Phillips, 24, hit .188 in 36 games after being acquired from the Brewers in the Mike Moustakas deal.
Even more alarming was that Phillips struck out 50 times in 123 plate appearances, and 21 of those were looking. Phillips vows to improve his plate approach and pitch awareness this spring.
The Royals are pounding home the theme that they will be a defense-speed team this season, and that would bode well for Phillips. But he has Minor League options, and that will work against him. Also working against him is that the Royals plan to keep Terrance Gore as a designated pinch-running specialist, and it seems unlikely the club would carry six outfielders because it really needs to keep 13 pitchers (eight bullpen arms).
Projection: On the bubble to make the roster.
Bonifacio opened a lot of eyes when he hit 17 home runs and drove in 40 after a callup in 2017. But an 80-game suspension to start 2018 was a major setback, and he never got on track, as he hit just .225 in 69 games with very little power -- four home runs.
Bonifacio also has struggled at times defensively, and that's always a no-no for the defensive-minded Royals.
And like Phillips, Bonifacio has options, which certainly hurts his chances.
Projection: On the bubble, at best, to make the roster.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.