Predicting the Royals' Opening Day roster
Zimmer predicted to complete comeback and make Opening Day roster
KANSAS CITY -- OK, here's the fun part of February: predicting a way-too-early 25-man roster.
The hardest part for the Royals will be sifting through the right-field options, as well as the bullpen, and the two are interconnected in terms of roster space. But here goes:
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Catcher (2): Salvador Perez, Cam Gallagher
Perez regained his Gold Glove Award last season and certainly has entered his prime. Gallagher has the edge over Meibrys Viloria for now, though the organization is very high on Viloria, who is on the 40-man roster.
First base (1):Ryan O'Hearn
O'Hearn had 12 home runs and a .950 OPS in 44 games last season and has the early edge, though the Royals will take a good look at Frank Schwindel (not on the 40-man) in camp. O'Hearn hit just .108 against lefties (4-for-37) so a platoon situation with Hunter Dozier isn't out of the question.
Second base (1):Whit Merrifield
After a year and a half of being in trade rumors, Merrifield inked a four-year deal and should be a fixture in the clubhouse for a while. He keeps getting better.
Third base (1): Dozier
Dozier had a respectable .821 OPS in his final 27 games in 2018. Although overall he hit just .229, his hard-hit rate per Statcast™ was 40 percent, fourth best on the team, suggesting a breakout could be in store for '19.
Shortstop (1):Adalberto Mondesi
Mondesi hit 14 home runs and stole 32 bases in 75 games. The sky's the limit for this rising star.
Outfield (6):Alex Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Jorge Soler, Brett Phillips, Brian Goodwin, Terrance Gore
The right-field job is up for grabs, though some of those at-bats, especially for Soler, will switch over to DH. Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio still have options, but the guess here is Phillips grabs the roster spot based on his speed and his ceiling. Neither Phillips nor Bonifacio hit well last year. Gore was signed to a Major League deal to be a late-inning pinch-running weapon, which takes up a valuable roster spot, but the Royals are changing their identity back to speed.
• Talented Phillips looks to improve at plate
Utility (1): Chris Owings
With Owings' multipositional ability, the Royals only need one backup infielder.
Starting pitchers (5):Danny Duffy, Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, Ian Kennedy, Jorge López
The fifth spot is a battle between Lopez, who nearly threw a perfect game last season; Heath Fillmyer, whom the Royals are high on; and others.
Relief pitchers (7):Wily Peralta, Brad Boxberger, Tim Hill, Brian Flynn, Sam McWilliams, Fillmyer, Kyle Zimmer
Ooh. This was a tough call. Kevin McCarthy likely makes it if the Royals choose to keep five outfielders and not six, and thus carry 13 pitchers instead of 12. But McCarthy has options. Flynn is out of options. I think Kansas City only keeps one Rule 5 Draft guy, and McWilliams was the second pick overall in this year's Rule 5 Draft. Fillmyer has the stuff to be a strong setup guy if he doesn't make the rotation. That leaves a wild-card pick among Josh Staumont, Chris Ellis, Zimmer and many others for the final spot. I'm going with the Zim man. Too good a story to pass up.
So again, here's your way-too-early list of the Royals' projected roster. A lot depends on whether they decide to keep one or both of Phillips and Bonifacio, which will add or subtract a bullpen arm.
Jesse Hahn (elbow, likely 60-day injured list)
Eric Skoglund (suspended list)