In my final installment in looking at the KC Royals spring training battles, it is time to look at what the bench will look like.
On most teams, the bench is an important part throughout the season. That has not been true for the Royals with Ned Yost at the helm. Outside of Interleague Play and pinch running for DH Kendrys Morales, the Royals starters play just about every inning of every game (barring injury or major slumps). The Royals have about 19 players in camp who could fill a bench role.
If they carry eight relievers to open the season, there will be just three bench spots. In all honesty, I believe the bench will be filled by whoever loses the starting second base and right field jobs, along with the backup catcher.
If you have been following along with my spring training battle posts, you know that my picks for starting second baseman and right fielder are Christian Colon and Paulo Orlando. I chose Tony Cruz as the backup catcher, so that is one of the bench spots.
Unless the Royals can trade Omar Infante (or he starts the season on the DL), he will make the Opening Day roster. That is one bench spot.
I believe Jarrod Dyson will once again be a bench player. You could see him pinch run for Morales or come in as a double-switch during Interleague Play. Dyson could also get some starts in right or center (especially if Lorenzo Cain starts some games in right field).
But say Yost only carries seven relievers to start the season because of the three off days in the first week. Then there would be one more bench spot available.
Terrance Gore would make the team based solely on his speed (8-for-8 in big league stolen base attempts). While he finally hit in 2015 (.284 with 42 runs scored and 39 stolen bases to just two caught stealing at Double-A NW Arkansas), he only received three at-bats after being a September callup. Gore is a decent outfielder, but he committed five errors with the Naturals last season while playing left and center.
If Colon wins the starting second base job, the Royals will need a utility fielder on the bench. That could be veteran Clint Barmes. I still am not sure why the Royals signed him because I highly doubt he will take an assignment to Triple-A if he does not make the team. Plus, the Royals had plenty of utility players before signing him.
Speaking of utility fielders, Whit Merrifield does it all. He has looked good in big league spring training games the last two seasons and has hit the last two years in the upper levels of the minors. Still, Merrifield has yet to get that big league call.
Orlando Calixte made his Major League debut last season, yet was designated for assignment in the offseason. A shortstop by nature, he has begun to move around the field (second and third base, plus some outfield). Calixte hit just .229 with Triple-A Omaha last season, but did steal 22-of-25 bases.
Dusty Coleman also made his Major League debut last year (though it wasn’t a great one). He is also a shortstop by nature, but he also plays second and third base. As a newbie in spring training last year, I heard some minor league pitchers praising Coleman’s defense at shortstop (the best and quickest hands they had seen).
The Royals signed Cody Decker in the offseason and the career minor leaguer made his Major League debut with the SD Padres last September. He is more known for his online videos and pranks of teammates (like former Royal Jeff Francoeur) then his play on the field. Last year in Triple-A, he played first and third base, caught two games, played one game in the outfield, and also pitched. While doing all that, he hit .252 with 21 home runs and 75 RBIs.
If Morales were to miss any time, Balbino Fuenmayor would be first in line for the DH job. He was putting together an other-worldly season in 2015 (a combined .358 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs) before an ACL tear and surgery ended his season in July. One hundred percent healthy, he was added as a non-roster invitee as his cult-like following anticipates his follow-up season. MLB.com Royals beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan may be the President of the Balbino fan club.
If I had to choose a fourth bench player, my heart says Merrifield, but my head is thinking Barmes.