Royals continue auditions for 3 key jobs

Club seeking starting 2B, while final spot in bullpen, rotation up for grabs

Royals continue auditions for 3 key jobs

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Since the last time we projected the Royals' Opening Day 25-man roster, there has been one significant change.

The Royals added left-hander Travis Wood, who is competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. At worse, Wood will be a valuable part of the bullpen.

Decisions still await on who wins the second base job, the No. 5 spot, and the final spot in the bullpen.

With that in mind, here's a revised look at the projected 25.

Catchers: Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

This, of course, hasn't changed, though the Royals got a big scare when Perez suffered a knee injury when Butera, of all people, collided with Perez in a World Baseball Classic game. Perez, who had a second MRI  on Tuesday, appears to be OK (and Butera is fine, too) and is back in Royals camp.

Butera on collision with Perez

First base: Eric Hosmer

Hosmer is playing well for the United States in the Classic. Last year's MVP at the All-Star Game faded in the second half but still posted career highs in home runs (25) and RBIs (104).

Second base: Whit Merrifield

Sticking with the original projection here, but not nearly as certain. Yes, Merrifield's versatility seemingly assures him a roster spot. But Raul Mondesi has forced his way into the competition with a terrific spring. The Royals are intrigued by Mondesi's athleticism, and he has outplayed his competitors. Here's the problem: For Mondesi to grab the job, Merrifield (who has options) would have to be sent out, or Cheslor Cuthbert or Christian Colon would have to be traded. Cuthbert and Colon are out of options. Can't keep all four. Tough call.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar

This could be Escobar's last season in a Royals uniform. Even if Mondesi wins the second-base job this spring, he would be Escobar's replacement in 2018.

Yost on Escobar's durability

Third base: Mike Moustakas

An ACL injury in May robbed Moustakas of a potentially big year (he had seven homers before the injury). He already has proven he has recovered from the injury defensively. And his bat is heating up.

Starting outfield: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jorge Soler

What's interesting this spring is that manager Ned Yost has Gordon playing everywhere -- left field, right field, even center field. Soler, off to a slow start offensively, has played several games in left. Yost is keeping his options open in terms of where Gordon and Soler will be positioned Opening Day.

Soler's double to the wall

Designated hitter: Brandon Moss

The Royals have said Moss won't be a permanent DH, and he has played some outfield and first base in camp. We'll see how that plays out.

Bench: Colon, Cuthbert, Paulo Orlando

Yost has moved Colon all over -- second base, third base, shortstop, even left field. Cuthbert has looked better at second base than many expected as he makes the transition from third base. Cuthbert also has looked good at first base, increasing his versatility. Originally, the thinking was that the Royals might carry an extra position player -- a late-inning weapon such as Billy Burns. Not likely anymore with Wood taking up an extra spot on the pitching staff.

Rotation: Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jason Vargas, Nathan Karns

Nothing has changed here from our original forecast, though the battle for the No. 5 spot among Karns, Wood and Chris Young rages on. Still too early to call the winner, but the Royals remain fascinated with Karns' potential, especially now that he's added a changeup. Young has pitched very well lately. The addition of Wood will give the Royals either three lefties in the rotation or possibly four in the bullpen.

Kennedy on his scoreless start

Bullpen: Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Matt Strahm, Young, Mike Minor, Wood, Scott Alexander.

The Royals most likely go with a seven-man bullpen with the final spot probably going to Alexander, veteran Peter Moylan or perhaps even camp surprise Yender Caramo. Neither Moylan nor Caramo is on the 40-man roster, which complicates matters slightly. Alexander has wowed coaches this spring.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.