The Kansas City Royals find themselves at an important juncture of the 2015 season. While they still lead the American League Central by 1.5 games over the Twins, the KC Royals face challenges with both their offense and their starting pitching.
These issues could derail what promises to be a great season.
Injuries to starters Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura threaten to derail the season. Vargas injured his forearm for the second time this season, returning to the disabled list after only three starts removed after returning from his first left-flexor strain
Along with Vargas’ forearm troubles, manager Ned Yost pulled young gun Yordano Ventura after the third inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Cardinals after he lost feeling in three fingers on his right hand. An MRI showed fluid around his ulnar nerve, but did not show any ligament tears in the elbow according to Fox Sports reporter Matthew DeFranks.
While the KC Royals expect Ventura to make his next start, KC Kingdom writer Mike Norris pointed out that tingling, or numbness, in the pinky and ring fingers is a key symptom of an ulnar collateral ligament tear according to WebMD.
The Kansas City Royals training staff needs to be VERY cautious with Ventura’s injury.
In the short term, Joe Blanton will replace Jason Vargas in the rotation while the team recalled Brandon Finnegan from AAA to take Blanton’s long reliever role in the bullpen. Yet, I can’t image that being anything more than a stop-gap move.
Joe Blanton hasn’t finished a season with an adjusted earned run average (ERA+) better than league average since 2009. In 2013, Blanton finished 2-14 with a 6.05 ERA for the Angels—a season so bad that Blanton retired.
While Blanton has pitched well this season for the Kansas City Royals after coming out of retirement (1.80 ERA in 15.0 innings pitched), I doubt he can hold down a starting role for any length of time.
The KC Royals do have internal options that could help. Danny Duffy is set to return from the disabled list any time now. Kris Medlen is pitching to hitters in Surprise, Arizona. And, former top-prospect John Lamb has fashioned a 6-1 record with a 2.78 ERA in AAA Omaha.
However, the injuries to Vargas and Ventura could force general manager Dayton Moore to make a deal for a starting pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline, in what shapes up to be a terrible buyer’s market due to the tight division races in the American League.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals offense continues to wallow. Royals hitters simply aren’t getting on base. According to Fox Sports, Kansas City’s on-base-percentage has crashed to .254 over the last 12 games, which is the worst performance in major-league baseball over that span.
Right now, the Kansas City Royals need to do something about the twin black holes in the lineup.
Alex Rios and Omar Infante just aren’t hitting. The slumping Rios is 4 for 38 since returning from a broken hand in early April. Second baseman Omar Infante continues to wave at pitches like a blindfolded matador. Infante’s triple slash line has crashed to an unacceptable .204/.213/.283.
If the offense continues to fail, Moore might need to find help on the tight trade market. Our David Hill identified Oakland utility man Ben Zobrist as a possible trade target. I would like to see the Royals explore a deal for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips.
The internal options to boost the offense include inserting utility man Christian Colon at second base, or calling up AAA outfielder Jose Martinez who is scorching the ball with a .370/.438/551 triple slash in the Pacific Coast League.
Dayton Moore can’t afford to let this season crash and burn. The Kansas City Royals still have the best record in the American League and a team that knows how to win in October. The moves he either does, or does not make, will go a long way toward determining the outcome of Kansas City’s 2015 season.