KC Royals manager Ned Yost informed lefty Danny Duffy to focus on a bullpen role, while naming Chris Young as a starting pitcher to open the 2016 season.
I think putting Chris Young in the rotation is a mistake.
Yes, Chris Young pitched very well last season, going 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 123.1 innings and 18 regular season starts. Young continued to excel in the post-season, earning a win in the Kansas City Royals game 1 marathon in the World Series against the Mets and hold opponents to a tidy 2.87 ERA in five appearances that included two starts.
But, the problem is that Chris Young has worn down after about two months in the starting rotation the last two seasons. I don’t see how Young can be expected to gain durability in his age 37 season when he struggled with fatigue while filling a rotation spot at age 35 and age 36.
His splits the last two seasons make the problem pretty darn clear.
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In 2014, Chris Young came back from thoracic outlet surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder to post an impressive 8-6 start with a 3.15 ERA for Seattle before collapsing to a 4-5, 4.70 ERA second half finish. With the KC Royals in 2015, Young dominated in his first six starts with a 2.75 ERA after joining the rotation in May before crashing to 1-2, 5.11 ERA in five starts in July. Following a long rest after Johnny Cueto joined the team in a late-July trade, Young finished the season with two strong starts and an impressive post-season.
While I think opening the season with Chris Young in the rotation isn’t the best decision, I do recognize that Yost might be very well aware of Young’s limitations and intends to move him in and out of the rotation as the season progresses.
Of course, the hazard for any outside party like myself questioning a team’s personnel decision is the front office always has information the pundit lacks. Chris Young could have used a new exercise regimen that strengthened his shoulder shoulder muscles over the winter, or Duffy might have physical issues after starts that is only known within the organization. Many times, information that comes out after the fact explains front office decisions which seemed puzzling before.
The Kansas City Royals do have numerous experienced starting options in Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang who should be able to fill in if Young wears down by mid-season. Aside from Gee and Wang, top prospects Kyle Zimmer or Miguel Almonte could force their way into the KC Royals rotation picture with dominant performances at AAA Omaha. Danny Duffy could also earn his way back into the rotation mix if he shows improved command as a middle reliever.
The bottom line is that the KC Royals have enough rotation depth that a non-optimal rotation choice shouldn’t hurt the team too badly if Yost moves quick enough to prevent a poor performance from turning into a rotation black hole.