Royals Roster Decisions: Louis Coleman


Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

As you surely know by now, the Royals have been connected to several different names in free agency, and they make sense as potential landing spots for a handful of players on the trade market. While they do have 5 open spots on their 40-man roster, the Royals still may need to make a decision on the futures of a few players in the next couple of weeks, when the deadline to tender contracts approaches.

I’ve already written a brief profile on Aaron Crow, and today I’ll turn my focus to another 2009 draft pick, Louis Coleman.

Coleman was drafted in the 5th round that year, and after a couple of seasons in the minors, he joined the big league bullpen in late April of 2011. His rookie campaign was a successful one, posting a 2.87 ERA in 59.2 innings, along with 9.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and 3.9 walks per 9 innings. He started the 2012 season back in Omaha, but spent most of the year on the I-29 Express, being called up to the big leagues on 4 separate occasions.

That year, Coleman’s strikeouts went up, but so did his walks, hits, and runs allowed. In 2013, Coleman again spent time between Triple-A and the majors, but when he pitched for the Royals, he was outstanding. In 29.2 innings of work, he allowed only 2 earned runs, while striking out 32 and walking just 6. The Royals hoped this was a sign of things to come for the sidearming right-hander.

Unfortunately, 2014 was a season to forget.

Coleman struggled mightily this year, putting up a 5.56 ERA in 34 innings, allowing 6 home runs in the process. He also forgot how to miss bats, dropping his strikeouts to 6.4 per 9. His swinging strike rate fell to a career-low 10.6%, and even though he threw fewer balls in the strike zone, the ones he did throw in the strike zone were struck by a bat. He allowed a career-high Z-Contact% of 84.8%, which resulted in an OPS allowed of .862.

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One of the biggest things working against Coleman is his propensity to give up the long ball. In his career, he’s allowed 26 home runs in 174.1 innings. Excluding his 2013 season, Coleman’s surrendered 25 dingers in 144.2 innings. That’s a lot. Being a fly ball pitcher, Coleman is more prone to give up an occasional home run, but his career home run per fly ball rate of 12% is higher than you’d like to see.

Something Coleman did well earlier in his career to counteract so many dingers was by inducing a ton of infield fly balls. In 2011 and 2012, his infield fly ball rates were 20.2% and 18.8%, respectively. In the last two seasons, those rates have plummeted to 8.3% in 2013, and a dreadful 2.5% this season. The two easiest ways for a pitcher to get outs are by getting strikeouts and getting popups. In 2014, Coleman did those things at a lower rate than he ever had before.

Coleman has not reached a full 3 years of service time yet, but he did meet the Super Two threshold, which means he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this year. MLB Trade Rumors projects his salary to be roughly $700,000, which is certainly not a number that would prevent the Royals from making other moves.

And despite his recent struggles, Coleman has a longer track record of success the Royals could look to when projecting his performance in 2015. Something else to consider: Coleman has used up all 3 of his options, meaning the organization would have to pass him through waivers if they try to move him to a minor league roster next season. If they think they already have a fully-stocked major league bullpen, they could consider non-tendering him and moving forward with other candidates.

Final decision on Coleman: Keep him. His 2014 was certainly disappointing, and I think his homer problems are more of a feature than a bug, but his salary isn’t high enough to be an issue. Plus, if he starts missing bats again, the Royals will have yet another valuable weapon in their bullpen. Despite his sidearm delivery, Coleman doesn’t have a terribly extreme platoon split, so he can be more than just a right-handed specialist. If his salary escalates in the next year or two, the Royals will likely want to reconsider paying a middle reliever that much, but until then, they should hold onto what could be a solid contributor in their relief corps.