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Predicting the Opening Day Roster

As games are upon us now, I thought I’d take the opportunity to predict my 25 man roster for the team that will break camp and head to Kansas City on March 31. I don’t typically get a ton of comments, but if you’d like to put your prediction in, we can see who gets the closest. I think I’ve talked about this before that there aren’t as many competitions in camp as you’d expect from a bad team. Obviously that’s because a lot of these players are either placeholders until the prospects are ready or they’re young guys who are part of the future and are just waiting for the future to get here.

This is the spot where I think I’m more hopeful than knowledgeable. There’s every chance that Jason Kendall makes a miraculous recovery and is starting on Opening Day. That would be terrible. I’d kindly ask Kendall to rewind himself if this is the case. I think we see the expected duo of Brayan Pena and Lucas May to start the year. It’ll be interesting to see who gets to keep their job when the great leader returns.

First base/Designated Hitter
These two positions are the easy ones to predict. Barring any spring injuries, it’s going to be Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue. Butler’s a given. He’s got the track record and he’s now got the contract, so he’s a Royal for the foreseeable future. Ka’aihue needs to build on his solid September if he wants to keep his job beyond July when I think Hosmer will be ready. These two spots will be the most productive spots in the lineup all season long.

Second Base
Second base belongs to Chris Getz, as much as that pains me to say. He’s not much of a hitter. He’s really not much of a fielder, but he’s almost assuredly your Opening Day second baseman. There isn’t much to say here other than hope that he gets replaced by Aviles when Moustakas replaces Aviles.

Third Base
This spot is being kept warm for a couple of months by Mike Aviles. After a rocky 2010, I think Aviles is ready to get back to being a very productive member of the lineup. I’m not sure that we’ll ever see him hit .325 and slug .480 again, but he’s a solid bet to put up a .775 OPS or so with double digit home run power and some doubles. His time on the Royals as a starter is probably about out, so 2011 is a big year for his career. Come June, Mike Moustakas will be up and as much as I love Aviles, he just can’t block one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Only one other spot provides less competition in camp than shortstop which belongs to Alcides Escobar. That spot is Billy Butler’s. Escobar was probably the focal point of the Greinke trade (though I think Odorizzi is the real gem here), so the Royals will give him every chance to validate Baseball America’s ranking of him as a top prospect prior to last season and to wipe away the tough year he had last season. I’d be pleased with a .330 OBP and great defense. Hopefully this is the answer at shortstop for years to come.

Left Field
The left fielder for the Royals is pretty well decided, but the reason it’s in some doubt is that I think there’s a chance for a spring trade. As it stands right now, though, Alex Gordon is on the team and he’s the Opening Day left fielder. I’m very excited to see this rebuilt swing we’ve been hearing about and see if he can regain the value he showed in 2008 at least. There’s a ton of talent here, probably more than anyone else on the team. If it can be unlocked, it’ll be like found money for the Royals at this point.

Center Field
Sadly, this position is almost assuredly going to Melky Cabrera. I’ve gotten further and further down on this signing as time has passed. He’s just a bad baseball player. At one time he was highly regarded, so hopefully he can regain some of that luster and turn in a good season and become a solid trade chip. Remember, if he rebounds and the Royals trade him, whatever team acquires him has his rights for next year as well.

Right Field
Jeff Francouer is your man out here. I still don’t like the signing, but I’m over it. It’s one year for a low base rate salary. If he’s terrible, then he’s terrible. If he’s great and has figured it out a little bit, then he’s a good trade candidate or he’s young enough to be a part of this team in the coming years. I find it hard to get too worked up about him.

I’ve already mentioned Lucas May in the catcher section as he think he and Pena will probably share the starts pretty evenly. Wilson Betemit is a lock to make this team as well as sort of a super utility guy who can’t play middle infield. He can give middle infielders a day off by playing third and having Aviles shift to a middle infield position. I think we’ll see both Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco make the team as outfield reserves, though they’re similar players, so that seems a little pointless. Lorenzo Cain is on the outside looking in for now, but will be up at the first injury or sign of struggle from Cabrera.

Starting Pitchers
The weakest point of the team is the starting staff. It’ll be led by Luke Hochevar who needs a big year. In some order after him, I’m pretty sure we’ll see Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro. There’s nothing terribly inspiring about this group, but with the exception of Chen, they all have some upside, so there’s at least that chance they’ll surprise.

Two locks in the bullpen are obviously Joakim Soria and Robinson Tejeda. Everything else is a pure guess at this point. I feel pretty confident in Tim Collins, Greg Holland and Blake Wood. I get the feeling that Danny Duffy makes the team out of the bullpen as well just based on a few things that we’ve heard from Bob McClure. The last spot in the bullpen is a tough decision, so I’ll go with what I hope we see and pick Louis Coleman for that spot. The bullpen will be young, they’ll throw hard and a few of them will even throw strikes.

So that’s my team. Put yours in the comments and then in a month or so we can laugh at how far off we all were.

  1. wizscape
    February 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

    That sounds about right to me, except I think Jeffress breaks camp with the team because they seem to like the flamethrower relievers and to keep him from testing for pot in the minors and being banned for life.

    • February 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Ahh! Forgot about Jeffress. Yeah, you can go ahead and replace Coleman or Duffy with him.

  2. keith
    February 25, 2011 at 11:59 am

    i would think and hope that Teaford has an edge on Duffy for a roster spot since he’s older and is already on the 40-man, but who the hell knows.

    • February 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      I thought that, too, at the beginning of spring. After hearing Bob McClure do something just sort of raving about Duffy, I sort of reconsidered what I thought would actually happen. I’d much rather Duffy spend at least three months starting in AAA and have Teaford in the big leagues in his spot.

  3. Joe
    February 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    What about the Rule-5 acquisition? Do you think he will be offered back for $25,000 or do you think he can really win a spot on the team?

    • February 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      I don’t think he makes the team, but I bet they make a deal to keep him around in the organization.

  4. ElChup
    February 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Pretty close to my predictions.

    Pen: Soria, Tejeda, Wood, Jeffress, Collins are all virtually locks IMO. The other 2 spots are a complete guess. Chavez, Adcock, Texeira, Holland, Coleman, Teaford, Duffy, Hardy, etc. I’ll go with Holland and Chavez purely as a guess.

    As for the bench, I’ll still be surprised if both Maier and Blanco make it. I still think one of them will get dfa’d/traded at the end of ST and one of Arias, Zawadski, or a MI waiver claim joins the team for opening day.

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