Dark Horses

Coming into Spring Training this year, the Royals were pretty much set at every position, with a few exceptions: 2B, CF, #4 and #5 starters, and LH relievers. That may seem like a lot of positions to have uncertainty at, but a lot of them are truly position battles. In the darker days of this franchise, it used to be there was one clear-cut favorite for a position. And no matter how he did, all he had to do was basically show up every day and the job was his. The Royals have some legitimate position battles going on this Spring, and within these battles there is always at least one dark horse.

Catchers

If Salvador Perez hadn’t torn his left meniscus the other day, there wouldn’t be any questions as to who the two catchers on the roster would be coming out of camp. But now that it’s looking like Sal could be out until at least mid-June or later, a few new names have come up as the potential #2 to Brayan Pena.

Cody Clark – 30

Photo Credit: John Sleezer

At 30 years young, Cody Clark is hardly a young up-and-comer. He’s spent the last 2 seasons at Triple A Omaha, primarily as the backup catcher. He isn’t a great hitter, but his numbers are pretty much what you’d expect from a catcher (career .254/.320/.394). And although his arm isn’t much to brag about (33% career caught stealing), his glove is major league quality (career .992 Fld%), never committing more than 6 E in one season.

He is making his first start of the Spring today against Cleveland, ahead of Max Ramirez.

Max Ramirez – 27

Photo Credit: John Sleezer

Max Ramirez is an offensive-first catcher, period. Once a top catching prospect for the Rangers, Max has done nothing but hit during his 8 seasons in the minors, with a line of .295/.389/.478 with 85 HR and 146 2B. His glove is average at best, and his arm is less than stellar (27% CS).

With Brayan Pena already on the roster, having two mostly offensive catchers might not make much sense. But if Max keeps hitting like he has been this Spring (7 for 15, 3 HR, 9 RBI) it’d be hard not to bring him on board.

Infield

Kevin Kouzmanoff – 30

Photo Credit: John Sleezer

Kouz has been playing well this Spring, going 3 for 10 in 7 games played, including a walk-off double. He’s always had the ability to hit if given the chance. But the real reasons he’s here are the fact that he’s a vacuum over at 3B, and he’s a right-handed hitting alternative to Mike Moustakas against tough lefties.

If the Royals keep Johnny Giavotella and Yuni Betancourt (thus sending Chris Getz to Triple A), Kouz has a real shot at breaking camp with the Royals as the backup corner infielder.

Clint Robinson – 27

Clint Robinson

He may be a AAAA player, but right now he’s just a guy who’s never gotten a real chance to show his stuff. Clint profiles as a DH/1B, mostly due to his size (6’5″ 235) and raw power. He won the hitter’s triple crown in 2010 in Double A(.335/.410/.625 29 HR, 98 RBI, 41 2B, 58:86 BB:K ratio, and almost replicated those numbers again last year in Triple A (.326/.399/.533 23 HR, 100 RBI, 35 2B, 58:86 BB:K ratio). If he had been in almost any other organization, there’s no doubt that Robinson would have made his Major League debut by now. But since he’s been blocked by Billy Butler, Eric Homser, and Kila Ka’aihue, he has yet to see an at-bat in KC.

If he wants to make the team out of Spring, he’ll need to log more innings at one of the corner OF spots and prove he isn’t enough of a defensive liability to offset his bat. He could be a great left-handed power bat coming off the bench for Ned in 2012.

Outfield

David Lough – 26

Photo Credit: Minda Haas

Lough does everything right. He hits, runs, and fields well, while occasionally flashing a little bit of power. He’s been compared to David DeJesus, except that he runs much better. He’s already hit 2 triples this Spring, and has logged significant innings at all 3 OF spots. Lough could very well supplant Mitch Maier as the 4th OFer on this roster.

Rotation

Luis Mendoza RHP – 28

Photo Credit: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

Without a doubt, Luis Mendoza has been the Royals’ most outstanding pitcher this Spring. He’s 3-0 in 10.2 IP with a 0.84 ERA, 11:1 K:BB ratio, .135 AVG against, and 0.56 WHIP. He seemed to get is act together last year in Omaha, and was called up to Kansas City to make two starts in September, going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 IP.

Mendoza is in an all out brawl with Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino for that 4th or 5th spot in the rotation. At this point, Mendoza is almost a near lock to make the team out of Spring Training. But  the question is whether he winds up as a part of the rotation or the bullpen.

Bullpen

Kelvin Herrera RHP – 22

Photo Credit: Chris Vleisides

After being converted from a starter to a reliever and pitching at almost every level in the organization last year, Herrera has an outside shot to start the season in KC. He’s got a true power arm, being able to hit the upper-90’s consistently. He currently sports a 1.50 ERA in 6 IP this Spring with 9 K to 2 BB and a .190 AVG against.

It might take an injury to one of Coleman, Holland, or Broxton for Herrera to make the 25-man roster this April, though anything can happen between now and then.

Tommy Hottovy LHP – 30

Tommy Hottovy

The hometown kid has been impressive in his short time as a Royal. He hasn’t surrendered a run in 4.2 IP thus far, giving up only 5 hits while striking out 5 and walking 0. Tommy has started games before earlier in his minor league career, though his TJ surgery probably put that part of his career in the rear view. But he is capable of going more than one or two innings.

Yost has stated that he wants more than just one lefty in the bullpen, and Tommy could be that guy given the fact that he could fill a number of bullpen roles (long reliever, middle reliever, situational lefty).

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