Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Louis Coleman was going to face an uphill battle to claim a spot in the Royals’ bullpen when the team breaks camp. With so many other pitchers already locked in to the roster, it seemed like Coleman would be on the outside looking in. Since he is out of options, he could find himself designated for assignment in just a couple of weeks.
Coleman is doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen.
On Friday night, he pitched 2 innings against the Padres, and struck out 5 batters, bringing his Spring Training total to 14. That’s 14 strikeouts in 8.2 innings. He’s struck out 14 of the 33 batters he’s faced – a strikeout rate of 42.4% – and to cap it all off, he hasn’t walked any of the other 19 batters. That’s a strikeout-to-walk ratio that has no numerical existence.
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Coleman has only allowed 3 runs during camp, and he’s surrendered just 1 dinger in the dry desert air. And he’s been doing this against pretty good competition, with an 8.5 opposition quality, according to Baseball Reference.
These stats don’t mean everything, but it’s always better to see good stats than bad stats. Coleman has good stats.
Before camp got underway, I did think Coleman would be on another team’s roster by Opening Day, and while that’s still a possibility, I’m starting to believe the odds he heads north with the Royals have gotten much better.
We know Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor, and Chris Young will be in the Royals’ bullpen on April 6. It sounds like Franklin Morales has a spot locked up as well, while Luke Hochevar appears headed to the disabled list for a rehab assignment in the minors. That leaves the team with a few options.
If they go with 7 relievers, Coleman would probably be the most logical choice, since he’s out of options and has had success at the big league level before. Once Hochevar is ready to go, the Royals could decide if they want to stick with 7, in which case Coleman could be designated for assignment, or they could choose to keep everybody and roll with an 8-man bullpen.
The benefit of waiting until after the season starts to cut Coleman loose is the fact that other teams already have their rosters set, which could make it easier for him to slide through waivers unclaimed. I still think another team is likely to pick him up (I’m looking at you, Dodgers) but the odds of keeping him in the organization certainly would be higher.
If they go with 8 relievers, it’s basically the plan from above, but with Rule 5 draft pick Jandel Gustave in the final spot. I think having that many relievers is a waste of a roster spot, particularly for a team that should contend for a division crown, but it looks like an option the Royals are considering.
Granted, there are other bullpen options, including Brian Flynn and Ryan Madson, but Coleman’s impressive spring might give him a leg up. That, and let’s not forget he had a 2.69 ERA in his first 140 big league innings, along with more than 10 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Coleman really struggled in his 31 appearances last year, but he’s been a very good relief pitcher in the past. He’s just spent the last few weeks reminding everyone just how good he can be.