Inbox: What's up with former top pick Russell?

Inbox: What's up with former top pick Russell?

The Royals have won four straight and climbed back to 6-6, thanks mostly to a rotation that has posted a Major League-best 2.31 ERA. At some point, the offense will catch up, and as manager Ned Yost said Sunday, Kansas City could get on a serious roll.

We asked for questions for the Royals Inbox, and you provided some good ones. So let's get started.

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Ashe Russell was the Royals' first-round pick in 2015, a high school pitcher out of Indiana. At some point last season, the 20-year-old right-hander developed some confidence issues in his ability to throw strikes. Russell has not yet been assigned to an affiliate for this season and is in extended spring camp in Arizona trying to work out those issues through some mechanical adjustments. There is no timetable for when he will get assigned. Physically, Russell is fine. MLBPipeline.com ranked him as Kansas City's No. 27 prospect.

We seem to get this question a lot, and the answer remains the same. Luke Hochevar's thoracic outlet syndrome surgery was more complicated than Kyle Zimmer's, and thus the recovery time has been longer for the free-agent right-hander. It's possible Hochevar could be a second-half signing for someone, but from what I've heard, 2017 is more than likely a wash for him.

Jorge Soler (oblique strain) suffered a minor setback while taking some swings in the cages over the weekend. He reported some tightness in that left side, so the Royals will back him down a few days. The outfielder is still targeted for a rehab assignment, possibly later this week.

The guess here is the Royals will show a lot of patience, because as they have said often, if Raul Mondesi can do one thing each game to help his team win, they'll be happy. He made some breathtaking defensive plays over the weekend. And, of course, Mondesi helped win Sunday's game with his speed, stealing second base in the ninth and going to third on a wild pitch. We've seen his power potential -- a 436-foot home run last week. But you're right, even a No. 9 hitter has to show more consistent offense. Then again, Mondesi is not exactly alone with his offensive struggles.

Outfielder Hunter Dozier really impressed the Royals' coaching staff this spring, but he is on the 60-day disabled list because of a nasty oblique strain. He'll be about two months behind everyone else. If Soler returns to health, there's nowhere for Dozier to play, so he'll most likely be a September callup.

I wouldn't anticipate a lot of contract discussions during the season. Eric Hosmer said repeatedly during Spring Training that he doesn't want to deal with it during the season. He also was emphatic that he'd like to at least test free agency, which doesn't mean he won't re-sign with the Royals (see Alex Gordon). Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar are all potential free agents, and there are a lot of moving parts to the debate of who will likely be back. A big part of the puzzle is team performance and how close Kansas City is to postseason contention come the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

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