In 1985, then-General Manager John Shuerholz of the Kansas City Royals, along with Manager Dick Howser hung their rotation hopes on three young pitchers in route to the team’s first and only World Series title.
Bret Saberhagen (21), Mark Gubicza (22) and Danny Jackson (23) anchored a starting rotation along with two 28-year olds – Charlie Leibrandt and Buddy Black. Each of the five starters would end up with double digits wins for the season.
Could the 2014 version of this trio be, say, Will Smith (23), Yordano Ventura (22) and Danny Duffy (24)?
When the 1985 season began, the young trio of Saberhagen, Gubicza and Jackson had 157.2, 189 and 95 major league innings pitched, respectively. Smith, Ventura and Duffy have 123, 15.1 and 157.1 major league innings pitched, respectively.
When Moore said last week that the Royals are committed to developing their young players, is he foreshadowing a notion of a youthful rotation filled in with veterans James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie? How much does General Manager Dayton Moore and Manager Ned Yost trust the stuff of these 3 kids?
In 1985, only 4 games were started by a pitcher other than the starting 5 rotation mentioned above. Four of the five worked over 200 innings each, with only Gubicza falling short of that mark (177.1). And four of the five started over 30 games each with Gubicza right on their heels (28).
Combined, the 1985 trio began that season with having pitched 927 minor league innings in addition to their limited major league experience. The 2014 version of that trio has logged 1,522 minor league innings in addition to their limited major league time.
How much seasoning is enough? Does the trio of Smith, Ventura and Duffy have the kind of ability that the 1985 trio had? With the absence of re-signing Ervin Santana, and with Moore’s expressed intent to stay within the organization, this trio may be the question that Moore and Yost need to answer.
Of course, there are other options within. Bruce Chen, if re-signed, certainly gets a strong look every year for a rotation spot. Wade Davis is in the mix, though he excels coming out of the bullpen. And Kyle Zimmer is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, yet will probably simmer a bit more in the minors.
With 2014 being Moore’s final year of his GM contract, it will be interesting to see if he pulls the trigger on a free agent pitcher, trades some of his youth for pitching or goes with his gut and rides a trio of young, strong, talented arms, a la Shuerholz in 1985.