Royals have intriguing dark-horse candidates

Dozier, Zimmer, Hill in the mix to earn 25-man roster spots

February 22nd, 2018

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals' rebuild is in full swing, and that means several prospects in camp have a chance to make an impression and perhaps even crack the 25-man roster.

Many of those prospects will get their first shot this spring to impress as the Royals open Cactus League play on Saturday at Surprise Stadium against the Dodgers at 2:05 p.m. CT.

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With a camp this wide open, let's identify three prospects who one could consider dark-horse candidates to make the Opening Day roster.

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, IF/OF: Dozier, 26, was selected in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft as a shortstop, was moved to third base, and since has played corner outfield and first base. It's near that time the Royals need to see what he can do at the Major League level. The club isn't committing to getting him 500-600 at-bats this season like they are for , and , but they sure would like to see that scenario unfold.

After a promising 2016 Minor League season in which Dozier hit .296 with 23 home runs and an equally promising camp last year, his 2017 regular season was virtually wiped out -- first by an oblique injury out of Spring Training, then a broken wrist in June. With gone, the Royals are going to give Dozier a solid look at first base -- he has the soft hands and athleticism to pull off the transition, though obviously he lacks the repetitions.

, RHP: The Royals' first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, Zimmer has endured a series of injuries and surgical procedures, including one last fall to remove sutures from a previous surgery that had been causing discomfort (those sutures were left in deliberately at the time to promote healing). But now, Zimmer said he is throwing free and easy, and pain-free.

At 26, the clock obviously is ticking on Zimmer. But he still possesses terrific stuff and he was encouraged after a transition to the bullpen in '17. Nothing would make the Royals happier than to have Zimmer wow the coaching staff this spring and at least grab a spot in the bullpen. It's not out of the question.

, LHP: A 32nd-round pick in the 2014 Draft, Hill isn't on many fans' radars, and his Minor League numbers look pedestrian -- 3.57 ERA in 104 relief outings with 13 saves. But the Royals liked him enough to plop him on the 40-man roster last fall. He's no kid at 28, which probably helps his chances of cracking the roster.

What has caught the coaching staff's eyes is his funky, submarine-style delivery from the left side. The club is somewhat short of lefties in camp and he certainly would bring a unique look to the bullpen.