Predicting the Royals’ Opening Day 28-Man Roster

It’s been a busy week for me professionally, which has totally killed my ability to write any posts. Hopefully, after Opening Day, things will calm down a bit, but the life of an educator can be unpredictable until the school year finally ends.

It’s been an interesting Spring for the Royals as the Cactus League season reaches closer to its conclusion. The Royals, going into April 2nd, are 8-5, good for second in the Cactus League (behind only the Los Angeles Angels). Furthermore, the Royals, especially offensively have been mostly led by their young core, as Bobby Witt, Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, MJ Melendez, and even Clay Dungan have performed well in Arizona, even though they have no Major League experience going into 2022.

With Opening Day less than a week away, the Royals have announced some more roster moves, as they announced a slew of players who have been assigned to Minor League Camp this morning:

While the roster hasn’t been finalized officially, it seems like Royals fans are getting an idea of who will make the Royals Opening Day roster, which will consist of 28 players for the first month of play. Already, Kansas City content creators are making their predictions of who will be at Kauffman Stadium in a Royals uniform on April 7th against Cleveland.

In this post, I am going to make my own predictions for the Royals’ 28-man roster on April 7th and try to explain my reasoning for my roster projection. Just to clarify, this is what I think the Royals will do “roster-wise”, not necessarily what they “should” do.

So let’s take a look at the projected roster breakdown, starting with the pitching staff.

Starting Pitchers (6)

Zack Greinke; Brad Keller; Brady Singer; Kris Bubic; Carlos Hernandez; and Daniel Lynch

Last season, the Royals started the season with a six-man rotation, and I think it happens again.

Already, with injury news to Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer breaking, teams are going to be cautious with pitcher innings, especially after two “wonky” seasons affected by the pandemic. I think the Royals will be prudent to begin the season, and a six-man rotation will help the organization follow that plan.

Greinke was named the Royals’ Opening Day starter by Mike Matheny, so he’s an obvious lock for a roster spot:

Keller and Singer seem to be safe options, even though they are coming off of inconsistent 2021, as well as Spring Training campaigns. They have experience and can eat innings at the very least, especially at the beginning of the season.

Kris Bubic has been solid this spring and should begin the year in the rotation, which is the inverse of what happened back in 2021. Bubic has been showcasing a new slider, which could allow him to go deeper in games since he only sported a three-pitch arsenal in his first two seasons in the Majors.

The last two spots are up for grabs, but I think the Royals will go the safe route and opt for Hernandez and Lynch over Jackson Kowar, Angel Zerpa, or even Jon Heasley.

Hernandez and Lynch both have thrown more innings and experienced more success at the Major League level than the other three, which gives them the edge. As for Kowar, while he doesn’t have anything to prove in Triple-A, he still needs to take a step forward in 2022 if he wants to prove he can be in the Royals’ rotation long-term.

As for Zerpa and Heasley, while they have shown flashes of success in their brief stints in 2021, they probably should continue to be developed as starters, even if they could probably join the Royals bullpen right away.

I know Zerpa is getting identified as a sleeper to make the Royals rotation or bullpen, and while the Royals have been known to have some surprises pitching-wise on the Opening Day roster (Hernandez was one last year), I am not sure if Zerpa has done quite enough this Spring to prove that he’s solidified an Opening Day spot on the pitching staff.

Relief Pitchers (9)

Scott Barlow; Josh Staumont; Amir Garrett; Jake Brentz; Taylor Clarke; Dylan Coleman; Gabe Speier; Collin Snider; and Jackson Kowar. (Domingo Tapia and Joel Payamps as possible options)

Barlow, Staumont, and Garrett appear to be locked in for spots in the bullpen due to their veteran status on this team, as well as their history of success over the past three seasons. Brentz, who had a solid debut in 2021, isn’t quite as safe roster-wise as those three, but it’s hard to NOT see him on this team on Opening Day unless something happens health-wise.

The Royals signed Clarke as a free agent prior to the lockout, and so far, he’s made good on the Royals’ decision to give him a shot. Clarke has allowed zero runs and only five hits in six innings of work this Spring, which is pretty stellar. It’s hard to see the Royals cutting him loose, especially after they signed him to a Major League free-agent deal this past offseason.

The last three spots though could come down to the wire.

I went with Coleman for a spot in the bullpen, even though he hasn’t made his Spring debut until recently. In terms of outlook, I think he could be this year’s Brentz. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s dealing with something injury-wise, and he ends up starting the season on the IL (which could open up a spot for another reliever).

While the Royals may not need a third lefty, Speier was pretty good down the stretch in 2021 and has been serviceable this Spring. I think he has developed to be more than just a LOOGY (which he was back in 2019 and 2020), and I could see him being a guy who could rise in the bullpen ranks, especially if Brentz struggles like he did at times in 2021.

For the last two spots in the bullpen, I went with Snider, who has been surprisingly good, especially with his slider. When watching him pitch, he reminds me of Sergio Romo, and I could see him find a place in this bullpen as a fastball-slider guy who can be a nice change of pace from all the “hard throwers” in the Royals bullpen.

For the last bullpen spot, I went with Kowar, who could be the long relief specialist, and perhaps fill in as a starter on occasion as well. While I don’t think Kowar makes the rotation initially, I believe the Royals will keep him on the Major League roster, as he pretty much dominated Triple-A batters all season in 2021.

Payamps and Tapia will be the odd men out this Spring, which would be particularly rough for Payamps, who is out of Minor League options. Payamps was decent in his Kansas City debut, but he wasn’t much more than a cleanup guy, and he doesn’t strike out a tremendous number of batters. The Royals need to clear a roster spot for a certain Royals infielder, and it makes the most sense for the Royals to DFA Payamps, especially with the bullpen depth they have currently.

As for Tapia, he was really good for the Royals in the second half, but he’s been pretty subpar in Cactus League play (9.82 ERA in five appearances; ZERO strikeouts). The fact that he’s not missing bats at ALL is a concern, and I think, barring injury, the Royals start him in Triple-A to work on some mechanics, which they can do as he does have Minor League options remaining.

Catchers (2)

Salvador Perez and Cam Gallagher

Pretty easy call here, especially with Melendez and Sebastian Rivero already being optioned to Triple-A camp.

Infielders (6)

Carlos Santana; Hunter Dozier; Nicky Lopez; Adalberto Mondesi; Bobby Witt, Jr.; and Ryan O’Hearn

Santana and Dozier didn’t have great 2021 campaigns, but they have been good this Spring and they have significant financial commitments from the Royals as well this season. Thus, they are going to be on this roster on Opening Day, with Santana likely playing first and Dozier DH’ing.

Lopez and Mondesi have been playing second and shortstop all Spring, and barring injury, it’s likely that they will continue to be that up-the-middle combo on April 7th at Kauffman Stadium. I know the Royals will probably handle Mondesi with kid gloves this season, but when he does play, it appears that the Royals will be putting him at shortstop, with Nicky moving over to shortstop on days when Mondesi has a day off (with Whit Merrifield moving from right to second in the process).

There was talk prior to Spring Training that Bobby Witt, Jr. would have a chance to make the Royals Opening Day lineup, and honestly, it’s hard to envision him NOT at the hot corner on April 7th, especially after highlights like this below:

O’Hearn gets the last infield spot, as he will most likely be a bat off the bench who could fill in at first or outfield, if necessary. While he isn’t the most popular with Royals fans, he has been hitting well this Spring, with a .458 average, 1.250 OPS, and two home runs in 24 at-bats. It seems like the Royals are hopeful that this is the season that O’Hearn puts it together after three sub-par seasons following his effective debut in 2018.

With Pasquantino and Pratto already optioned to Minor League camp, it seems like a done deal that O’Hearn will be in a Royals uniform on April 7th.

Outfielders (5)

Whit Merrifield; Andrew Benintendi; Michael A. Taylor; Kyle Isbel; and Edward Olivares

Whit and Benny are locked into the Royals roster and starting lineup for Opening Day and will be expected to carry this Royals team both at the plate and on the field. As for Taylor, he hasn’t been as impressive offensively this Spring as he was two Spring Training campaigns ago. However, he’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, and that has value, even if his bat lags behind.

Royals Weekly conducted a poll this week about who should play CF in 2022 for the Royals, and despite his lackluster bat, it seems like Royals fans understand Taylor’s value to this Royals outfield defensively:

For the last two position spots, I went with Isbel and Olivares, even though it seems superfluous to carry them both on the Major League roster to begin the year. I think the Royals carry them for two reasons:

1.) They will need Mondesi to have a good amount of scheduled off days, and that will require Whit to move to second on those days. That will heighten the need for help offensively and defensively in right field, and I think Isbel and Olivares are both better defensive options than Dozier.

2.) I think the Royals still believe in Taylor, but the confidence is not as high as a year ago, and it seems like Taylor was dealing with some nagging injuries this Spring. Thus, the Royals may need help in CF for possible Taylor days off, which makes the need for Isbel AND Olivares more necessary.

Plus, both guys have played well this Spring, and Dayton Moore tends to reward players who perform in Cactus League play, especially ones who are aiming for a roster spot.

Photo Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2 thoughts on “Predicting the Royals’ Opening Day 28-Man Roster

  1. Very nice job, I think you pretty much nailed it. One question though re “The Royals need to clear a roster spot for a certain Royals infielder, and it makes the most sense for the Royals to DFA Payamps”. Was there a rule change or something? Can the Royals not 60 day Bowlen to open up a 40 for BWJ? Also…so glad to see JaCoby Jones & Peacock reassigned. I was almost sure that they would have made the 28 as that’s how DM rolls 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, they can 60 day Bowlan to open up a spot, which honestly, is likely to happen. That being said, Payamps is out of options, and I’m not sure he’s ahead right now of Snider or Speier or even Tapia. Furthermore, to make room for Lynch and Kowar, which I think is in the cards, they’re going to need to make some tough decisions on the pitching staff. I could see the Royals saying “Well, he’s probably not going to make the 26-man cut anyways by end of April, and we want to go with Snider or Speier, so let’s just DFA him to get ahead of the game.” But, I could also see them keep him for a little bit, and DFA him after the first bad outing, similar to what they did in ’20 with Jorge Lopez.

      And thanks for the comment!


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