On the first day of Royals FanFest, manager Ned Yost declined to anoint an opening day starter and remained noncommittal about the fourth and fifth spots in his starting rotation. But he did confirm that outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando would likely form “some sort of platoon” in right field in 2016.
As the Royals reunited at Bartle Hall in the weeks before spring training, Yost repeated the organizational stance that Dyson, a fleet-footed part-time outfielder, would be given an opportunity to play a more significant role this season. Yost also praised Orlando, saying his impact was often more valuable than his numbers, which he conceded were not overly “sexy.”
Dyson, 31, batted .250 with a .311 on-base percentage while playing in 90 games in 2015. He also stole 26 bases and was caught just three times. For years, Dyson’s speed has been a valuable weapon when used off the bench. That continued in the 2015 postseason.
Orlando, 30,hit .249 with a .269 on-base percentage and 27 extra-base hits in 86 games as a rookie outfielder.
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If the Royals move forward with Dyson and Orlando in right field, it’s likely that the right-handed hitting Orlando could replace left-handed hitting Dyson against left-handed pitching.
Competition in rotation
Yost shrugged off a question about a possible opening day starter, but he did concede that the top three spots in the rotation are likely solidified with newly-signed Ian Kennedy joining Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez. The final two spots could come down to a combination of right-handers Kris Medlen and Chris Young and left-hander Danny Duffy.
“It’s always competitive,” Yost said. “But again, we’ll do like we do every spring. We’ll go out and let guys pitch. You kind of go in with an open mind.”
Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland on Friday made a point to mention right-hander Dillon Gee, a veteran right-hander who spent time in the Mets starting rotation during 2011-14 before suffering through an injury-plagued 2015.
“We’ll see,” Yost said. “Again, I’ve got a lot of confidence in Chris Young; I’ve got a lot of confidence in Kris Medlen. Danny Duffy is a guy, as we saw last year, he could be very valuable out of the pen. He could be very valuable as a starter, too.”
Who’s No. 2
As spring training approaches, the Royals’ lineup is also somewhat set. One question: With Ben Zobrist gone to the Chicago Cubs, who will bat second? Yost believes he has two obvious options.
“Zobrist filled that spot pretty well last year and really solidified our lineup,” Yost said. “But we’ve got guys that have proven they can be productive there. (Mike Moustakas) was very productive there last year. (Alex Gordon) can be productive there this year.”
For the moment, Yost appears happy with shortstop Alcides Escobar leading off and center fielder Lorenzo Cain batting third. First baseman Eric Hosmer will likely bat fourth, with designated hitter Kendrys Morales hitting behind him. That means whoever doesn’t bat second between Moustakas and Gordon would likely bat sixth.
“If I end up there again, that’d be perfect,” Moustakas said of hitting second, where he began last season. “I loved hitting second. It was fun. It was my best year of my career that I ever had … But again, I feel comfortable hitting anywhere.”
Moose not signed
Moustakas remains the only Royals regular who has not signed a contract for 2016. He asked for $7.2 million when filing for arbitration; the Royals countered at $4.2 million.
The Royals have never gone to arbitration with a player under general manager Dayton Moore.
It’s also possible the sides could agree to a two-year deal, which would take Moustakas through the rest of his arbitration-eligible seasons. He will become a free agent after the 2017 season.
“There’s been a couple of talks about a multiyear deal, two years and one-year deals,” Moustakas said. “We’re just trying to find what the best fit is for everything. They’ve been talking a bunch, back and forth, trying to figure it out.”