Which Pitching Prospect Reaches Kansas City First?

Greg Holland may turn out to be a solid major league reliever.  He’s had solid numbers in every stop in the minors until debuting last season for the Royals, most notable of which are his high K/9 ratings.  But Holland may be a mere footnote someday, an answer to the trivia question of “Which Dayton Moore draftee reached the majors first?”

Hopefully, in a few years casual fans assume Mike Moustakas, perhaps coming off a few all-star seasons, was the first such player.  No matter who comes up in 2011, Holland will be the answer to the question.

The wealth of the Royals system is still surfacing, but we may see some of the prospects a bit sooner than expected.

After a few moves, the Royals have a rotation that will include Zack Greinke, Sean O’Sullivan, recently retained Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies and Vin Mazzaro, the return from the David DeJesus trade. As long as Greinke doesn’t get traded, those will comprise the starting five.

In an article today in the Kansas City Star, Bob Dutton suggested that the Royals may turn to options in the minors in the event that a starter gets traded or injured. Dutton dragged two names out of Dayton Moore for potential candidates:

Everett Teaford and Danny Duffy,” Moore confirmed. “We’re going to give those guys an opportunity (in spring training). We’ve got to find out who those guys are as we move forward. We’re going to give those guys the innings.”

It’s expected that Teaford and Duffy will start the year in Omaha, but they might be the first two to get the call if the Royals need some innings from the rotation. To me, it’s a little exciting. First, I like seeing young players make their debuts anyway, but Duffy’s arrival would be the first step in The Process becoming realized.

A third round pick in 2007, Duffy has a career 2.54 ERA, 1.104 WHIP and a 10.5 K/9 strikeout rate in 308 innings. He’s got a fastball that sits in the 92-94 range and routinely hits 95. Spending the first half of the year on a personal hiatus didn’t seem to stop his progression at all, and his curveball and changeup are developing to be plus pitches as well. Duffy projects to be a solid #2 or #3 starter, with greater upside if he can improve his command.

Teaford broke out in 2010, striking out 113 batters in 99 innings at Double A. At 26 years old, he’s taking slow steps to get through the Royals system but he’s been promoted in-season in each of the last two years. After starting out in Wilmington and posting a 2.39 ERA in 64 innings, he moved to Northwest Arkansas where he got hit a bit hard. In 2010, he started in Double A and performed well enough (on the year, Teaford had a 3.36 ERA as a Natural with a 113/32 K/BB ratio) to get a start in Omaha. He got beat up in that one start, but after being added to the Royals 40 man roster last month, Teaford looks set to be in line as a replacement if someone goes down this year.

If I had to pick one of these two to make it up, I’d go with Teaford as the first option. Duffy has more upside and talent, but Teaford has a leg up and is more “of age” to make the jump.

Injuries happen all the time, and there’s no guarantee that O’Sullivan or Davies will do well enough to stick in the rotation, so it’s a decent bet that we’ll see one of these two in Kansas City in 2011. There’s the option of using Robinson Tejeda as a starter, a role he excelled at back in September 2009. And while the Royals say they like in-house options, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if they brought in a starter or tried to find another Bruce Chen – who led the team in wins after signing a minor league contract last winter.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Danny Duffy Everett Teaford Kansas City Royals KC MLB Royals

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