Recently, the Kansas City Royals extended Major League Spring Training invitations to eight pitchers, three catchers, three infielders and three outfielders. Seventeen young men who dream of making their Major League debuts, or hope to make it back to the Big Show. This year, the Royals have the majority of their 25-man roster set. However, a few openings remain and injuries or poor performances from other players could provide these players a chance to make the 25-man roster on Opening Day.
Pitchers: Francisley Bueno, Chris Dwyer, Tommy Hottovy, Zach Miner, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, Brandon Sisk and Will Smith.
Most likely to make the roster: Mike Montgomery, Zach Miner, Jake Odorizzi
Mike Montgomery is one of the Royals top prospects. Just 22 years old, Montgomery has a lot of upside, despite his 5-11, 5.32 ERA 2011 season with AAA Omaha. If Montgomery has a strong Spring Training and other starting candidates falter, he could make the Opening Day roster, or debut sometime in 2012.
Zach Miner spent 2011 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but appeared in 23 games between AA Northwest Arkansas and Omaha. Through 2006-2009, Miner compiled a 25-20 record with a 4.24 ERA with the Detroit Tigers. If Miner does well in Spring Training, he may win a spot in the Royals starting rotation if the team believes their pitching prospects need more time in the Minors.
Jake Odorizzi is a prospect who spent his 2011 playing for Class A Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. Like Montgomery, Odorizzi could make the team if he has a strong Spring Training or other starting rotation candidates falter. However, it’s likely the Royals would prefer Odorizzi to start 2012 with Northwest Arkansas or Omaha for more experience.
Could make the roster: Chris Dwyer, Will Smith
Chris Dwyer is another prospect, but with an 8-10 record and 5.60 ERA over 27 starts in Northwest Arkansas last season, Dwyer will need a good Spring Training to make the Opening Day roster. Dwyer is likely to be a part of the Northwest Arkansas or Omaha starting rotation.
Will Smith had a good 2011 with Northwest Arkansas, leading the Texas League with 13 wins and was named Northwest Arkansas Pitcher of the Year. While Smith is not as touted a prospect as Montgomery, Odorizzi or Dwyer, he has a chance to make the Royals starting rotation. However, it’s likely Smith will pitch for Omaha.
Long shots to make the roster: Francisley Bueno, Tommy Hottovy, Brandon Sisk
Francisley Bueno, a 30-year old Cuban left-handed starter, is a veteran of Minor League, Korean and Mexican league baseball. Bueno appears to be more organizational depth than a legitimate starting rotation candidate.
Tommy Hottovy was born and raised in Kansas City and was a longtime Boston Red Sox farmhand before signing with the Royals this off-season. The 30 year-old left-hander made eight relief appearances with the Red Sox in 2011, but with the Royals strong bullpen, Hottovy is likely organizational depth more than a candidate for the Royals bullpen.
Brandon Sisk started the 2011 season with Northwest Arkansas and later promoted to Omaha, where he went 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA in 25 relief appearances. Sisk is a prospect, but not a top prospect. He has a chance to make the Royals bullpen, but it’s likely Sisk will start 2012 in Omaha.
Catchers: Cody Clark, Max Ramirez, Julio Rodriguez
Most likely to make the roster: Max Ramirez
Max Ramirez spent eight years in the minors and had catching stints with the Texas Rangers in 2008 and 2010 as a backup. If Ramirez makes the Royals Opening Day roster, it will be as a backup.
Could make the roster: Cody Clark
Cody Clark is a longtime Royals farmhand who spent his 2011 with Omaha as the backup to Manny Pina. Look for Clark to be a backup to Pina again in Omaha.
Long shot to make the roster: Julio Rodriguez
Julio Rodriguez came over from the Wilson Betemit trade last year. The 22 year-old spent 2011 in High A ball and is more of a prospect than a candidate for the Opening Day roster. He could end up in Northwest Arkansas.
Infielders: Tony Abreu, Irving Falu, Kevin Kouzmanoff
Most Likely to make the roster: Irving Falu
Irving Falu is a long-time Royals farmhand and at 28 years old, he’s less of a prospect and more organizational filler. If he makes the big club, it will be as a bench player, unless Johnny Giavotella has a disastrous Spring Training and the Royals decide to keep Yuni Betancourt and Chris Getz on the bench.
Could make the roster: Kevin Kouzmanoff
Kevin Kouzmanoff is a six-year Major League veteran with the Indians, Padres, A’s and Rockies. Once a touted prospect, Kouzmanoff’s production has steadily declined from his career high .275 batting average in 2007 with the Padres. The Royals see Kouzmanoff as insurance in case Mike Moustakas has an injury and lands on the disabled list. If Kouzmanoff isn’t on the Major League roster by May 1, he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent. If Kouzmanoff bolts, the Royals hope Moustakas stays healthy.
Long shot to make the roster: Tony Abreu
Tony Abreu spent 2011 in Reno, the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate, playing second base and shortstop. Abreu has Major League experience as a bench player for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks and will likely be a part of the Omaha infield in 2012.
Outfielders: Greg Golson, Wil Myers, Paulo Orlando
Most Likely to make the roster: Paulo Orlando
Paulo Orlando is a six-year Minor League veteran who is yet to make a Major League roster. If he does make it in 2012, it will be as a fourth outfielder, usurping Mitch Meier. At 26, Orlando is more organizational depth than a prospect.
Could make the roster: Greg Golson
Greg Golson is another long time Minor League veteran, who’s had short Major League stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees. Golson might make the Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder, but that’s only if Golson has a monster Spring Training and if Meier and Orlando stumble or suffer injury.
Long shot to make the roster: Wil Myers
Wil Myers is one of the Royals top prospects and had a good Arizona Fall League after a down year in Northwestern Arkansas due to a knee injury. While Myers has a bright future ahead of him, the Royals would prefer Myers to begin 2012 in the Omaha outfield to get playing time as a starter. If Jeff Francour has a long-term injury or is traded, Myers could be patrolling the Royals outfield this season.