Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas could be slated for a return to the two-spot in the batting lineup, the same role he occupied during an early-season breakout in 2015.
Royals manager Ned Yost said Sunday that he was leaning toward hitting Moustakas in the two-hole, though he was also still considering left fielder Alex Gordon for the spot. Second baseman Ben Zobrist batted second during the Royals’ postseason run last October. But the position became vacant when Zobrist signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs.
“[Moustakas] or Alex, but probably Moose,” Yost said. “We wouldn’t have moved him out of there last year if we didn’t get Ben Zobrist. He had a career year there, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
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A year ago, Moustakas revitalized his career by batting .284 with 22 homers, 34 doubles and a career-high .817 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He began the season batting No. 2 in the lineup, a decision that at first appeared baffling after Moustakas hit .212 with a .271 on-base percentage in 2014. Last week, Yost revealed that the decision to bat Moustakas second originally came from his coaching staff, including hitting coach Dale Sveum and bench coach Don Wakamatsu. Yost was unpersuaded at the start.
“They just were very convicted that he would do a very nice job in the two-hole,” Yost said.
Moustakas made the decision look sound from the beginning, hitting .356 with three homers in April. The club acquired Zobrist before the trade deadline and Moustakas eventually found himself hitting sixth during the postseason. He excelled there as well. For the season, Moustakas batted .280 with a .341 on-base percentage in 94 games in the two-hole. He batted .282 with a .358 on-base percentage and 11 homers in 39 games batting sixth.
If Moustakas ends up hitting second, the framework of the Royals’ lineup begins to fall into place. Shortstop Alcides Escobar is expected to continue leading off, while center fielder Lorenzo Cain and first baseman Eric Hosmer will bat third and fourth, respectively. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales is slated to bat fifth and Gordon would slot into the sixth spot ahead of catcher Salvador Perez. The final two order spots will fall to the player who emerges from the second base competition — either Omar Infante or Christian Colon — and the Royals’ right field platoon, which is likely to include Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando.
Royals set to play intrasquad game
Two days before their spring training opener Wednesday, the Royals will undergo a dry run on Monday morning. The club is set to play a 3 1/2-inning intrasquad game at their complex here in Surprise. Manager Ned Yost unveiled list of seven pitchers who will throw on Monday, including left-handed reliever Brian Flynn, who is positioned to challenge for a roster spot in the bullpen. The rest of the pitching lineup will feature players without major-league experience, including right-handers Christian Binford, Alec Mills and Brooks Pounders and left-handers Jonathan Dziedzic, Matt Strahm and Sam Selman.
Yost said the Royals would have a light workout on Tuesday before opening the Cactus League schedule against the Texas Rangers at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday at Surprise Stadium. Top prospect Kyle Zimmer is slated to start Wednesday for the Royals.
Club signs six remaining players on 40-man roster
The Royals completed contracts for their remaining six unsigned players on Sunday, including second baseman Christian Colon and outfielder Paulo Orlando.
Colon, who delivered the game-winning RBI in the decisive game of the World Series, will make $518,425 this season. Orlando will make $514,250 after making his major-league debut last season. The Royals also finalized deals with left-handed reliever Brian Flynn ($515,950), left-handed pitcher Matt Strahm ($507,500), outfielder Reymond Fuentes ($508,450), and infielder Ramon Torres ($507,500). All six players have less than three years of major-league service time, meaning they must accept any contract offered from their club. The league minimum is set at $507,500 for 2016.