While it is cold and snowy across much of the country, spring training is right around the corner. The KC Royals announced that they have extended invites to 22 players to big league camp, three of which I did not even know that they had signed.
Those three are relievers Al Alburquerque, Brandon League, and Chris Withrow. All three are reclamation projects, but all could bolster the Royals bullpen if healthy and effective. They also invited newly signed Jonathan Sanchez, Bobby Parnell, and infielder Garin Cecchini.
Every spring training, tons of catchers are invited. This year is no different, especially with starter Salvador Perez and backup Drew Butera expected to leave for the World Baseball Classic. The Royals invited Parker Morin, Zane Evans, Xavier Fernandez, and Chase Vallot. Fernandez and Vallot split time together with Low-A Lexington (and Vallot isn’t very good on defense). Morin spent the 2016 season in Triple-A Omaha, while Evans had an injury-plagued season.
The Royals invited top prospect Josh Staumont, along with lefties Jonathan Dziedzic, Eric Skoglund, and Eric Stout. Their second round pick in 2016, AJ Puckett was also invited (he pitched well after being pushed to Lexington in July), along with Luke Farrell and re-signee Malcom Culver (who is currently pitching in winter ball in the Dominican Republic). Right-hander Yender Caramo, who pitched well in 2016, but is an under-the-radar guy, was also invited.
Three other players who participated in the Arizona Fall League with Staumont and Stout were also invited: Ryan O’Hearn, second baseman Corey Toups, and outfielder Alfredo Escalera. Toups and Escalera struggled mightily in the AFL, while O’Hearn hit, but not for power (he also struggled in the second half for NW Arkansas).
Infielder Humberto Arteaga rounds out the non-roster invitees. Mainly a shortstop, he was hitting well for Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League before the team was eliminated from the playoffs.
Out of the invitees that are currently Royals minor leaguers, I think Stout is a guy to keep an eye on. One, he is left-handed, something the Royals need in the bullpen (especially if they decide on putting Matt Strahm back in the rotation). Two, he has moved quickly (he skipped High-A Wilmington in 2015) after being a 13th round pick in 2014. Three, lefties hit just .181 against him in 2016.
*Now I’m just waiting for the Royals to announce their minor league coaching staffs. I cannot remember the announcement coming this late/close to spring training.