Opening day has been pushed back, but teams are still going to have to make tough roster decisions. Who will be the everyday starters? Who will make up the rotation? The bullpen? So who will represent the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day? I hope to break down who I believe will start the season with the Royals when camp breaks. Let’s forecast the 2020 Kansas City Royals baseball team!
The first overall decision for teams to make is who will make up the active roster. These are the players that are present with the big-league club and can play in games. One of the new rule changes in 2020 is the expansion of the active roster to 26 players. However, teams are limited to 13 pitchers at a time. This allows teams more flexibility in selecting their bench and bullpen. Most of these are obvious, but there may be a few surprises. Let’s dive in! We’ll start at home plate and work our way outwards.
Catchers: Salvador Perez and Cam Gallagher
Salvador Perez is very much still the heart of the team. His absence was definitely felt last year on the field as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Will a full season of rest help him moving forward? We’ll have to see, but he’ll be the starting catcher.
The backup catcher battle between Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria mainly comes down to who has options remaining. Viloria does and Gallagher does not, so Viloria will go to the minors to start the season. Both are very capable back-ups, though.
Infielders: Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan McBroom, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, Maikel Franco
The battle for first base has been a tight one, and both O’Hearn and McBroom have been playing great. Both will make the big-league club and platoon at first base.
Nicky Lopez will return at second base, and could make some starts at shortstop as well. He’s had a solid spring prior to the suspension of play.
The timetable for Adalberto Mondesi’s return is still uncertain at this point as he hadn’t appeared in a Cactus League game. The Royals think he’ll be ready in time for Opening Day. If he’s not we might see Nicky Lopez start here and Whit Merrifield at second base.
Newcomer Maikel Franco looks to get a majority of the starts at third. He’s a trade candidate to watch as he’s only here on a one-year deal.
Outfielders: Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Bubba Starling, Brett Phillips
Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier will likely play a lot of games in the outfield this season. This will allow Nicky Lopez and Maikel Franco to play at second and third respectively. The anticipated setup is Merrifield in center field and Dozier in right field.
Alex Gordon returns to the Royals and will take his regular position in left field. Since 2011, he’s won 7 gold gloves, 4 Fielding Bible awards and a platinum glove. While his defense is outstanding, the Royals would love for him to contribute at the plate as well.
Both Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips are out of options. That means they need to make the club or that could be it for them in Kansas City. Starling has more power at the plate, while Phillips is quicker and the better defender. Both of them have to be glad about the roster expansion, as the Royals might’ve only kept one before. Now Gordon probably won’t play everyday, and Merrifield and Dozier will make starts in the infield now and then.
Designated Hitter: Jorge Soler
Last year’s AL home run champ returns. With all the outfielders on the roster, Soler will likely be playing full-time as the DH. Soler is another player to watch this season who could be dealt at the deadline.
Rotation: Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Jakob Junis, Jorge Lopez
The first four spots of the pitching rotation were pretty much locked in with Keller, Duffy, Junis, and Montgomery. The real question going into this year was who the fifth starter would be. Jorge Lopez seems to be the most primed to fill that last spot, but Glenn Sparkman could be another candidate.
While the Opening Day starter hasn’t yet been announced, the rumor is that it will be Brad Keller. He started opening day last year (also against the White Sox) and dominated. Danny Duffy is another potential candidate as he started Opening Day in 2017 and 2018.
Bullpen: Ian Kennedy, Tim Hill, Scott Barlow, Trevor Rosenthal, Greg Holland, Josh Staumont, Glenn Sparkman, Randy Rosario
Ian Kennedy, like Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis before him, found success in the bullpen after struggling in the rotation. He’ll retain the closer role to start the season.
Tim Hill has been decent going into his third year with the team. He’s one of the few lefty options the Royals have, so he should get a spot.
Scott Barlow has been a solid reliever for the Royals the previous two seasons and has had an awesome spring. He’s a safe bet to make the club.
Trevor Rosenthal joined the Royals on a minor-league deal and had been outstanding in every appearance of spring training. He makes it and might even be the set-up man. It’s also a feel-good story considering he’s from nearby Lee’s Summit and watched the Royals growing up.
Speaking of feel-good stories, Greg Holland returned to the team that drafted him and that he won a ring with. He signed on a minor-league deal after bouncing around different teams the past three seasons. Part of his struggles probably came from recovering from Tommy John surgery. While his velocity is not what it once was, Dirty South has had a solid spring thus far.
Josh Staumont has solidified his chances at a bullpen spot with a great spring, getting some strikeouts with absolute filth. He’s a fun pitcher to watch.
Glenn Sparkman started some games last season and struggled. He had played much better this spring, giving up only one earned run in 8.1 innings. He’ll take the long man/spot starter role in the bullpen, but could also be an opener.
One player on this list that I haven’t seen on other roster predictions is Randy Rosario. He led the team in saves during Cactus League play. He would also be another lefty option out of the pen besides Tim Hill. Whether all that factors into Rosario earning a spot on the team remains to be seen. He is out of options, which could also work in his favor. He’s somewhat of a long-shot pick, though he certainly hasn’t pitched like it.
That’s my prediction as of now! Feel free to jump in my mentions and tell me how wrong I was later. Who do you think will make the 2020 Kansas City Royals?
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