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Non-Roster Invitees for Position Players

Yesterday we looked at what non-roster invitees on the pitching side had an opportunity to break camp with the Royals, and today I’m going to look at what NRIs on the position player side have a chance. This could be a pretty quick post today because not many of them do. While there are battles in camp, the roster actually seems sort of set, which is weird for a team picked by many to lose 100 or more games. As you know, I don’t share in that prediction, but I do believe they’re not going to be especially good in 2011. You’d think with that sort of prognosis that there would be tons of positions up for grabs.

I guess it’s unfair to say there aren’t many battles, but they just happen to take place between guys on the 40 man for the few that there are. The outfield, for example, is a giant hodge podge of guys with talent and one-time potential who still need to make good on that. Unless the American League switches to softball rules between now and March 31, they’ll need to select three outfielders from a group of Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera, Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francouer, Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier. All are on the 40 man roster. My bold prediction for spring training 2012 is that Wil Myers forces the Royals’ hands and the Royals put him on the roster and say to forget service time.

This year, though, looking at the candidates, there are ten players who are invited to camp. Three of them catchers, and none of them have any chance to make the team. One, who I’d like to touch on, though, is Ryan Eigsti. I went to college with him, and he probably doesn’t remember me, but we played poker together a few times and is a great guy. I’m not sure he has a future in the Major Leagues, but I am sure that it’d be awfully fun if he did. Salvador Perez is a player who might be the Royals starting catcher in 2013 or 2014, but right now he just completed a pretty decent season in A ball. Defensively he’s probably ready for the big leagues, but his bat has a ways to go. Some aren’t huge fans of Perez, but I really think he has what it takes to be a good starting catcher someday pretty soon. Cody Clark is just an organizational player and provides depth in the spring when there are a ton of pitchers to catch.

On the infield is where we’ll see the most promise for players to make the roster.  The six NRIs on the infield are a strong mix of combing the waiver wire, solid prospects and an organizational player. We’ll start here with Irving Falu who I’ve always been an irrational fan of. I don’t think he makes the roster, but he’s pretty good defensively, can run and can get on base. He has no power, so I doubt he’ll be able to carve out much of a career, but the Royals have called up far worse when they were in a pinch. Johnny Giavotella, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are the legitimate prospects here, and none stands a real chance of making the roster on Opening Day. Though, if one were to somehow sneak through the cracks, it would probably be the least heralded of the three, Giavotella.

Mike Moustakas is the most Major League ready, but he’s also got an uphill climb to beat his main competitor, service time. He’s a Boras client, and if he’s good as the Royals and many believe he will be, they’re going to need to get as much time out of him as possible before his free agency hits. Hosmer is also pretty close to MaJor League ready, but with just half a season above A ball, it’s not a bad idea to keep him down in the minors to experience a little more success. Plus, for a small market team like the Royals, it’s always a good idea to stagger the arrivals of top prospects in order to avoid having decisions on two or three superstars in one winter. So that leaves Giavotella. Let’s be clear here that I don’t think he’ll make the roster, but the Royals are in need of a second baseman, and Chris Getz just ain’t it. With the acquisition of Alcides Escobar and the probable move of Christian Colon to second, the time might be now for Johnny Giavotella. I think he could put up a .290/.365/.400 line and actually be a solid leadoff hitter right now. I think he’s going to hit at the big league level, but his defense is still a bit suspect. Ultimately he might be better off in a super utility role, but I would have absolutely no problem with him as the starting second baseman in 2011.

The two more likely non-roster invitees from the infield are the two waiver wire pickups in Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadski. In terms of offensive potential, Zawadski blows away Arias, but he might end up being more of a Jason Smith all-or-nothing type. Both are in their age 27 season at the big league level, so could potentially have a career year and be solid contributors. Zawadski is more of a power bat while Arias relies more on speed. From what I know about the two of them, they’re both pretty good defensively and would make nice utility players. I’m not sure if either can play the outfield, but the outfield is pretty well crowded, so that’s probably not a necessity this year. That point leads us to our final NRI, Brett Carroll. When the Royals signed Carroll, I thought he might have a real chance to be the Opening Day right fielder, but with all their other signings, he’s sort of lost in the shuffle. If injuries strike and the real prospects aren’t ready, he’ll be a nice stopgap for a couple of weeks.

Next I’ll discuss some of the guys on the 40 man who have the chance to make the big league jump right away.

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