The KC Royals designated reliever Louis Coleman for assignment to make room for recently-signed starter Ian Kennedy. Coleman’s departure puts the last bullpen spot up for grabs.
Even though pitchers do not report to spring training until February 18, the Kansas City Royals bullpen positions are mostly locked up barring unforeseen circumstances. The closer is Wade Davis. The set up men figure to be Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera. Luke Hochevar and Tim Collins will handle middle-relief. Chris Young is most likely to fill the long relief role.
If the KC Royals open the season with 12 relievers, that leaves one spot up for grabs during spring training without an incumbent after Louis Coleman‘s release.
The 40-man roster gives a clue who the front office sees as candidates for that final position. Minor league relievers Scott Alexander, Brian Flynn, Alec Mills, and Matthew Strahm populate the 40-man roster, along with rotation prospects Kyle Zimmer and Miguel Almonte.
While Zimmer and Almonte could get their feet wet in the bullpen next season, I suspect the front office will prefer to let them work as starters if they can’t win a rotation spot with the KC Royals this spring. That leaves Alexander, Flynn, Mills, and Strahm as the favorites to snag the no. 7 position in the bullpen.
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Of the four, the one KC Royals fans should keep an eye on is Matt Strahm. The 24-year-old Strahm returned to action last season after missing two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. Strahm dominated in Class A Lexingtion (2.08 ERA, 13.2 K/9) and High A Wilmington (2.78 ERA, 11.0 K/9) in his return.
What makes Strahm interesting is that the front office wasted no time protecting him. Strahm possesses a slider that eats up lefties, holding them to a .143 average in 2015. Strahm could earn a job in Kansas City as a LOOGY, since lefty Tim Collins has a reverse platoon split over his career. It would be a big jump for Strahm, but could happen if he shows that he can get same-side hitters out in big league camp.
This is the second straight year that the 30-year-old Louis Coleman has been designated for assignment before spring training. Last season, no one claimed Coleman and he returned to pitch for AAA Omaha.
Coleman has bounced between AAA and the KC Royals big club since 2011. Though he has posted solid results (3.20 ERA, 9.4 K/9) during the last five seasons of part-time play, he’s never been able to stick in the Kansas City Royals bullpen. Part of the reason is that Coleman’s career 4.30 Fielding Independent Pitching suggests he’s enjoyed good fortune in his 177.1 career innings pitched. Last season saw Coleman only appear in four games with Kansas City.
By designating Louis Coleman for assignment, the Royals must either trade him within 10 days or place him on waivers—which will allow any other team to claim him for his major-league minimum salary.
If no team claims Coleman once again, I would be surprised to see him return to Omaha given his inability to crack the KC Royals bullpen last seaosn.