Things are not looking good for the Kansas City Royals’ chances of repeating as pennant winners. In fact, at this juncture, they only have a 2.6 percent chance of making the playoffs at all according to Fangraphs. Part of the reason for the uninspiring 2016 has been the performance of the starting rotation.
Royals’ fans have grown used to having a mediocre (at best) rotation and overcoming that with other strengths on the roster. This season however, the team hasn’t been able to do so, which brings things back to that rotation. It isn’t very good; it’s been picked apart by injuries; it just doesn’t have a very bright future.
The team’s best starter this year has been Danny Duffy, a guy that wasn’t even inserted into said rotation until late May when injuries to others precipitated the move. Duffy, a former top prospect, is only 27. He probably has the brightest future of any of Kansas City’s current starters.
He has been around for pieces of six seasons now, yet has seen time in the bullpen each of the past three years. Duffy had a tremendous 2014 but fell back a bit the following season. Taking that extra step in 2015 likely would have secured him a rotation spot for the foreseeable future. Instead, he had to earn it back again, which he has done. Though he has skills that make him effective out of the pen in a pinch, fans have to assume Duffy is a rotation stalwart from here on out.
The rest of the rotation…not so much. It’s unfortunate that Yordano Ventura hasn’t been able to put things together for even one season to this point. Ventura isn’t really going anywhere. He should be around with Duffy for a while, but Kansas City needs to see him get better. It feels like he’s been around for a while because he has been in discussions of great young arms for years, but he is still only 25. The unfortunate thing is, not only is Ventura not getting better; he is arguably getting worse. This year, besides the injuries that keep popping up, has been a clear step back from his 2014 and 2015 seasons. Ventura is barely above replacement-level.
That isn’t to say the Royals won’t keep rolling him out there. The kid is bound to improve with the stuff he has. Control has been his biggest issue, not stuff.
The rest of the KC rotation is made up of mediocre veterans: Ian Kennedy, Edinson Volquez, Chris Young and Kris Medlen. The latter two have been injured which gave Duffy his chance in the first place. But none of these four guys have much of a ceiling in the future. The caveat there is the contracts they with the Royals.
Kennedy is signed for four more years after 2016 at a big number. Volquez, Young and Medlen are all under contract for 2017 as well, though at much smaller figures. It seems like it would be time for the Royals to move on and get some new blood in this rotation, yet the same set of six pitchers should be back. None of the latter four possesses much in the way of trade value either.
On the farm, the team’s top pitching prospect, Kyle Zimmer, is out for the year after needing surgery. He has struggled with injuries through the minor leagues. He will be back and ready to throw in 2017 but not likely with the big club. That would leave a position battle to an outside acquisition or maybe a retread like Luke Hochevar, the former number one overall draft pick. Hochevar hasn’t started a game in years but has 128 career starts. He has been much more effective out of the bullpen during his career, but necessity breeds change. And the Royals will have a need. It will be up to them whether they also want changes.
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