“Royals 3 Stars” March 21st: Olivares Making His Case for Opening Day

The Royals beat the Angels 8-5 today and are currently 2-0-1 in the Cactus League Standings. If there’s one thing the Royals have been in the Mike Matheny era, it’s being good in Spring Training play in Arizona. Let’s hope that this carries over to the regular season in Matheny’s third season as Royals skipper.

Now onto the “Royals 3 Star” awards for today’s game.

Three Stars: Collin Snider, RP

It’s really easy to get focused on the Royals hitters early this Spring, especially after Seuly Matias and Vinnie Pasquantino hit bombs in today’s contest against the Angels.

However, I am going to give this three-star award to Collin Snider, who was added this offseason to the 40-man roster and has gotten off to a solid start this Spring in Cactus League play. In his first game against the Rangers, Snider went an inning and struck out two batters while walking none and allowing no hits or runs.

Here’s his line in today’s contest:

It’s easy to sleep on Snider, especially since his Minor League season in 2021 wasn’t anything extraordinary. That being said, the Royals do a good job of identifying the “right” relievers to add to the 40-man roster, and they wouldn’t have added Snider if they didn’t see him making an impact in 2022 (especially when they had the opportunity to add Josh Dye and Austin Cox to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft).

It’s only two games, but I think Royals fans have to keep a closer eye on Snider, who could make his case for an Opening Day bullpen spot, especially if Domingo Tapia and Joel Payamps continue to have rough performances this Spring like they did today.

Two Stars: Clay Dungan, 2B

Ryan O’Hearn was considered for this spot, as he went 3-for-5 today which included this double to the left-center-field gap below:

However, I am going with the younger Dungan, who went 2-for-4 with a double and is currently batting .500 so far this Spring. Dugan was a surprise addition to the Alternate Site roster in 2020 and Cactus League squad in 2021, as he is not a prospect with “loud” tools by any means. However, Dungan is a polished middle infield prospect who draws many comparisons to Nicky Lopez, who also came out of a Midwestern college like Dungan (Nicky went to Creighton; Dungan went to Indiana State).

While Dungan probably will have a hard time breaking into Kansas City with all the middle infield depth on the 40-man roster, he continues to impress with a mature approach at the plate, as he showcased today and on Sunday. Furthermore, he has defensive flexibility, which is showcased in this play he made for Northwest Arkansas in 2021:

Dungan may be a year away from making his Royals debut. However, do not be surprised if Dungan parlays this strong Spring into a solid Triple-A campaign in 2022.

And if that happens, maybe Dungan gets his shot at the big league level toward the stretch run of 2021, especially if an injury besets the Royals infielder at some point this season.

One Star: Edward Olivares, RF-CF

Another game, another star for Olivares (who earned three stars in yesterday’s recap). Olivares pretty much did it all, as he went 3-for-3 with a run scored, RBI, and a stolen base. Furthermore, he garnered two of the Royals’ three total hits off of Angels ace Shohei Ohtani, who struck out five batters and walked none in 2.1 IP.

Here’s Olivares driving in the lone Royals run off Ohtani, which scored Kyle Isbel from third to tie the game in the top of the third:

I’m planning to do a deeper dive into Olivares tomorrow, but I could see him as the breakout star this Spring for the Royals. He’s hitting the ball with authority and he looks in much better shape this spring than he did in 2021. There’s definitely an aura of confidence with Olivares that’s clearly evident when he’s at the plate and in the field, and he’s parlaying that into a strong Cactus League campaign thus far.

I know Olivares has been the butt of constant jokes due to how much he was optioned a season ago.

That being said, I think Olivares is out here this Spring to end all those jokes in 2022, and instead, make a lasting impact on this Royals roster throughout this upcoming season.

Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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