Royals roster decisions: With opener looming, here’s our beat reporter’s projection

Royals’ Yost wants to see the young guys play and learn to win

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is wanting the young guys on the team to see more playing time, in different positions, for the rest of the 2018 season.
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Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is wanting the young guys on the team to see more playing time, in different positions, for the rest of the 2018 season.

The Royals broke camp after Sunday’s Cactus League finale against the Texas Rangers, their fellow tenants at Surprise Stadium. They’ll play an exhibition game Monday evening against their Triple-A affiliate in Omaha, Neb., but spring training has wrapped up.

From now until Thursday, the most popular way for Royals fans to pass time will be negotiating in their own minds who fits on the 25-man roster for opening day.

Here’s the perspective of someone who spent the past six weeks around the club in Arizona.

Catchers (2): Cam Gallagher, Martin Maldonado.

The loss of Salvador Perez paved the way for Maldonado to step in as the everyday catcher, with Gallagher remaining in the backup role for which he was slated before Perez’s injury. Gallagher figures to get more regular playing time early with Maldonado having missed the first month of camp before signing with the club.

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Infielders (7): Hunter Dozier, Lucas Duda, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O’Hearn, Chris Owings, Frank Schwindel.

Mondesi will be the mainstay at shortstop, but both Merrifield and Owings remain candidates to bounce around, including into the outfield. Merrifield could see time in right field if the Royals want Soler to be more DH than outfielder. Owings should play a variety of positions and still get near the equivalent of everyday playing time.

Dozier and O’Hearn should be the primary guys on the corners, but Duda and Schwindel provide options at designated hitter as guys to sub into the lineup and as bats off the bench. Schwindel’s versatility and track record of hitting could land him on the roster to start the season.

Outfielder (4): Alex Gordon, Terrance Gore, Billy Hamilton, Jorge Soler.

Gordon and Hamilton are locks in left field and center, respectively. Right field could remain a work in progress as the season starts. Soler figures to be the primary clean-up hitter with Perez out for the season, and he’ll play some right field and DH. Gore’s speed makes him a weapon the Royals want available on their bench daily.

Rotation (3): Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Jorge Lopez.

The Royals can get away with not having a fifth starter until the second week of April. They can also delay adding Bailey to the roster if they want — they can get by without using a fourth starter until the second Saturday of the season. When they do go with five starters, the group could be Keller, Junis, Lopez, Homer Bailey and Heath Fillmyer. Danny Duffy will most likely pitch in minor-league games as he builds back up after having to shut down his throwing due to shoulder soreness in camp.

Bullpen (9): Scott Barlow, Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman, Chris Ellis, Tim Hill, Ian Kennedy, Kevin McCarthy, Wily Peralta, Kyle Zimmer.

Not carrying five starters to begin the season allows for extra arms in the bullpen, at least for the first few weeks. The Royals sent Rule 5 draft pick Sam McWilliams back to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, which might mean their other Rule 5 pick, Chris Ellis, has earned a stay.

Boxberger, Diekman, Peralta, Kennedy and McCarthy are all safe bets due to their experience and backgrounds. Tim Hill gives the group a second left-hander with Brian Flynn likely to start on the injured list and Richard Lovelady in the minors. Zimmer has been stellar all spring, and Barlow could be the long man.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.