Inbox: Could Royals' prospects play in 2020?

June 29th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Baseball is back and so are Royals Inboxes.

The Royals will have their first workout on Friday at Kauffman Stadium with their 60-man player pool. Opening Day will be July 23 or 24.

With that, let’s get right to your questions. You had so many, I will try to keep answers short to accommodate as many as possible.

General manager Dayton Moore told me on Sunday that the main purpose for having so many prospects on their 60-man player pool was mostly from a developmental side. Without a Minor League season seeming unlikely, the Royals want to keep their top prospects moving forward, and having them in summer camp is the best way. The exceptions might be right-hander Brady Singer, the team’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, or right-hander Jackson Kowar (No. 4). Singer was still in camp when we left Arizona and had an outside chance of cracking the 40-man roster and making the Opening Day roster.

The Royals have high hopes for Zuber. He has closer’s stuff. As far as successors to Ian Kennedy in that role, Josh Staumont would certainly be in the conversation. But don’t rule out Trevor Rosenthal, who overmatched hitters in Spring Training, and was quickly added to the 40-man roster in late March. Kansas City is very close -- if not already there -- to not signing free agents just to flip them, which is practice common among rebuilding teams. Rosenthal is only 30 and the Royals believe there is a lot of life left in that arm.

Manager Mike Matheny continues to rave to us how his pitching staff kept up their workload during the pause. It seems likely the starters will be able to ramp up pretty quickly -- Matheny said there will be live batting practices already on Friday. Getting up to 100-pitch counts could happen faster than you think.

Before camp was suspended, Bubba Starling was winning the battle for that top backup role in the outfield. It really did seem he was primed for a breakout year, and Matheny mentioned often that he would be utilizing his bench often.

I asked Matheny and Whit Merrifield how they would cope with the lack of energy created by the fans, and both said that it would be a challenge. In some ways, games will resemble an intrasquad battle on the George Brett Field in Surprise, Ariz. But players are pros, and they will adapt.

Moore told me the Royals are content with having left-hander Asa Lacy -- their top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft -- work out in College Station, Texas, through the season. There’s hope there will be an extended Arizona Fall League and he can get in some more work there.

Yes, Aug. 31.

That’s an interesting question. Matheny talked quite a bit during Spring Training about getting creative with their No. 5 spot in the rotation, which had not been resolved. With a 30-man roster, the Royals certainly could afford to extend the rotation to six pitchers, with the No. 5 and No. 6 guys going stints of two or three innings, and then having others piggyback off them.

That’s a fair question. MLB and the Royals are doing everything they can to ensure safety for the players. That message is being pounded home to the teams and players -- take all necessary precautions at the ballpark and away from the ballpark. But COVID-19 is so unpredictable.

Glad you asked that. Too quickly, the term “taxi squad” was used by reporters in identifying the extra 20 or so players on the 60-man player pool, and that created confusion. The Royals are terming those extra 20 or so players, the ones not on the 40-man roster, as satellite players. Teams will have a taxi squad, with a maximum of three players (including one catcher if you use all three spots), for every road trip, just in case players get injured or contract the virus.

Again, the “satellite” players will continue to work out at Kauffman Stadium when the team is on the road. As of now, the Royals will not have an alternative training site, and the 60-man pool will work out at Kauffman Stadium.

It would be surprising. Witt, the team’s No. 1 prospect, isn’t on the 40-man roster, and there’s no real reason to start his service time clock. He just turned 20 on June 14. Being in the 60-person pool will help him continue his development, like being in big-league camp, which is a tremendous experience for young players.

Yes, I do.

Yes, I reported recently that the handshake deal is still in effect. Both sides are planning on having a final deal put to bed in the next couple of weeks. And yes, the pandemic certainly affected the finances and structure.