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Inbox: Which young arms may break through?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from Kansas City fans
@FlannyMLB
January 17, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Spring Training is just around the corner -- a feeling evidenced by the fact that the Royals provided their list of non-roster invites earlier this week. That list includes pitchers Brady Singer, their top pick in 2018 and No. 2 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline, and Daniel

KANSAS CITY -- Spring Training is just around the corner -- a feeling evidenced by the fact that the Royals provided their list of non-roster invites earlier this week.

That list includes pitchers Brady Singer, their top pick in 2018 and No. 2 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline, and Daniel Lynch, their No. 3 prospect. Other first-timers include outfielders Khalil Lee (No. 4) and Kyle Isbel (No. 8), and pitchers Kris Bubic (No. 6) and Jackson Kowar (No. 5).

With that in mind, let’s get to our first Royals Inbox of 2020.

In the past, the Royals have been fairly conservative in promoting prospects, preferring to protect them from the pressures of Opening Day. This season might be different.

It wouldn’t be surprising if one of the young pitchers -- Singer, Kowar, Lynch, etc. -- broke through and made the team. The Royals have been impressed with the maturity level of that group, and there is some sense the youth movement could use a jolt of excitement with a young arm making the rotation.

Probably first base. If Alex Gordon indeed comes back, the outfield would be set with Whit Merrifield in center field and Hunter Dozier in right.

That would leave the only position battle at first base between Ryan O'Hearn and Ryan McBroom. New manager Mike Matheny has spoken highly of O’Hearn, but the Royals also liked what they saw from McBroom at the end of last season. O’Hearn and McBroom could set up as a possible platoon, but one gets the feeling that Matheny would like O’Hearn to simply grab the job.

I still think it makes sense to bring in a veteran arm or two to at least compete for that fifth spot in the rotation. What the Royals are weighing, though, is whether one of their young arms is a better option in the long run for that fifth spot over a veteran who may not have much upside. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to sign a veteran or two for depth purposes.

It should be a fun camp with all those young arms around.

Absolutely. As general manager Dayton Moore told me last week, just because they were exchanging arbitration numbers and ultimately got a one-year deal done, that doesn’t mean they can’t negotiate a multiyear contract now. The Royals believe Jorge Soler is a big part of their future -- he’s an incredible weapon in the middle of that lineup.

When John Sherman took over as the new owner, I had the sense he wouldn’t make any big splashes right away, and that includes handing out a multiyear deal. But I think once Sherman gets a better lay of the land, he’ll commit to not only Soler long-term but likely some of the other pieces of the future such as Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesi. Moore said Sherman has been supportive of that vision, and such moves seem more likely next offseason.

From everything we have heard, Mondesi is on schedule in his rehab from his left shoulder surgery and, barring any setbacks in camp, should be ready for Opening Day. If not, Nicky Lopez would start at shortstop in the interim, and Merrifield would likely go to second base. That would leave Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips (assuming Gordon is back) possibly platooning in center field.

The Royals had been hoping to get the new television deal with FOX Sports Kansas City wrapped up months ago. I keep hearing the same thing -- the sides are very close. I’m sure both sides would like to make an announcement perhaps as soon as FanFest, which starts next Friday. Then again, I was also told it “might go down to the wire” in terms of getting a deal done by the beginning of Spring Training.

Seeing some of the young talent up close, like Singer, Kowar and Lynch, and outfielders Lee and Nick Heath. There’s a decent chance we will see all of them make their MLB debuts at some point in 2020. I think that will fire up the fan base.

It may open up a spot for a speed guy such as Heath, which would give Matheny a late-inning pinch-running option.

The Royals’ rebuild is ahead of that of the Tigers, so the guess here is that Detroit has the basement in the American League Central division pretty much locked up. But yes, the Twins and White Sox certainly have had busy and productive offseasons, which will make it tougher on the Royals to compete.

The Indians will seemingly fall back a bit, so maybe a fight for third place isn’t out of the question. The Royals’ batting order with the addition of Salvador Perez and Maikel Franco certainly has been lengthened. But Kansas City will have to pitch far better than it did last season to survive in the Central.

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