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Inbox: What can KC fans expect in September?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from Royals fans
@FlannyMLB
September 9, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Royals head into a three-game series against the White Sox having won six of eight, along with three straight series wins. With that backdrop, let’s take your questions for this week’s Royals Inbox. **What do the players do to motivate themselves in the final month of the

CHICAGO -- The Royals head into a three-game series against the White Sox having won six of eight, along with three straight series wins.

With that backdrop, let’s take your questions for this week’s Royals Inbox.

What do the players do to motivate themselves in the final month of the season?
-- Seth B., Liberty, Mo.

Several Royals are playing for a spot on the 2020 team, so there is plenty of motivation. And, of course, there are individual goals to achieve as well. We just saw Jorge Soler set the new franchise single-season home run record, and he continues to add to that. Whit Merrifield would like to get to 200 hits and win his second straight hits title, and perhaps he'd also like to chalk up his first 20-20 season (he needs four more homers and two more steals). And no one is really saying this out loud in the clubhouse, but if Kansas City can go 10-8 the rest of the way, it'd avoid a 100-loss season. That matters.

Has Brett Phillips fallen off the radar for next year's outfield? The Royals seem to be playing him less than 50 percent of the time. It's hard to stay sharp and improve with limited playing time.
-- Caleb R., St. Paul, Minn.

Phillips is absolutely on their radar. The coaching staff and front office love his style of play. Phillips already has two five-star catches, according to Statcast, this month. He had a sensational hustle double on the last homestand. With Phillips' defense, if he could hit .250-.260 at this level, he would be an everyday player. The same can be said of Bubba Starling. Right now, it’s just tough for manager Ned Yost to get everyone consistent playing time.

What do you think about Ryan McBroom and Ryan O'Hearn? Who do you think will be the starter at first base by 2020?
-- Noah F., Kansas City

This is definitely the most intriguing position battle heading into the offseason -- O’Hearn vs. McBroom at first base. O’Hearn has really picked it up lately. In his past 13 games, he is hitting .333 with four home runs, two doubles and a 1.164 OPS. In six big league games, McBroom is 6-for-19 (.316) with two doubles. Keep in mind that there is room for both in 2020 -- MLB will add a 26th man to the active roster.

Are there any players subject to the Rule 5 Draft that the Royals need to add to the 40-man roster? If so, who are they?
-- Tom K., Kansas City

The Royals already have added Erick Mejia and Gabe Speier to the roster, both of whom they wanted to protect from the Rule 5 Draft anyway. Chances are that speedy outfielder Nick Heath would have been added by now as well, but a wrist injury shelved him. Heath likely will be added to the 40-man simply because the aforementioned addition of a 26th man to next year’s rosters make him easier to stash on a big league roster. And here’s an interesting name that is on rival scouts’ radars: right-hander Andres Sotillet, who was 6-1 with a 3.35 ERA at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. One told me, “He’s the perfect guy to stash, because he can throw strikes. If you’re going to roll the dice with a Rule 5 guy, he’d be it.”

How soon will we see Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and Jonathan Bowlan in the Majors?
-- @Billcember

There’s a pretty good chance Royals fans will see Singer, Kowar and Lynch at some point next season. But don’t expect those promotions early in the season. Kansas City believes it makes much more sense to promote young guys midseason, so there isn’t as much pressure on them to succeed right away. Naturally, they will have to prove they can dominate at Double-A or Triple-A first.

Give me your best guess at a 2021 Opening Day lineup and rotation.
-- Spencer R., Kansas City

Here’s a wild guess.

Lineup
RF Whit Merrifield
SS Adalberto Mondesi
DH Jorge Soler
3B Hunter Dozier
C Salvador Perez
1B Ryan O’Hearn
LF Alex Gordon
CF Brett Phillips
2B Nicky Lopez

Rotation
RHP Brad Keller
LHP Danny Duffy
LHP Mike Montgomery
RHP Jakob Junis
RHP Jesse Hahn

Would you bring Mike Moustakas back for veteran presence, with Soler at DH, Moose at third base, Dozier in right and O'Hearn or Cheslor Cuthbert at first?
-- TJ S.

Nah. I don’t see the value in that. Dozier is the third baseman of the future. He has really improved defensively, and we can all see how good he can be at the plate. The Royals likely won’t contend until at least 2021, so there’s no reason for pending new owner John Sherman to waste free-agent money on Moustakas. Besides, Moose already has 31 homers this season, and isn’t it time he finally got a multiyear deal?

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