Kansas City Royals: Thoughts on every player on the 40-man roster

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Hunter Dozier #17 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates with Whit Merrifield #15 after hitting a two run home run off Triston McKenzie #24 of the Cleveland Indians in the second inning during game one of a doubleheader at Progressive Field on September 20, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Hunter Dozier #17 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates with Whit Merrifield #15 after hitting a two run home run off Triston McKenzie #24 of the Cleveland Indians in the second inning during game one of a doubleheader at Progressive Field on September 20, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 24: Brad Keller #56 of the Kansas City Royals in action against the New York Yankees during a game at Yankee Stadium on June 24, 2021 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Royals 8-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 24: Brad Keller #56 of the Kansas City Royals in action against the New York Yankees during a game at Yankee Stadium on June 24, 2021 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Royals 8-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Royals are ever-so-slowly putting together their first serious contender of a team since they won the 2015 World Series. With Nicky Lopez showing that he’s the real deal, Whit Merrifield continuing to be one of the best players in the AL, and Salvador Perez suddenly re-emerging as one of the game’s best power hitters, the Royals’ lineup doesn’t look so bad.

Then there’s uber-prospect Bobby Witt Jr. and exciting young catcher MJ Melendez, both which are expected to spend time on the big league roster in 2022 (Witt probably more than Melendez). Witt recently ranked as high as the #2 prospect in baseball per The Athletic’s Keith Law and ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. The Royals front office and fanbase are chomping at the bit to see him in action.

As things currently stand, the Royals 40-man roster is full to the brim after the club protected some of their minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft … whenever that may end up happening.

Let’s take a look at the Kansas City Royals’ current 40-man roster.

(Projections included below are from FanGraphs’ Depth Chart Projections system for the 2022 season.)

Pitchers (23):

Scott Barlow, RHP

2021 stats: 5-3, 16 SV, 71 G, 2.42 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 2.1 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 4-3, 27 SV, 66 G, 3.68 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.2 fWAR

Scott Barlow, an All-Star for the first time last season, is a back of the bullpen arm that the Royals seem to have struck gold on. The 29-year-old righty throws a wipeout slider as his main pitch and was the club’s primary closer last season, a role he is expected to have going forward for the club. Barlow is a high-strikeout pitcher (nearly 100 strikeouts in just 74 innings) and will be heavily leaned on in 2022.

Ronald Bolanos, RHP

2021 stats: 0-0, 3 G, 1.42 ERA, 0.96 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 1-2, 24 G (2 GS), 4.95 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

Ronald Bolanos made his big league debut with the Padres back in 2019 as a 22-year-old. He now finds himself on the Royals looking to make MLB appearances for the third straight year as a member of the club. He will most likely begin the year in Triple-A and will be on the list of emergency starters should injuries arise.

Jonathan Bowlan, RHP

2021 stats (in Triple-A): 2-0, 4 GS, 1.59 ERA, 1.07 FIP

2022 FGDC projections: N/A

25-year-old Jonathan Bowlan blew out his elbow last season, undergoing Tommy John surgery that should keep him out of game-action until June or July of 2022. He regularly sits in the high-90s with his fastball and is a huge-strikeout pitcher. His big league debut could very well come late next season.

Jake Brentz, LHP

2021 stats: 5-2, 72 G, 3.66 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 3-3, 60 G, 4.11 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

Jake Brentz, one of the few lefty bullpen options on the 40-man, is capable of hitting triple-digits and is in line for a second full season of games in 2022. Brentz, 27, strikes out a ton of batters (10.69 SO/9 last year) but also walks a lot (5.20 BB/9). He is an extremely durable southpaw that could easily see 70-plus appearances next year. The command will need to improve if he is to be successful long-term.

Kris Bubic, LHP

2021 stats: 6-7, 20 GS, 4.43 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 0.3 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 6-7, 23 GS, 4.63 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 0.9 fWAR

Kris Bubic is the youngest member of the Royals’ rotation at 24 years old. He received a 50-inning showing in 2020 and made 29 appearances last season with 20 starts. His season began poorly, beginning the season in Triple-A due to poor Spring Training results. Bubic ended up being recalled to the majors after injuries came up. Fortunately for both player and team, the southpaw looked great in September and October of 2021, posting a 2.20 ERA in 32+ innings.

Taylor Clarke, RHP

2021 stats (in Arizona): 1-3, 43 G, 4.98 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 2-2, 44 G, 4.82 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

Taylor Clarke represents the only Major League signing made by the Royals so far in the offseason, bringing the righty aboard on a one-year, $975K contract in December. Clarke, 28, was primarily a starting pitcher in 2019 and 2020 for the Arizona Diamondbacks but spent all of last season in the bullpen, which is where he should find himself in Kansas City. He may see the occasional spot start, but the walk-rate must lower first.

Dylan Coleman, RHP

2021 stats: 0-0, 5 G, 1.42 ERA,  1.43 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 4-3, 60 G, 3.82 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

26-year-old Dylan Coleman made his big league debut last season and was immediately throwing 100+ mph fastballs and a wipeout, high-80s slider. Coleman has long-term closing potential and is a serious strike-thrower. Last season between three levels in the organization, his SO/9 rate was a whopping 14.5.

Jon Heasely, RHP

2021 stats: 1-1, 3 GS, 4.91 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 2-2, 23 G (5 GS), 4.85 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

Jon Heasley, the Royals #13 prospect heading into 2021 per MLB.com, found himself on the huge list of Royals pitchers to debut in 2021. He made three starts down the stretch for the big league club and is projected to be used more as a swingman than an exclusive starter. He will most likely begin the 2022 regular season at the Triple-A affiliate.

Carlos Hernandez, RHP

2021 stats: 6-2, 11 GS, 3.68 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.0 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 6-8, 24 GS, 4.81 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 0.9 fWAR

Carlos Hernandez, another 24-year-old in the Royals rotation, appeared in 24 games last season including 11 starts down the stretch. Up until July, Hernandez made 10 appearances out of the bullpen, posting decent results and ultimately moving to the rotation, where he remained until the end of the year. As a starter, Hernandez performed well enough to get a look in the #5 spot in the rotation next season, posting a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts, walking nearly as many batters as he struck out.

Brad Keller, RHP

2021 stats: 8-12, 26 GS, 5.39 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 1.1 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 10-10, 28 GS, 4.45 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.7 fWAR

Brad Keller is projected by the FanGraphs Depth Chart system to have a better season this year than he did last. His FIP was much lower than his ERA in 2021, suggesting that he was a bit unlucky with the defenders behind him factoring into the equation. Keller is projected to be the Royals #2 starter this season in what will be his fourth as a member of their rotation.

Jackson Kowar, RHP

2021 stats: 0-6, 8 GS, 11.27 ERA, 6.43 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 2-3, 6 GS, 4.65 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 0.3 fWAR

25-year-old Jackson Kowar got his first look at the big league level last season before he was 100 percent ready. Kowar pitched in 30 innings for the Major League squad and got absolutely lit up. He is projected to start the year in Triple-A and should still get another chance in 2022 in the majors after compiling a respectable minor league track record.

Daniel Lynch, LHP

2021 stats: 4-6, 15 GS, 5.69 ERA, 4.82 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 4-4, 13 GS, 4.90 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

Daniel Lynch received his first look at the Major League level last season, making a total of 15 starts for the Royals. FanGraphs has him projected to start the year in Triple-A but he should be first in line for a promotion. His repertoire features five pitches: four-seamer, slider, changeup, sinker, and curveball. His fastball and changeup got lit up at the big league level last season while his slider ended up being his best pitch.

Mike Minor, LHP

2021 stats: 8-12, 28 GS, 5.05 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 2.3 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections:  10-10, 29 GS, 4.43 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 2.1 fWAR

Mike Minor, now 34 years old, is getting up there in age but remains a reliable arm for the Royals. He is projected to put up slightly better numbers than he did last year and should be a lock for a full season of starts once again. Minor gives the Royals a much-needed veteran presence near the top of their rotation and is in the second year of a two-year deal with a team option for the 2023.

Joel Payamps, RHP

2021 stats: 1-3, 37 G, 3.40 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 0.4 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 3-3, 52 G, 4.51 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 0.1 fWAR

27-year-old Joel Payamps came over to the Royals last season from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for cash. He was optioned to Triple-A upon his acquisition and is now officially out of minor league options, making it very likely he breaks camp with the big league team in 2022. Payamps, like Taylor Clarke, is capable of starting games or operating in a long-relief role. He walked just three batters in 20 innings for Kansas City last season and should stick around a while if he can keep that up.

Brady Singer, RHP

2021 stats: 5-10, 27 GS, 4.91 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 2.0 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 9-9, 28 GS, 4.24 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.9 fWAR

Brady Singer is just 26 years old and will be entering his third season with the big league club. He looked pretty sharp last year, showing off a plus slider with impeccable command of his pitches. He does a good job of limiting home runs, posting a 0.98 HR/9 rate last season, just under league-average.

Collin Snider, RHP

2021 stats (in Triple-A): 3-2, 21 G, 6.30 ERA, 6.26 FIP

2022 FGDC projections: 1-2, 28 G, 5.09 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

26-year-old Collin Snider has gradually seen his strikeout rate raise each year in his professional career. FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projection system predicts him to crack the big league roster at some point in 2022 and he could very well end up being an oft-used middle-relief option soon.

Gabe Speier, LHP

2021 stats: 0-0, 7 G, 1.17 ERA, 2.26 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 2-2, 54 G, 4.35 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 0.1 fWAR

Gabe Speier, 26, has seen limited action in the big leagues in K.C. over the past three seasons. He has just 24 appearances under his belt with a 5.23 ERA, but his minor league performances have been far more encouraging. Speier made 45 appearances with a 2.98 ERA in Triple-A last season and is one of the only lefties in the Royals list of bullpen options. He should be in line for more playing time in 2022 as a lefty specialist.

Josh Staumont, RHP

2021 stats: 4-3, 64 G, 2.88 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 1.0 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 4-3, 64 GV, 4.15 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

Josh Staumont emerged as one of the best arms in the Royals system last season after 65 innings of 2.88 ERA-ball. FanGraphs Depth Chart projections have him coming back down to earth a bit with his 4.15 ERA and 4.13 FIP in the upcoming season but, at the very least, he showed last year that he’s here to stay. Staumont, 28, is primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher who sits regularly in the high-90s with his fastball and allowed just a .154 batting average off his curveball last year.

Domingo Tapia, RHP

2021 stats: 4-1, 34 G,  2.67 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 3-4, 67 G, 4.82 ERA, 4.81 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

30-year-old Domingo Tapia was acquired by the Royals last season in a minor league trade with the Mariners last season. He ended up making 34 big league appearances down the stretch with K.C., his most extensive big league action to date. Tapia, like many others in the Royals’ pen, sits regularly in the 98-100 MPH range with his sinker, but also has his fair share of control issues.

Daniel Tillo, LHP

2021 stats (in Double-A): 0-3, 17 G (2 GS), 4.63 ERA, 4.21 FIP

2022 FGDC projections: 0-1, 2 GS, 4.94 ERA, 5.10 FIP

Daniel Tillo has yet to make it above Double-A, but he is projected to begin the year in Triple-A and will most likely see some big league time at some point in the upcoming season. He has never been a highly-ranked prospect in the Royals system, but he’s been quietly solid over the past few seasons.

Nathan Webb, RHP

2021 stats (in High-A): 4-1, 17 G, 4.41 ERA, 2.58 FIP

2022 FGDC projections: 0-0, 4 G, 5.24 ERA, 5.34 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

Nathan Webb, used as a starter in his first few professional seasons, was used exclusively as a reliever last season. The relief pitching role will be his best path to the major leagues. FGDC has him making his big league debut at some point in 2022 with his extremely high strikeout rates.

Angel Zerpa, LHP

2021 stats: 0-1, 1 GS, 0.00 ERA, 2.17 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 1-1, 3 GS, 4.46 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 0.1 fWAR

Angel Zerpa, the #18 Royals prospect last year per MLB.com, is still extremely young (22) and should not get much of a look in the major leagues this season. He posted a 4.58 ERA in the minor leagues with 108 strikeouts in just 88 innings and should spend the majority of his time in 2022 at the Triple-A affiliate.

Tyler Zuber, RHP

2021 stats: 0-3, 31 G, 6.26 ERA, 6.17 FIP, -0.3 fWAR

2022 FGDC projections: 2-2, 35 G, 4.76 ERA, 4.76 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

Tyler Zuber, 26, has always been a durable, high-strikeout, high-walk relief pitcher throughout his journey in the Royals system. He debuted in 2020 and has not looked great through his first 50 innings at the Major League level. He is projected to start the season in Triple-A but will certainly get MLB looks in 2022.