Inbox: Witt's path, '20 keys, early surprises

July 17th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Mike Matheny predicted Summer Camp would fly by. And he was right.

We are a week away from the Royals’ opener at Cleveland, and many decisions still must be made regarding the rotation and the bullpen spots.

The good news is that the catching situation, now that and are back, isn’t as dire as it was a few days ago.

With that, let’s get to your questions for this week’s Royals Inbox. I tried to keep the answers short to get to as many questions as possible.

No doubt that shortstop , the team’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has been creating a buzz all camp. He has shown tremendous athleticism in the field and at the plate, along with unheard-of poise for a 20-year-old in what is basically his big league camp debut. Danny Duffy even semi-jokingly called him the best hitter of all time. Witt won’t make his big league debut in 2020, but the Royals may accelerate his progression through the Minors now, meaning he may be on a fast track to Class A Advanced and Double-A ball next year. He’s that good already.

I’ll go with three guys: center fielder , right-hander and super-utility man . Starling looks so much more confident at the plate. McCarthy’s added splitter gives him that swing-and-miss pitch he needed. And Mejia just looks like he now belongs in the bigs and can play any position well.

The bullpen. And not just because it was second worst in the American League last year. The bullpen will be key, especially early, because the Royals may enter Opening Day weekend with just three proven starters (depending on when is cleared to return). That lack of starting depth puts some added pressure on the bullpen to perform well -- there could be several games pitched by committee, with an opener and then several relievers behind him.

The Royals’ deal with FOX Sports Kansas City and Sinclair seemingly has been close to being finalized for a long time. The handshake deal was in place in spring, as reported. And we’ve learned that the Royals will air 59 regular-season games (Aug. 6 vs. the Cubs will be televised nationally on FOX). Next week’s three exhibition games also will air on FSKC. Point being, neither side is too worried about the deal being completed, as they’ve already cemented the schedule. The pandemic brought negotiations to a halt before they could bridge the gap on some minor issues that are now again being discussed.

I can’t speak for players on other teams, but to a man, the Royals I’ve talked to privately are 100 percent all in that the season will start and be completed. They are confident.

I had basically only seen and in the fall instructional league, so I'm getting a closer look now, and I have been very impressed. We know how strong Matias is (31 home runs in the Minors in 2018). Matias seems to have a better feel for the strike zone. We also knew Pratto was a tremendous defender at first base (smooth, like Eric Hosmer), and he’s shown that again in camp. But Pratto also is making strides offensively. has bulked up and can drive the ball much better now. Matheny is high on Melendez’s receiving skills, too.

I don’t think they’d be surprises at this point, but Mejia and right-hander have excellent shots at getting on the roster. And with the rotation so thin, it wouldn’t shock me if cracks the 40-man and thus the Opening Day roster. Singer would have enough protection with an ample bullpen to make a start or two to see if he’s ready. The problem is, it’s not that easy knocking guys off the 40-man to make room.

That’s a good question, and I think Matheny will be flexible. But I expect to be the closer, and his go-to setup men will be , , and . I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Rosenthal get some save opportunities as well. He looked unhittable in Spring Training.

I’ll go with Holland or Mejia.

looked really good in Spring Training in the outfield. We don’t get to see as much now with limited media access. But he’s such a good athlete, I think he’ll adjust fine. He actually has a fair amount of experience in right field under his belt, and outfielder guru coach Rusty Kuntz was a big help to him in Arizona. Dozier lost one ball in the sun the other day, but that’s the only blip I’ve noticed.

I would agree. We noticed the added bulk in Spring Training, and Lopez was really driving the ball. Same here in Summer Camp. He is going to be a sneaky weapon at the bottom of the order.

You will see an action game from the Royals, just like in past years. They have too much speed in , , Lopez and Dozier (as well as possibly Mejia and ) not to be an offense in motion. And they've attempted steals like crazy in intrasquad games, and hit-and-run quite a bit.

, like he did in Spring Training, looks ready to be a force in the lineup. And he’ll likely be the guy as remains in isolation. I joked with McBroom on Thursday about being the starter right now, and he wasn’t having any of it: “Too soon; you just never know.”

In order, Holland, Mejia, Zuber and Singer.