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The Ever-Changing Roster

The first off day of the season is always a cruel reminder of how much I hate off days. I think I’ve said this before somewhere in the halls of this here internet, but for a blogger or anybody who writes about the Royals the day after an off day is actually somehow worse. We have no game to break down. We have nobody to call a bust and nobody to declare is the second coming. Luckily, we’re still in off-season mode, so the first off day isn’t too much of a hassle to come up with some sort of topic. We’ve seen the Royals play decently for the first four games of the season and come out of it with a surprising 3-1 record. That is excellent, but today I thought that we could take a look at some of the transitions of the team over the course of the season.

I’ve said from the start that this is the sort of team that starts the season 20-30 and ends it 30-20. Yes, I just pulled those numbers out of thin air, but that’s the sort of turnaround throughout the course of a season we often see from younger teams. The Royals are on their way to not being as bad as 20-30 (though four games does not make a season), but the fact remains that they’re probably going to be better in September than they are in April. So what has to happen between now and then to make that happen?

First and foremost, the youngest team in baseball is going to get younger. In spite of the fact that the Royals just signed Jeff Suppan to a minor league deal, the first starter called up (other than Mazzaro) to do more than make a spot start or two is going to be a prospect. Realistically, Hochevar’s job is safe. Francis’s job is probably safe as well, but Davies, Chen and Mazzaro aren’t exactly on the most solid of footing. Sadly, Davies makes the most money of any of them, so if he is to be removed from the rotation, it would take the most guts from the front office, even if they just put him in the bullpen. Still, I think that at some point this season Mike Montgomery or Danny Duffy or both are members of the starting rotation at the big league level.

Offensively, it’s easy to see where improvement and change is going to come as the season progresses. We’ll start in the outfield where Melky Cabrera has looked very good and Jeff Francouer has had a nice little start to his 2011 season. Still, neither is in the team’s future plans. One could potentially remain for next season while the crop of prospects continues to rise, but at least one has to go at some point in the next three months to make room for Lorenzo Cain. Cain should be in the big leagues by June or July at the latest, no matter how well Cabrera and/or Francouer is playing. A trade makes sense if they’re playing well and outright release makes sense if they’re not. The other key to the outfield is Alex Gordon. He’s had a good start to the season, but we all know that he’s had injury problems in the past and also performance issues. I suppose there’s a chance that he’s the odd man out, though I would absolutely hate that.

On the infield, the most obvious solution is the one everybody knows about and it’s Mike Moustakas. Barring injury or an absolutely horrid AAA performance, he’ll be in the majors by mid-June at the latest. That leads to a competition between Mike Aviles and Chris Getz as one of them will be the second baseman. I’m not a Getz fan, as many of you probably know. I just don’t think he does anything especially well other than run the bases. He’s fine defensively, but he’s not nearly good enough to make up for his anemic bat. If he can turn into a .300/.360/.400 player, then he’s worth playing over Aviles at second, but until that happens, he’s the second best option. It’s exciting, though, that the first of the big time impact prospects is making us make this decision soon.

The catching position might be in flux for the entire season. The Royals, for some reason, love Jason Kendall. Maybe that’s not true. I suppose there’s a chance that they made a mistake and gave him too much money and now feel like they have to get something out of him this year to live up to his contract. While I’m not a huge fan of wishing injury upon anyone, he’s already injured, so I don’t feel bad about hoping for a setback in his recovery. Sunday’s walk-off home run notwithstanding, Matt Treanor isn’t anything special, but he’s much better than Kendall. And keeping with yesterday’s theme, he’s way more likeable. Still, the catching crew could change a lot as the season progresses with Manny Pina making his way to the big leagues at some point. I don’t think Salvador Perez would get even a September callup, but I suppose weirder things have happened.

That’s the beauty of this season. There are so many ways for the Royals roster to move around over the course of the next few months that it’ll be really fun to watch. My favorite part of Opening Day was hearing three straight relievers announced as making their Major League debuts. I can’t wait to hear it four or five more times this season. This is what rebuilding teams do; they try people out and determine if they’re a piece of the future. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow might not end up being valuable bullpen pieces, but after this season we’ll know for sure. 158 games to go and I couldn’t be more excited for each and every one of them.

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