KC Royals: Who makes the 25-man Opening Day roster?

The KC Royals’ Opening Day roster is beginning to take shape as the offseason winds down.

Hat tip to Baseball Prospectus’ David Lesky, who in his piece on Brandon Moss today got us thinking about the KC Royals’ 25-man roster.

Lesky speculates that with the Moss signing, Billy Burns is a man without a real purpose – and roster spot – on the big league club. Burns has options, so there’s really no reason not to stash him at Triple A with Paulo Orlando as the team’s primary backup outfielder and Moss and Whit Merrifield as options No. 5 and 6 in the outfield, if needed.

Here’s a look at the players we can safely assume will make the Opening Day roster on April 3, when the Royals play at Minnesota.

  1. Salvador Perez, C
  2. Drew Butera, C
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  4. Alcides Escobar, SS
  5. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  6. Whit Merrifield, 2B
  7. Cheslor Cuthbert, INF
  8. Alex Gordon, OF
  9. Lorenzo Cain, OF
  10. Jorge Soler, OF
  11. Paulo Orlando, OF
  12. Brandon Moss, DH/OF
  13. Danny Duffy, SP (L)
  14. Ian Kennedy, SP (R)
  15. Jason Vargas, SP (L)
  16. Nate Karns, SP (R)
  17. Chris Young, SP (R)
  18. Kelvin Herrera, RP (R)
  19. Joakim Soria, RP (R)
  20. Brian Flynn, RP (L)
  21. Matt Strahm, RP (L)

That’s 21 out of 25 roster spots that seem to be pretty well wrapped up.

Couple of thoughts: 

  • Yes, Chris Young is slotted in as the No. 5 starter. Unless Matt Strahm unseats him in spring training, or the Royals sign another starter, Young’s the guy for now. Regardless, he’s likely not going anywhere as Kansas City owes him $5.75 million this year.
  • Where does Christian Colon fit on the roster? The best guess right now is that Merrifield wins the second base job and Raul Mondesi ends up in Triple A. That leaves Cuthbert backing up the infield. Not sure there’s much rationale for keeping Colon around as a backup at short when the Royals could just call up Mondesi if Escobar went down with an injury.
  • I’m guessing barring a horrific spring training, Pete O’Brien makes the roster and sees at-bats at DH against left-handed pitching. That makes it even more unlikely that Burns opens the year with the big league club.

If O’Brien’s on the Opening Day roster, then we’re down to three bullpen spots. (If he’s not, he probably didn’t connect much during spring training and Colon makes the squad as a backup infielder who can play short and second.)

We’ll give one spot to lefty reliever Scott Alexander, a 27-year-old minor league journeyman who made his big league debut in 2015 and last season posted a 3.32 ERA over 19 innings of relief for Kansas City.

So who get’s the final two spots? If Kansas City signs a starter before spring training – Jason Hammel? Doug Fister? Travis Wood? – Young moves to long relief. The Royals also have invited a cast of veteran relievers and minor leaguers not on the 40-man roster to spring training as non-roster invitees. The best guess among the non-roster invites is 27-year-old right-hander Chris Withrow, who posted a 3.58 ERA in 37 2/3rd innings of relief for Atlanta last season. After missing all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery, Withrow’s arm could conceivably  be even stronger this year than in 2016.

As for the final spot, right now I’d give it to prospect Eric Skoglund. A 6-foot-7 left-hander, Skoglund posted a 3.45 ERA at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year in 27 starts and a 3.52 ERA the year before in High-A Wilmington. The protoypical crafty left, the 24-year-old Skoglund doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters – 134 Ks in 156 1/3rd innings last year – but he doesn’t walk many either. Let’s see what he can do in the big leagues.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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