“Reporter Jottings”: Royals Add Three NRI Hitters; Bubic Makes Rotation; and Cuas to Fill Out Bullpen

Today was the last day of Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals, and as expected, there was a lot of news to break, especially from MLB.com Royals beat writer Anne Rogers. Nothing has been made official just yet, but it’s likely that we will see an official Opening Day roster announcement from the Royals sometime tomorrow, just a day before the Royals 2023 season opener on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium.

In this edition of the “Jottings” let’s take a look at the various moves made by the Royals and the pending impact they could have on the club during the first month of the 2023 MLB season.

Reyes, Duffy, and Bradley, Jr. Expected to Make Roster

It appears that the Royals will be adding three non-roster invitee position players to the active roster on Opening Day, as reported by Rogers.

Those three players to be added to the 40-man roster will be outfielder/designated hitter Franmil Reyes, utility infielder Matt Duffy, and outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr, the latter who joined the Royals after Spring Training begun.

All three hitters had solid campaigns for the Royals in Cactus League play, and offer the Royals not only a boost in hitting but defensive versatility as well. Reyes, the former Cleveland Guardian slugger, stood out the most, as he hit .340 with three home runs and a 1.021 OPS in 47 at-bats with the Royals this spring.

Duffy and Bradley, Jr. also held their own at the plate, as they hit .293 and .355 this spring as well. However, they made the Opening Day squad because they offer the most value on the defensive end for the Royals.

Duffy can play multiple infield positions and should help provide some insurance with the glove at the third, short, and second base positions, especially if Hunter Dozier and Bobby Witt, Jr. don’t improve with their defensive play at third and shortstop, respectively, in 2023. As for Bradley, he should help provide excellent defensive versatility at all three outfield positions until Drew Waters returns from injury, though I imagine the Royals won’t rush him, due to the touchy nature of oblique injuries.

As a result, Matt Beaty, who I projected would make the Opening Day roster in my revision, will start the year in Triple-A. The good thing is that he opted to stay with the Major League club and didn’t have an immediate opt-out in his Minor League deal (which was the case for some other players on Minor League deals for other squads).

In addition to Beaty, here is a list of all the remaining players who were assigned to the Minor League camp.

The former Dodger and Padre will be an interesting one to watch, especially if Duffy or Bradley struggles, and Beaty transitions his strong spring to Triple-A Omaha.

Bubic Earns Last Spot in Rotation

After a strong outing against Texas (as I chronicled in my five fearless predictions about the Royals), manager Matt Qutraro announced that Kris Bubci has earned the final spot in the Royals rotation behind Zack Greinke, Jordan Lyles, Brad Keller, and Brady Singer.

Daniel Lynch appeared to be in the lead at the start of camp in Surprise. However, despite starting the year with some minor shoulder issues, Bubic came on strong toward the end of the Cactus League season and looked like one of the Royals’ best starters beyond Brady Singer.

As for Lynch, he struggled with his command and ability to generate whiffs over the course of the spring, and some shoulder issues seemed to end any shot of him making the Opening Day rotation. As of now, it is likely that Lynch will begin the year on the IL, though it doesn’t seem as if the shoulder issue is anything serious (for now).

Bubic had a strong spring last year too, but he struggled out of the gate and proceeded to have a rather forgettable season where he posted a 5.58 ERA in 129 innings pitched. Safe to say, he will not have as long of a leash in 2023, especially once Lynch returns off the IL. Furthermore, Ryan Yarbrough could easily slide into the rotation if necessary, and if Jon Heasley and Jackson Kowar can work out the kinks in Omaha, they could see a possible shot in the rotation in May or June, especially if Bubic struggles.

But for now, it appears that Bubic will get his shot to prove that he can “thrive” as a starter under the new Royals coaching staff.

Cuas Expected to Earn Final Bullpen Spot

In another bit of surprising news, the Royals officially optioned Collin Snider to Triple-A, and as noted by Rogers, this likely means that Cuas will earn the final Royals bullpen spot to begin the year.

Cuas was a great story last season, as he won Major League Baseball’s Tony Coligniaro award for “most inspirational” player. He also posted a 3.58 ERA and struck out 34 batters in 37.2 IP. A sidearm righty, Cuas gives the Royals a relief arm who can generate groundball outs and double plays to get out of tough jams in the middle innings (he induced a groundball rate of 49.1 percent in 2022).

I figured the Royals would need someone with Cuas’ skill set to find a spot in the bullpen to begin the season, especially since Aroldis Chapman, Amir Garrett, Carlos Hernandez, and Dylan Coleman profile as relievers who are better at generating strikeouts and flyball outs than groundouts. Cuas, Snider, or even Nick Wittgren on the other hand provide that groundball-inducing ability, and it seems like the Royals opted to go with Cuas over Snider and Wittgren.

It sounds like Wittgren may have been a strong candidate to make the Opening Day roster, but JJ Picollo wasn’t willing to DFA an extra person yet to make room for him. It is likely that if Cuas fails to improve upon the 7.11 ERA he posted in Cactus League play, Wittgren will be next in line, with Cuas being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster for the former Cleveland and St. Louis reliever.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images


2 thoughts on ““Reporter Jottings”: Royals Add Three NRI Hitters; Bubic Makes Rotation; and Cuas to Fill Out Bullpen

  1. I’m expecting a nice bounceback from Reyes. Hopefully the offense as a whole busts out. Feel pretty good about the bullpen. But the real show will ultimately be the rotation. Put up or shut up time for a lot of these guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Agreed. I think if Reyes can be a 20+ HR guy, he could boost the lineup in a big way. The good thing is they aren’t depending on him to be a 4 hitter like they were in Cleveland. He can be a nice middle to end of order guy who could help carry on big innings.

    Same about bullpen. A lot of depth at the very least, and that’s been the problem the past two years. Some really solid guys at top, but just not enough of them. Much different story and I could see Royals bullpen perform much better as a unit in 2023.

    The starting pitching will be the key. I think some kind of Greinke regression needs to be expected, but I do think Lyles will be better than expected. Wild cards will be Lynch, Bubic, Kowar, and Heasley. Need at least one of those guys to take a major step forward, much like Singer last year. If 1 or 2 do? Well… it could be a surprising year.


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