Royals 23-year-old pitching prospect Jake Junis has enjoyed a nice 2016 season that has seen him earn a promotion to AAA Omaha. Junis has a mid-rotation upside and could help in Kansas City as early as 2017.
Though the 6’2″ 225 pound Jake Junis was a 29th round pick in 2011, his talent level was more like a second round draft pick. In the last year before the current penalties for going over slot with signing bonuses, the KC Royals gave Junis $625,000 to join the organization.
After spending his first two seasons in rookie league short-season ball, Junis has rapidly rose through the Kansas City Royals system since 2014.
Jake Junis started 2016 with AA NW Arkansas, compiling a 9-7, 3.25 ERA in 21 starts with a solid 8.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. That performance earned him a promotion to Omaha, where he lasted 7.0 innings while allowing 1 earned run and striking out 7 in his AAA debut.
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If Junis continues to excel through the end of the season, he could earn a September call-up after rosters expand. However, for that to happen, the KC Royals would need to make room on the 40-man roster.
Junis’ fastball has improved to the point where it now consistently sits between 92 to 94 mph. He also throws a hard curve and an improving change-up.
With a the expected thin pitching market in free-agency coming this winter, the Kansas City Royals really need some help from the minor leagues. With no real top-shelf pitching prospects outside the perpetually-injured Kyle Zimmer, they’re going to need to catch some luck with lower pedigree prospects.
In short, the KC Royals could really use their own version of Corey Kluber. Kluber added a pitch to transform himself from a marginal minor-league prospect into a Cy Young winner in 2014 for the Cleveland Indians. Heck, if the Kansas City Royals could find a mid-rotation guy that can eat innings in 2017, it would be a significant boost.
Junis could conceivably become such a player, along with fellow fast-mover Matt Strahm—who is currently contributing some nice innings as a lefty reliever since his promotion to Kansas City in late July. Other candidates include 26-year-old Brian Flynn (currently in the KC Royals bullpen) and Brooks Pounders.
As the KC Royals playoff chances continue to dim, the remainder of the 2016 season needs to become about sorting out which young players could possibly help out in Kansas City in 2017.
I know that isn’t what anyone wanted for the 2016 season, but Dayton Moore needs to grab the available value.