It’s no secret that the KC Royals do not revel in their mediocre starting pitching and rely heavily on their lockdown bullpen. In fact, the Royals bullpen tossed a total of 539.1 innings in 2015, good for fifth on the total list. With the departure of Johnny Cueto and the addition of Ian Kennedy, the rotation should stack up as follows…(with Ventura and Volquez in interchangeable 1/2 roles).
While the top four members of the Royals pitching rotation seem to be locked in place and Chris Young is likely to retain his rotation spot, manager Ned Yost is indefinitely keeping an eye on possible replacements for the two backend men. With Young giving up four earned runs on six hits in two innings of play on Friday against the Dbacks, the gap between Young and (one would assume next in line) Kyle Zimmer begins to close.
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Zimmer has caught the eye of many KC Royals fans, tossing six total innings over three starts and allowing just one earned run this spring, not to mention five strikeouts over that time. A concern for Ned Yost and GM Dayton Moore would have to be the health of the young right hander, who has struggled to stay healthy in the past and has accrued injuries in many of the recent seasons, only pitching 64 innings in the minors last season (but holding a competent a 2.39 ERA).
With a lights out fastball mixed with a sneaky slider and a crazy curveball, he has more than enough material to break the Royals rotation at some point during the year. The question then arises: could Zimmer crack the Royals rotation to start the season?
I am all for Zimmer holding the Royals fifth starter spot, especially with Young struggling this spring; the tall righty has only thrown four innings for the Royals and has given up five earned runs. It is also important to note that the ballparks in Arizona do not boast the outfield depths that Kauffman Stadium does in Kansas City and that the two longballs that CY has given up would probably send Gordon, Cain or Orlando to the warning track at the K; if Young were to retain the #5 spot, the Royals would need him to be sharp no matter the park that he’s in.
Yes, it’s just spring training, but April 3rd is arriving quickly and it’s time to start looking at the scenarios that would put the Royals atop the American League once again. Given the individual performances of Young and K-Zim (we’ve got a K-Mo, a CY and a LoCain, why not?), I believe giving Zimmer a real shot is the way to go. I, for one, would love to see what the kid could do in the Bigs.