Yesterday, I led into today’s post discussing the fact that sometimes the non roster invites can actually bring even more intrigue than some of the position battles. With the way the Royals spring training is already shaping up, there isn’t going to be much in the way of positional battles. I think this might be what fans of other teams feel when they head into spring training to see their teams who have many of their positions decided already. You can argue if you want about whether Royals positions should be decided, but that’s another story for another day.
This year’s non roster invitees mostly don’t have quite the luster of Mike Montgomery in 2011, but there are a few names to watch out for this year as players who are trying to get looks for later in the year. The main guy is pretty obvious, but Yordano Ventura has virtually no chance of breaking camp with the Royals, but as it stands right now, they believe he should be able to get to the big leagues late in the season. I see him, and I think the Royals might too, as a guy who the Royals can turn to in order to be a huge threat in the late innings down the stretch when they’re in competition for a playoff spot. I think a bad springÂ couldÂ change their minds about that, but I doubt it. A great spring, though, and he could have a chance to be first in line for a spot in the rotation if and when one opens up due to injury or ineffectiveness.
The others aren’t quite as big in terms of what they could provide to the 2013 Royals, but a guy like Michael Mariot could really make himself attractive as an arm for the bullpen when the need arises. He’s steadily moved through the system putting up good but never great numbers and has pitched in both the bullpen and in the starting rotation. He probably actually has a better shot than Ventura to make the team, but I’d still say those odds are slim. A good spring, though, and he can really impress Ned Yost and Dayton Moore to the point that he at least puts him on the I-29 shuttle as a reliever who makes a few trips to Kansas City if the Royals need some help to pick up a tired bullpen.
There are two veterans who could end up as a part of this year’s Royals team and they are George Sherrill and Dan Wheeler. Sherrill is in a bit of a bad position because he won’t even be ready to pitch in spring training, but Dan Wheeler will have the opportunity to impress enough to either make the team out of the spring or to stick in Omaha and find a way to get himself up to the team. My preference would be a younger guy, but you just never know what the Royals will do, and if Wheeler is dealing in Omaha after having a good spring, I don’t see a problem with giving him a chance if something comes up where the Royals need a reliever.
On the infield, Christian Colon and Brandon Wood both have shots to impress the Royals, but with very different end goals. Wood is a failed prospect meaning he has never lived up to the potential he showed in the minor leagues. He plays third base and while the Royals have what they think and hope is their solution there for the next few seasons, they don’t have much as a backup plan if Moustakas gets injured. Wood could put himself in the front of mind if Moustakas gets hurt or completely tanks. Christian Colon is obviously angling toward being a long-term cog in the Royals system, probably as a second baseman. Johnny Giavotella has struggled in limited time and just looks like a different player in the majors than the one I’ve seen in the minors, so the long-term answer at second base is up in the air. After a solid 2012, a good spring in 2013 could make Colon an early call up if whoever wins the second base job struggles early in the season.
Moving onto the outfield, I really only see Endy Chavez and Xavier Nady as the guys who could impress enough to either make the team out of the spring or to give them a chance to come up mid-season. Neither excites me much, but they’re veterans and if they do well, managers like Ned Yost really love to have that “presence” on the team and there isn’t much on the offensive side of the ball in terms of veterans, so they’re a real possibility. Additionally, veterans like these two look at spring training as auditions for both the team they’re in camp with, and for the other 29 teams. These are the type of players who can make an impression on the rest of the league and can turn that into a contract with another team if and when they have an opening.
So yes, positional battles like the one we’ll see at second base, for backup catcher and the fifth starter spot will likely take the headlines, but these battles matter, too. They may not be for who takes the field in Chicago on April 1, but for who can be a part of what is hopefully a team that challenges for a playoff spot. While spring training really isn’t the time to be making serious evaluations any one of the players in camp can make that impression that has them at the top of mind when the Royals need a player, even for just a double header. Even a guy like Kyle Zimmer might get some random time in big league camp and he could make a great impression on the guys at the top. The big battles are what most will watch for, but keep your eye on everything because it’s a long year and you just never know who is going to make his mark on the 2013 season.
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