Opinion

Projecting the Royals’ 25-man roster for Opening Day

ROYALS pitching squad: (from left) pitchers Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Franklin Morales cool down after running sprints during Saturday's spring training workout for the Royals on February 28, 2015 in Surprise, Ariz.
ROYALS pitching squad: (from left) pitchers Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Franklin Morales cool down after running sprints during Saturday's spring training workout for the Royals on February 28, 2015 in Surprise, Ariz. The Kansas City Star

In 12 days, the Royals will play their final Cactus League game in 2015. The team breaks camp on April 1 and travels to Houston for a two-game exhibition series before beginning the defense of their American League crown.

The team travels to Peoria to face James Shields and the San Diego Padres on Friday night. There is no clubhouse access this morning. So, what better time for one beat writer’s projection for the Opening Day roster?

Let’s get to it. Before we begin, a pair of predictions:

1. Luke Hochevar will not be ready for Opening Day. He will begin the season on the disabled list and a minor-league rehabilitation assignment.

2. The Royals will take eight relievers, anyway.

With that in mind, here is The Star’s version of the projected roster:

INFIELDERS (6)

1. Eric Hosmer

2. Omar Infante

3. Alcides Escobar

4. Mike Moustakas

5. Kendrys Morales

6. Christian Colon

CATCHERS (2)

1. Salvador Perez

2. Erik Kratz

OUTFIELDERS (4)

1. Alex Gordon

2. Lorenzo Cain

3. Alex Rios

4. Jarrod Dyson

STARTERS (5)

1. Yordano Ventura

2. Danny Duffy

3. Edinson Volquez

4. Jason Vargas

5. Jeremy Guthrie

RELIEVERS (8)

1. Greg Holland

2. Wade Davis

3. Kelvin Herrera

4. Jason Frasor

5. Chris Young

6. Franklin Morales

7. Louis Coleman

8. Brian Flynn

This is not, exactly, rocket science. At least 22 of the 25 spots on this roster were likely determined before camp had even begun. The torn ulnar collateral ligament of Tim Collins opened up a spot for a lefty in the bullpen. The Royals may now take two southpaws.

So, the three names that stand out on this roster are the final three relievers. A word on each:

Franklin Morales: His roster spot may have been assured before Collins went down, but he’s almost a lock now. He’s given up one run in seven innings.

Louis Coleman: He’s out of options. The team could try to hide Rule 5 pick Jandel Gustave on the roster all season to retain him. But that’s a suboptimal strategy for a team with World Series aspirations. Coleman fits the bill, though his leash will be short and his leverage will be low.

Brian Flynn: Yost has been impressed with Flynn, a 6-7 lefty acquired as part of the deal for Aaron Crow. He has outperformed Brandon Finnegan, the 2014 first-round pick who is still in the bullpen competition. Flynn resides on the 40-man roster, which aids his cause. He also serves as a serviceable placeholder until Hochevar returns from the disabled list.

Once again, Hochevar plays a critical role in this roster construction. When he comes back, someone will have to go. Say the club takes only seven relievers and brings an extra infielder like Ryan Roberts. The return of Hochevar means someone like Coleman would have to go through the waiver wire if the team wanted to send him to the minors. Yost would more likely opt for a shorter bench — he doesn’t use many pinch-hitters, anyway, and has pledged to shelve the Gordon/Dyson/Cain late-game defensive alignment — for the immediate future.

This early in the year, teams often search for flexibility and depth, rather than simply amassing their 25 best players. A winning season requires contributions from far more than 25. This version of the roster allows for that to transpire.

FROM THE STAR

1. Kris Medlen threw his first bullpen session since his second Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.

2. Alex Gordon is expected to make his Cactus League debut on Saturday.

3. Here is your daily video dispatch.

HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC

“Trouble” by TV On The Radio.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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