Royals Q&A with Bob Dutton

Keep those questions coming to @Royals_Report on twitter.

I’m hoping to make this a daily morning feature through the end of spring training, which officially gets under way Monday when pitchers and catchers report to the Royals’ year-round complex in Surprise, Ariz.

Another element I plan to include each day is a quick line or two regarding any morning news. These tidbits will be expanded, on occasion, into stories and notebook items later in the day and for print in the paper.

An example:

ESPN analyst Keith Law included two Royals on Tuesday in his list of the game’s top 100 prospects entering spring training – right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer at No. 27 and outfielder Bubba Starling at No. 45.

Law’s scouting reports on all 100 are behind the paywall at espn.go.com, but here are some teasers: He says Zimmer has a “shockingly clean and simple delivery,” while noting Starling is “still more about potential than performance.”

Worth noting: Law’s Top 100 includes two players traded by the Royals to Tampa Bay in the December deal that returned pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. Outfielder Wil Myers is Law’s No. 4 prospect, while right-hander Jake Odorizzi is No. 68.

On to the twitter questions:

@Aaron_Berlin: thoughts on trading for Johnson/Brignac? Would royals see them as upgrades at 2b?

That would be infielder Elliot Johnson and utilityman Reid Brignac, who were both designated for assignment Tuesday by Tampa Bay. I need to check with the Royals, but I’d be surprised if they pursue either one.

The Royals have former MVP Miguel Tejada and versatile Irving Falu in line to battle for the utility job. Neither Johnson nor Brignac appear to be a significant upgrade. (Will update later today if I learn anything different.)

@bdrvol: w/ 1-4 SP pretty set, any convo on using 4/5 RHP as SP? Don’t we need Smith/Chen to start to break it up b4 Duffy gets back?

Breaking through the shorthand, I’ll assume the basic question is whether the Royals are comfortable with a rotation consisting solely of right-handers. All signs, entering camp, is they are willing to do so.

That said, lefty Bruce Chen could beat out righty Luke Hochevar for a spot, and lefty Will Smith is in the mix, although he appears ticketed for Class AAA Omaha. Things happen, though. Opening Day is nearly two months away.

@meh64098: Royals seem to be missing a Hal McRae type leader to take them to the next level. Any candidates?

The obvious candidate, if he becomes a reliable run-producer, is third baseman Mike Moustakas. He has all the necessary qualities, but that won’t mean much if he struggles like he did in the second half of last season.

Catcher Salvy Perez is another possibility. His ever-present smile tends to mask an iron will. Left fielder Alex Gordon’s marks keep going up, too. He’s not really the vocal type, but his work ethic and steady play command attention.

@Powellfl: Is there any concern about how much Collins was used and the wear and tear on him? Other lefties to help out?

All four members of manager Ned Yost’s back-four relief corps – Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow – figure to benefit from an improved rotation.

That is a big reason that general manager Dayton Moore keeps talking about wanting to get 1,000 innings from that revamped starting unit.

I also expect there to be at least one and probably two more lefties in the bullpen. I see Francisley Bueno as a leading candidate to be a situational lefty, and Chen figures to pitch middle relief if not in the rotation.

Everett Teaford is also in the mix, but he has options remaining. Bueno is out of options.

@MathewB: Is there a clear second option to close in the bullpen if lack of production or injury necessitates?

Herrera is the obvious candidate. He might have the best pure stuff on the staff.

@cyrusthevirus85: looking at the schedule we play a lot of NL games away early. Who plays 1st and who sits that early on?

Great question. I don’t see first baseman Eric Hosmer shifting to the outfield again. Yost tried that a few times last season, and the results weren’t good. So that means either Hosmer or All-Star DH Billy Butler has to sit.

If Hosmer hits like the Royals expect, I’m guessing he would draw most of the duty because he is a better defensive player. But Butler is the lineup’s best pure hitter. It’s hard to keep that bat on the bench.

So my guess, at this point, is a platoon.

@jdplantinga: Ok, here’s a ?: Do you see an extension with Hosmer/Moose anytime soon?

No. For three reasons. Neither one has done enough yet to merit it. Each has Scott Boras for their agent, and Boras’ clients usually test the free-agent market. But mostly because both are already under club control through 2017.

@BushwackerJ: What hitter in the Royals Farm has the most promise to make an impact in the Bigs?

This year? I don’t really see anybody. Long-term, Starling has the highest ceiling, but scouts everywhere are raving over the potential of shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who doesn’t turn 18 until July.

@driscollbryan: do you think Hochevar can "turn the corner" this year?

Can he? Absolutely. Hoch has always flashed immense potential. Will he? Who knows? First, he has to win a job in the rotation. (I think that’s likely but by no means a lock.) Then he has to pitch well enough to keep it.

That second element is new. The Royals, for the first time in a long time, have real in-house alternatives. If Hochevar gets on a bad run, I’d be surprised if the Royals don’t go with someone else.