Sep 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals defeated the Rangers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

A Bad Rotation Move Will Sink ’14 Royals


June 30, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Brad Penny (31) attempts to pick off the base runner at first against the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh inning at AT

The final piece to what could be a special season for the Royals has received more than it’s fair share of internet ink this week.  Yeah, you get it, the Royals really need one more quality starter.  Sorry, it’s a point worth bludgeoning.

We have all watched Dayton Moore and David Glass blow through red lights, or keep the car in neutral when the drag race begins.  It is not unfair, or irrational to worry that stubbornness and thriftiness will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Some may even say, there would be nothing more “Royals” the Royals could do.  Preemptively destroying all of the great work they did this off-season with one last “Royals Move?  Sounds about right!”

This is the column I hope is mocked later.  This is the post I hope is used to call me a chicken little.  I hope this quick piece never serves as an effective, “I told you so”, weapon.  This is about the worst of the three routes the Royals can take regarding their Opening Day rotation.  This is the “disaster scenario”.

The Royals break camp with any combination of Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, and Brad Penny as their 4th and 5th starters.  They just can’t start the season this way.  Brad Penny is no longer a major league baseball player.  He hasn’t been above average since 2007.  He’s no longer dating Alyssa Milano . What’s the point?  The thought of him making this team, while Yordano Ventura brushes up on his Nebraskan, makes me sick.

Davis and Hochevar have proven that their value lies in the pen.  Their times as starters in KC have been awful.  The Royals stuck with Davis about 7-10 starts too long last season, and that is one of the key reasons they missed the post season.  Two other reasons the Royals missed out on the playoffs last year?  They broke camp with Jeff Francoeur as their starting right fielder, and Chris Getz as their starting second baseman.  Everyone, but the Royals, seemed to understand who those two players were.  Role players at best.  Instead of gambling of Johnny Giavotella and David Loughthe Royals placed their April bets on horses with broken legs.

An argument could be made that Davis and Hochevar are safer bets for a winning April.  They have been there before, and the young guys can get an additional month or two of seasoning in AAA.  No way.  Davis and Hochevar will suck as starters in April, and they would continue to suck the rest of the year.  If Duffy and Ventura struggle early in the year, they still have huge upside.  They could improve!  Luke and Wade are bullpen guys.  Everyone knows it.  Let’s hope the Royals don’t need a losing April and May to figure out what the rest of baseball knows, again.

Davis and Hochevar can be valuable pieces to this team.  Great arms out of the pen, also serving as rotation insurance if the young guns collectively won’t fire.  If that happens, you slot Davis or Luke into the rotation.  Then you try like mad to trade them both, in order to trade and sign for that free agent starter you could have had all along.

Dayton Moore has proven that stubbornness is a part of his personality and decision-making. This off-season, he’s also shown his ability to think rationally and progressively.  Let’s all light candles and pray the Royals continue down this road less traveled, and don’t take that wrong, familiar one.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Luke Hochevar Wade Davis

  • jimfetterolf

    Opinions vary. Santana’s price and years are falling, so becomes more possible every day, but if he doesn’t sign I’m good with Hoch in the rotation while Ventura’s service clock is gamed. He does have equivalent stuff to the kids and more pitches, so has a chance to win a spot in spring training. Royals have a great deal of flexibility and performance will sort things out.

    • unclejesse40

      Jim I agree that Hoch is going to be the guy in that 5th spot. If I had to guess at the rotation I would say it looks like 1.Shields, 2. Guthrie, 3 Vargas, 4 Duffy, 5 Hoch. I don’t think that Duffy is the 4th best starter but I do think they will want him pitching against other teams number 4′s early on in the season to get some confidence and maybe a couple wins early. If the defense plays like it is capable of then Guthrie and Vargas are going to be fine at that spot early in the season. I still think Santana at 3 for 40 million would look nice.

      • jimfetterolf

        Saw that 3/40 from Bob, that’s something we can live with. On the rotation, I’ld go Shields, Duffy (as he’s faced and beaten Verlander, so won’t be shell-shocked at #2), Hoch, Vargas, and Guthrie to start, both from the L-R-L-R thing and because Luke isn’t a kid and has the stuff and experience to compete in the middle of the rotation. It will all get down to performance in spring training, could be Davis, could be Ventura. Team has options.

        • Ed Connealy

          I don’t understand the Hochevar as a starter way to predict the future is to look at the past. He’s always had the “stuff” to be a starter. BUT..assuming Luke does well in Spring Training, having him on the rotation day one may not be the end of the world. ( I still don’t like it one bit) That said, once he has back to back bad starts….Yordando time…service time be damned. Will Myers was traded so the Royals could make the playoffs this year.

          • Eric Akers

            Or a combination starting pitcher of Hooch and Davis (Hovis?). 3 Innings of Hooch followed by 3 innings of davis, then 3 innings of bullpen.

          • jimfetterolf

            One thing about Luke and Wade, we know they have ceiling as starters, both capable of dominating based on talent. Both also have a habit of blowing up, but some of the bad numbers from that come from Ned Yost letting them wear a bad start, team’s behind 5-0 he’ll send either back out just to burn innings, save the BP, and work on stuff. Their peripherals aren’t bad and in both cases we know the problems, so ST will sort things out and whichever of the three that gets the slot, if any, will have the other two close, the veteran available as swing man, the rookie up the freeway. Only a few weeks til ST when we start hearing from Surprise and Lee down there. Don’t think the Star has a new beat reporter yet, so Pete will probably be there too.

            On Luke specifically, he has thinned the herd down to three pitches and not even using a slider that was rated second only to Cliff Lee’s in ’11 or ’12, and that plus velocity makes him most likely to get the call if they don’t sign Santana.

          • jimfetterolf

            The past had all the kewl kidz wanting to non-tender Luke last year, then when he went to the ‘pen the past said he couldn’t pitch with men on base.

            The past doesn’t recognize adjustments for about three years, so misses both that Luke thinned his repertoire down from six pitches and that after the ’12 season he returned to his old long-toss training regimen that had made him a 98mph #1:1 draft choice before the Royals took him off of it and weakened his arm, like with Montgomery, causing him to have to overthrow to hit 95 and get a shoulder injury, again like Montgomery. The “present”, spring training, will make the decision on the rotation and Hochevar is very much in the mix with the luxury of also having Wade Davis and Yordano Ventura as competitors with Kyle Zimmer on a short horizon.

            As for Myers, the trade was less about a fallacious “all-in” than about the Royals taking the next step to legitimacy so they would be able to sign a Vargas, an Infante, and still be in play for Santana. FAs didn’t want to come to KC, which is why Guillen and Meche were overpaid in the early days and why Santana and Shields had to be traded for. Now, with Shields and with coming off of a competitive 86 win season, KC is a much more attractive destination. Next year, even with losing Shields, KC will still be attractive and maybe even more so with young talent under control and contending.

            The past has it’s uses, but so too does the scout’s eyeballs on the present. Luke may turn it around, he may not, but unlike ’12 and before the Royals have depth which gives them options, five plus arms competing for two rotation slots. That’s a step toward being a sustainable contender, which is the goal of David Glass and Dayton Moore and my personal hope for the team.

          • unclejesse40

            Ed I don’t really want to argue over this but what makes you think that Duffy, Ventura, or Zimmer are going to be anything more than bullpen arms? Duffy has never shown that he can go deep in games, Ventura is a fireball pitcher that is small framed and Zimmer is in AA ball. Now I want all of those guys to do well because if they do then the Royals will do well. but I think it is just as foolish to say that Duffy, Ventura, Zimmer are at this point are better options for the 2014 rotation than Hoch. I personally think that Hoch just might do ok this year having non of the pressure of being the teams “ace”. That is way to much pressure for a lot of young guys to handle.

            I personally believe that the Royals problem with prospects has been that they have needed them before they were ready. Gordon didnt spend much time in the minors, and struggled for a while. Hosmer, got up pretty quick and struggled, Moose got up and still hasnt figured it out. Crow was never really given the chance to learn to be a starter in the minors before being brought up as a reliever and killing his team value. I think Hoch had the same problem. To much, to fast.

  • cardsfanatik

    I’m not sold on Davis or Hochevar in the rotation either. Hochevar was successful as a 2 pitch pitcher last year in the BP. That won’t translate to the rotation. Davis has never been successful as a starter either. Both are lights out as relievers most of the time. That is still a valuable commodity. Trade them to a team needing set-up men, for a starter, or to free up the money to sign a starter. This team doesn’t need more BP depth. They do need a #2 starter, if they want to have a shot at October. If they are done with this starting rotation, other than starting Ventura, Duffy, with Zimmer as a potential call up should either of the prior 2 struggle, then this season is over before it begins. Hochevar and Davis won’t magically learn how to pitch as a starter this year, and Hochevar has been given YEARS in KC to prove he can start, he can’t. I wasn’t to terribly worried about it, but the more I think about it, if this team has nothing more in the tank for the rotation, its probably going to be a “good” season, finishing a not so close second to the Tigers, and short of the wild card because of some team like the Skankies and their salary bail outs. I don’t want to be doom and gloom this year, I want the boys in blue to stick it up the proverbial baseball worlds ass, but I don’t see it happening without another proven arm.

    • moretrouble

      Very nice comment cardsfan. I agree with most of it, although I wouldn’t trade away KC’s bullpen depth. It takes a heck of a lot of money to get from 86 to 92 wins. If KC needs one more veteran starter, I suggest David Glass go out and buy one.

  • moretrouble

    This is a great article, Ed, and you show much understanding of KC’s pitching options this season. I also agree with your reasoning about KC’s poor start last season. Your assertion that the front office is too slow to effect changes during the season is absolutely correct. If KC gets off to a slow start again, let’s hope it doesn’t take DM and his staff half the season to figure out the necessary personnel changes.

    • Ed Connealy

      Thanks Mo-T. They have broken some old chains this off season but I am still worried. Pride is the hardest of the deadly sins to overcome…Stubborn is another name for pride.

    • jimfetterolf

      Mo, depth shortens a lot of leashes. Royals have depth this year, much more than last. Catcher is still the shallowest position and I still wonder about letting Kottaras go.