Mondesi surprise highlights Opening Day roster

Mondesi surprise highlights Opening Day roster

Our first go-around at projecting the Royals' Opening Day roster wasn't that far off. But as manager Ned Yost likes to say every year, there is always a surprise or two in camp.

And that held true this time, as no one, not even Yost, could have foreseen Raul Mondesi rising up and grabbing the second-base job. On Sunday, the Royals finalized their final 25:

Catchers: Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

This, of course, looked in doubt earlier in March when Butera collided with Perez's knee at home plate in a World Baseball Classic game. But the MRI came back clean on Perez's knee, and the Royals' organization collectively exhaled.

First base: Eric Hosmer

Last year's MVP at the MasterCard All-Star Game was a unanimous all-Classic tourney pick, helping Team USA win a gold.

Hosmer's clutch two-run homer

Second base: Mondesi

We had projected Whit Merrifield to win this spot over Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert, with a courtesy mention to Mondesi back in February. We whiffed. Merrifield, who has options, was sent to Triple-A Omaha following Saturday's final Spring Training game. Colon, who does not have options, will get the other roster spot.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar

Escobar is a pending free agent, and that is another good reason to have Mondesi in the big leagues in 2017, because Mondesi could be the shortstop in '18.

Third base: Mike Moustakas

Coming off his right ACL surgery last May, Moustakas had a great spring and is ready to go, though his time at the hot corner will be monitored the first month of the season.

Moustakas' solo homer

Starting outfield: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Paulo Orlando

Jorge Soler would be the right fielder, but he will open the season on the 10-day disabled list because of a strained oblique. Orlando replaces him.

Designated hitter: Brandon Moss

Moss was locked in at the end of Spring Training, blasting three homers in the final week.

Must C: Moss mashes a moonshot

Bench: Colon, Cuthbert, Terrance Gore

We originally thought the Royals might go with an 11-man staff, thus creating an opening for speedy Billy Burns on the bench. But the Royals will go with seven in the bullpen. Still, Gore and his world-class speed could take Soler's spot. Cuthbert makes the team as the primary backup to Moustakas.

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

Well, it wasn't exactly tough, but we did hit this one on the screws. Karns beat out Travis Wood and Chris Young for the No. 5 spot.

Karns fans Soto

Bullpen: Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Matt Strahm, Young, Mike Minor, Wood, Peter Moylan

The Royals hadn't yet acquired Wood when our first 25-man projection came out. And originally, we went out on a limb with Josh Staumont and his 100-mph fastball grabbing a bullpen spot. Moylan was added to the roster, and Hunter Dozier was placed on the 60-day DL to make room.

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.