Cueto solidifies a rotation that had been struggling for much of 2015. He not only strengthens the staff, but he will be immediately inserted at the top of the rotation as the ace of this staff. The term “ace” gets thrown around a lot in Major League Baseball. After all, Yordano Ventura was supposedly the ace of the rotation as he made the Opening Day start and is getting a hefty 23 million dollar contract.
Yet, if you ask scouts or people who truly know the game, most of these aces are really just No. 1 guys as opposed to a true ace. The term ace is left for the elite pitchers; only a handful in today’s game fit the bill. Johnny Cueto is in this sacred group. He has been for quite some time with the Reds.
As baffling as these numbers may be, it’s not outrageous to suspect Cueto could perform even better with the Kansas City Royals. Royals fans would thankful if Cueto put up similar numbers, as they have longed for a pitcher with his ability since Zach Greinke. Still, there are many reasons that Cueto more than likely will perform better in a Royals uniform.
First, the most obvious reason is the defense. Filled with Gold Glovers, and others who deserve recognition for their defense, the Royals defense has done a great job aiding all of their pitchers. Kansas City is fourth in defensive efficiency and first in defensive runs saved. The other day Fox Sports Kansas City threw up a graphic talking about how Alcides Escobar is first in “relay assists” with 30 since 2011. Even Ryan Lefebvre had no idea that was a stat.
Point being, constantly baseball nerds are pulling up more and more incredible stats to explain how phenomenal this defense is. We, as Kansas City fans, know this; it’s not something new for us, even if the statistics to quantify it are. It is, however, new for Cueto, who leaves an average defense for one of the league’s best. So, even if he doesn’t have his best stuff, Cueto can trust his defense to make his life much easier on any given day.
Second, Cueto may miss some things about Cincinnati, but what he won’t miss is pitching in Great American Ballpark. This homer-heavy ballpark is no friend to pitchers, with it’s unique ballpark design that aids the long ball. Cueto averaged 1 home run per nine innings in the confines of Great American Ballpark as opposed to 0.8/9 on the road.
Long time voice of the Kansas City Royals Denny Matthews noted this during the broadcast of Sunday’s game. Admittedly, it is beneficial for Cueto to be going from one of the toughest ballparks to pitch in at Great American Ballpark to one of the better ballparks to pitch in at Kauffman Stadium. I tend to side with the hall of famer, he’s been around the game for quite some time.
Finally, the American League is just down this year. There always seems to be a question about National League pitchers making the transition to the AL; after all they now have to face a designated hitter as opposed to a free out in a pitcher. But former Cueto neighbor and current Royal, Edinson Volquez has made the transition look very easy. He’s having an even better year than he did last year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and has made fans miss James Shields less. Prior to this trade, many believed Volquez would get the nod Game 1 of a playoff series.
Cueto will certainly benefit from the lack of serious contenders in the AL. Even with the Houston Astros having an ace, the Angels having the best player in the world, the Royals were considered the favorites prior to acquiring Cueto. You have to imagine Kansas City will be overwhelming favorites after acquiring one of the best pitchers available at the trade deadline.
This is a marriage that obviously bodes well for the Royals. They get their first true ace since Greinke on a team that is a serious World Series contender. But given the superb defense, the weak American League, and the pitcher-friendly ballpark – This marriage might just be perfect for Cueto as well.