Royals include Witt Jr. in player pool
The Royals didn't make any completely shocking choices in who they will bring to Kansas City for the resumption of spring training this week, but the list did include top-rated prospect and 2019 first-round draft pick (No. 2 overall) Bobby Witt Jr.
Witt, a shortstop who was drafted out of high school last year, should still be in his first full season of professional baseball. He's among the 28 position players included on the list.
Baseball America ranks Witt the 26th-best prospect in baseball in its latest top 100 (post draft).
The Royals announced their initial 60-player pool on Sunday evening, three days before players are scheduled to report to Kauffman Stadium. Teams had until 3 p.m. (CT) to submit their player pool. The club will hold its first organized team workout on Friday.
Four of the organization's top five minor-league position players were selected with Khalil Lee, Kyle Isbel and Nick Pratto joining Witt.
Top pitching prospects Kris Bubic, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Brady Singer were among the 32 pitchers included. Baseball America ranks Lynch the 42nd-best prospect and Kowar the 88th.
Other pitchers included in the 60-player pool include right-hander Chance Adams, right-hander Scott Barlow, right-hander Scott Blewett, left-hander Austin Cox, left-hander Danny Duffy, right-hander Heath Fillmyer, left-hander Foster Griffin, right-hander Jesse Hahn, left-hander Tim Hill, right-hander Greg Holland, right-hander Jakob Junis, right-hander Brad Keller, right-hander Ian Kennedy, right-hander Jorge López, left-hander Richard Lovelady, right-hander Kevin McCarthy, left-hander Mike Montgomery, right-hander Jake Newberry, left-hander Randy Rosario, right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, right-hander Braden Shipley, right-hander Glenn Sparkman, left-hander Gabe Speier, right-hander Josh Staumont, left-hander Daniel Tillo, right-hander Stephen Woods Jr., right-hander Kyle Zimmer and right-hander Tyler Zuber.
The position player group includes catchers Nick Dini, Cam Gallagher, MJ Melendez, Salvador Perez, Sebastian Rivero and Meibrys Viloria as well as infielders Humberto Arteaga, Maikel Franco, Kelvin Gutierrez, Jeison Guzmán, Nicky Lopez, Ryan McBroom, Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O'Hearn, Pratto, Matt Reynolds and Witt.
The outfielders include Hunter Dozier, Alex Gordon, Nick Heath, Isbel, Lee, Seuly Matias, Erick Mejia, Whit Merrifield, Brett Phillips, Jorge Soler and Bubba Starling.
Big picture considerations
The potential inclusion and/or exclusion of top prospects to the 60-man player pool, the 40-man roster or the active roster added intrigue in recent days.
While the chances of one of the top pitching prospects making the major-league roster out of spring training were small prior to the pandemic shutdown, several figured to begin the season in the upper levels of the minor leagues and proverbial phone call away from the majors.
Singer, the organization's 2019 Double-A Pitcher of the Year, remained in big-league camp when MLB suspended spring training. He'd been scheduled to start the day before in a game washed out by rain. He was set to pitch in relief in the game canceled against the Seattle Mariners in Surprise, Ariz., on March 12.
The absence of a minor-league season coupled with the need for significant depth in case of injury or players contracting coronavirus made for interesting decisions.
"Many of our players, we don't have to put on the 40-man roster yet," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said last week in reference to the Royals' top minor-league prospects. "And as I mentioned before, you want to be 100 percent sure that a player is ready to help you win at the major-league level before you add him to that 25-man roster -- and in this case, some of the prospects to the 40-man roster.
"There's no minor leagues to send them down to if indeed they struggle at the major-league level. You can send them, I guess, down to the taxi squad, but they're not going to be playing games. So it's just a unique situation and a unique challenge that we're looking forward to. But you've also got to think big picture as well."
Eventually, the Royals will select a 30-player Opening Day roster. The other 30 players will remain at an "alternate training site."
Moore said last week that the club was still finalizing alternate training sites.
During spring training, players are expected to work out at Kauffman Stadium on a rotating schedule.
"I think there's so many benefits that can come (from having young players around)," Royals manager Mike Matheny said in Friday's Zoom conference call. "One is just kind of getting their feet wet. What it feels like, looks like. We know a lot about the culture of the organization as a whole and how strong it is.
"We also need to get guys kind of initiated into that clubhouse culture and to see and to watch some of our veteran players watch a Gordon work. Watch what Salvy does on a day-in, day-out basis. Those sort of lessons really are so hard to replicate any other way except by having them around."