The Royals failed to sweep the Athletics in Oakland, as they lost 4-0 in the series finale on Father’s Day. The loss brought the Royals’ record to 23-42 for the year, with a tough upcoming road series against the Angels coming up in Anaheim.
For the most part, Royals president Dayton Moore and general manager JJ Picollo have been conservative when it comes to shaking up the MLB roster. They did trade for Albert Abreu from the Rangers, though the Abreu experiment in the Royals bullpen was short-lived, as Abreu was designated for assignment on Saturday. (Though it is certainly possible that Abreu could clear waivers and remain in the Royals organization.)
In addition, the biggest move the Royals have made in-season may have been the promotion of MJ Melendez, who was called up due to an injury to Cam Gallagher in early May.
Melendez has made the most of his initial call-up to Kansas City, as he is currently hitting .254 with a .803 OPS in 154 plate appearances this season. The Royals have needed Melendez’s bat in the lineup, and have gotten creative when it comes to his position. In addition to pairing him with Salvador Perez when it comes to the DH and catcher positions, Melendez has also seen some time this year in right field, which actually has gone pretty well, as evidenced by this play below.
Other than Melendez, the Royals front office has stayed pat when it comes to major roster moves. The bullpen has seen some new faces thanks to injury (Jake Brentz, Joel Payamps, etc.) as well as lackluster performances at the MLB level (Collin Snider, Ronald Bolaños). However, those moves haven’t done nearly enough to move the needle for the Royals record-wise in addition to motivating the Royals fanbase, which seems to be more pessimistic or apathetic than ever, depending on where one looks.
And yet, with June coming to a close, a lot could be changing in Kansas City in the near future.
There are some key players due to return from injury, and the Royals (and other teams) need to make some moves to make sure the number of pitchers on the active roster is in accordance with league rules. Hence, by Friday against the Athletics, this Royals roster could look very different, which could be what this Royals roster needs to get a spark on the field and off.
Let’s take a look at a few roster scenarios that could come to fruition this week, whether it is during the Angels series, the Royals’ last series of their West Coast road trip, or on Friday, when they begin their next homestand at Kauffman Stadium.
Will the Royals Carry Three Catchers?
Cam Gallagher is nearing the end of his rehab stint after suffering a hamstring injury on May 1st. He is looking close to Big League form, and though he doesn’t have a great MLB track record, he does offer a strong framing element as a catcher that is sorely missing from behind the plate in Kansas City.
While Gallagher and his framing ability would certainly be welcomed by this Royals squad, it’s hard to see the Royals justify bumping Melendez back to Triple-A Omaha to bring Gallagher back, especially since Melendez has been the Royals’ strongest hitter over the past couple of weeks.
Hence, the main question is this: can the Royals carry three catchers on this roster?
KC Star Royals beat writer Lynn Worthy doesn’t think the idea is so farfetched, as he wrote about in today’s Royals-centered column on the KC Star site:
Worthy’s main justification for a possible “three catcher” scenario in Kansas City mostly stems from a comment from Picollo, who mentioned Melendez’s positional versatility as a reason to keep Melendez in the lineup, even with the presence of Salvy and Gallagher.
Here’s what Picollo says in Worthy’s piece:
“The fact that MJ is going to play other positions plays into it,” Picollo said at the time. “Also with Salvy DH-ing and potentially MJ DH-ing, you have two guys and having a third catcher isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you’re not going to lose your DH in those games. When we get to that point, we’ll make a call which way we’re going to go. Anticipating that we’ll have to have 13 position players is going to play in the favor of three catchers.”“Returns from injury of Zack Greinke, Cam Gallagher on horizon for Kansas City Royals” by Lynn Worthy; KC Star
If this was a couple of weeks ago, I could imagine the Royals sending Melendez back to Omaha and giving some “development” reason as the justification for such a move.
However, with the Royals sitting in the basement, and the Royals’ need for more offense, especially in the middle of the lineup, it seems likely that the Royals will carry three catchers temporarily, with Gallagher maybe getting innings on day games of a travel day to save the legs of Salvy and Melendez.
It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Moore and Picollo make Gallagher the first Royals player traded this year, especially considering the demand for good framing catchers and their current logjam at the Major League level.
How Does Greinke Fit in the Royals Rotation?
In addition to Gallagher being set to return soon, the Royals will also be welcoming Zack Greinke, who has had a couple of rehab starts under his belt in Omaha since going on the IL at the end of May due to forearm issues.
So far, it looks like Greinke is pretty much 100 percent and ready to pitch again in a Royals uniform, especially based on his last outing with the Storm Chasers where he went seven innings pitched.
Greinke’s return certainly will be welcomed by the Royals, especially considering he’s one of the Royals’ most highly-paid players this year (he is making $13 million this season). He also brings veteran experience and was pitching pretty well until a rough stretch of starts shortly before he landed on the IL.
In the month of April, he posted a 2.86 ERA in 22 IP. Unfortunately, in May, things blew up for him, as he not only generated a 6.67 ERA in May over 29 innings of work, but he also saw his HR/FB rate jump from 3.7 percent in April to 14 percent in May. Greinke did see a better K/BB ratio in May (2.71) than April (2.00), so it’s possible that Greinke’s on his way to being a more effective pitcher for the remainder of 2022, as long as he’s able to keep those home run numbers down.
Unfortunately, Greinke will be returning at a time right when the Royals’ young pitchers are starting to get in their groove.
Jon Heasley, Kris Bubic, and Daniel Lynch have all had solid outings over the past couple of weeks. And, even though Brady Singer was dinged with the loss today, he pitched pretty well with the exception of a mistake pitch to Seth Brown which resulted in a home run in the first inning. Singer also got out of a two-runners-on and zero-out situation in the fifth inning which would have rattled him a year ago, as David Lesky of Inside the Crown mentioned on Twitter.
Therefore, it’s hard to see Greinke replacing anyone in the rotation as of this moment, especially considering the positive momentum this young group of pitchers has developed in Greinke’s absence. In addition, a bullpen stint didn’t really help Singer or Bubic the first time around, and I doubt Mike Matheny will go that route with them again.
Will the Royals go with a six-man rotation for the time being?
That makes the most sense, especially since it keeps the young pitchers in the rotation, and probably preserves not just their arms, but Greinke and Brad Keller’s as well. That being said, the Royals will be losing a pitcher from their roster by tomorrow, according to league rules, and the Royals may be hesitant to have a six-man rotation, especially considering their needs in the bullpen.
The Royals may make a move with Greinke perhaps as soon as tomorrow.
And Royals fans have to wonder what kind of collateral damage that will have on the Royals pitching staff as a whole.
Will We See Olivares and Pasquantino When the Royals Return to the K?
Alex Duvall of Royals Farm Report mentioned this point below on Twitter as Vinnie Pasquantino continued to have himself a big day against the Iowa Cubs on Sunday:
In addition, outfielder Edward Olivares, who went to the IL due to a quad injury, has also been in the midst of a rehab stint with the Storm Chasers for the past couple of weeks. Olivares provided some production in the Royals lineup when he was healthy (164 wRC+ in 38 plate appearances), and he has started to showcase that he may be ready to produce again, especially if this home run on June 16th is any indication.
With the end of June near, it would make sense for the Royals to call up Olivares and Pasquantino and give them regular at-bats in Kansas City. In order for that to happen though, a couple of moves need to happen, and that may be tough for this Royals front office, who have been slow to make major moves over the first few months of the MLB season.
Honestly, it will not be a matter of “how many” moves the Royals need to make in the next week to make Olivares and Pasquantino in KC a reality by Friday (which most likely will be a couple). Rather, it will be a matter of “which moves” the Royals front office will make.
Will the Royals finally DFA Carlos Santana, who hasn’t lived up to his contract, but has played better as of late and is really the only player on the Royals roster who can consistently draw a walk?
Will the Royals send down Kyle Isbel, who has a big fan following on Twitter, but is only producing a 61 wRC+ in 90 plate appearances?
Will the Royals also send down Ryan O’Hearn, who’s been a pinch-hitting savant, or perhaps make a move with Whit Merrifield (i.e. bench him and end his consecutive games played streak)? Even though he is a fan favorite, Whit is having his worst season so far as a Major League player.
Is a trade for Andrew Benintendi in the works, and could it happen as soon as this week, especially with his value most likely at an all-time high?
Olivares and Pasquantino will make the Royals lineup better in the short and long run.
When it comes to the latter though, Royals fans have to be careful not to “overhype” Pasquantino in his Royals debut. It is likely that he could struggle in the initial adjustment to Major League pitching, similar to Bobby Witt Jr. in April. As good as Vinnie has been this season against Triple-A pitching, there is a major difference, and Witt and even Isbel have learned that the hard way.
That being said, it won’t just be as easy as “calling them up” in the near future. There will be corresponding major roster moves that will most likely end the tenures of certain players in Royals uniforms as well.
And are the Royals and Moore ready to deal with those lost veteran assets and incur the riskiness of younger, but less proven talent playing every day in Kansas City?
I guess we will see by Friday if Moore and Picollo are ready to make such a move…
But, it feels like Olivares’ and Pasquantino’s call-ups to Kansas City could be coming sooner than Royals fans may think.
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