SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals manager Ned Yost said his club won’t decide on the final 25-man roster until they absolutely have to, which could be right until Opening Day on March 28.
The reason the Royals don’t make quick judgments is simple.
“You can fall into a trap, because maybe a guy goes 2-for-2 and looks great one day,” Yost said, “and then the next day he goes 0-for-4 with four strikeouts with the bases loaded and you want to send him to Siberia. You have to be patient with your evaluations.”
Of course, with Opening Day exactly three weeks away, that doesn’t prevent us from projecting the Royals’ 25-man roster for the second time.
Catcher (2): Cam Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria
What changed: Everything changed when Salvador Perez underwent Tommy John surgery this week, which will keep him out for the entire season. For now, the Royals are posturing that they’re satisfied going with Gallagher and Viloria, but there is still a chance the Royals pick up a veteran free agent such as Martin Maldonado or wait to pick up a veteran catcher who might be released.
First base (1): Ryan O'Hearn
What changed: O’Hearn’s spring has, if anything, solidified his hold on first base. He’s walked four times, second-highest on the team, and has shown improvement defensively, especially with scoops.
Second base (1): Whit Merrifield
What changed: Nothing, other than that Perez’s absence means Merrifield will now be looked at as more of a leader in the clubhouse.
Third base (1): Hunter Dozier
What changed: Dozier, as expected, will get plenty of action either at third base or in a loose platoon with O’Hearn at first.
Shortstop (1): Adalberto Mondesi
What changed: Nothing, other than that expectations for Mondesi keep soaring.
Outfield (5): Alex Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Jorge Soler, Brian Goodwin, Terrance Gore
What changed: We had six outfielders projected before camp, but that would diminish the bullpen to seven arms, which is not entirely practical. Goodwin is out of options, while Brett Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio still have them, so it’s not a difficult call. Gore will be the designated late-game pinch-runner, though Yost has indicated he will use him in other scenarios as well, including occasional starts.
Utility (1): Chris Owings
What changed: Nothing, other than Owings has proven this spring he can handle third, shortstop and second, which is why the Royals signed him. He has also shown some pop with two homers and two doubles.
Starting pitchers (5): Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, Ian Kennedy, Jorge López, Danny Duffy
What changed: The only difference from our earlier projection is that Duffy, who had a setback with a tight shoulder, is iffy to start the regular season on the 25-man roster. Duffy may be a candidate to remain in Arizona for extended spring camp to build up his arm strength. Yost won’t need a fifth starter until the second week of the season, which gives Duffy more time.
Relief pitchers (8): Wily Peralta, Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman, Tim Hill, Kevin McCarthy, Sam McWilliams, Heath Fillmyer, Kyle Zimmer
What changed: Quite a bit, actually. The Royals acquired Diekman, who has looked fine this spring, and Drew Storen, who hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017. Storen, like Duffy, is a possible candidate for extended spring workouts so he can build up arm strength as well. McCarthy, who has looked solid his last two times out, replaces Brian Flynn (out of options) on this projected list, even though McCarthy has options.
If Fillmyer doesn’t make the rotation over Lopez, it’s still possible he could start the season at Triple-A as a starter, though the feeling here is his stuff and command could play well in the bullpen. Zimmer has looked great this spring and would be a feel-good comeback story. You can make a case for right-hander Josh Staumont, who has a 1.69 ERA in four outings and has walked only one batter. Right-hander Michael Ynoa, a non-roster invite, has impressed Yost and his staff and is certainly in the mix. So is lefty Richard Lovelady, who has been as impressive as expected, though he doesn’t have to go on the 40-man roster until next fall.
Jesse Hahn (elbow, 60-day injured list)
Eric Skoglund (suspended list)
Salvador Perez (Tommy John surgery, will be added to 60-day injured list)