Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy are slated to be the Royals top three starters. But who fills in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots?
The emergence of Danny Duffy as a legitimate No. 1 starter was a godsend for Kansas City last season as the 27-year-old lefty finally put everything together. Duffy ended the year with a 3.51 ERA and 188 strikeouts over 179.2 innings – and solved the Royals seemingly never-ending search for a true ace.
But who the heck will be the Royals’ No. 4 and No. 5 starters next season?
Vargas and Young are current default options
Vargas, 33, has made a total of 12 starts the past two season having undergone Tommy John surgery in August 2015. He was perfectly mediocre for Kansas City in 2014, making 30 starts while going 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 187 innings. At this point in his career, Vargas is probably a spot starter. If he’s getting the ball regularly as the Royals’ No. 4 starter, it’ll be a long season.
That being said, Young is an even worse option to get the ball every fifth day. There’s no reason to be mean-spirited here, but Young’s days as a contributing member to a Major League Baseball team are probably over. The lanky 37 year old who forever will hold a spot in the heart of Royals fans everywhere for his 2015 postseason performance had a horrific 2016, posting a 6.39 ERA in 88.2 innings for Kansas City.
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Let’s hope the kids are alright
If the Royals plan to promote from within, there’s three young arms that could all make a case in spring training for the final two spots in the rotation.
First, let’s look at left-hander Matt Strahm, who spent time in Kansas City last year after recording 107 strikeouts against just 23 walks in 102 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. A bit of a late bloomer, the 25-year-old Strahm was a 21st round pick out of Neosho County Community College in southeast Kansas in 2012. Strahm was spectacular in his late-season callup last year, posting a 1.23 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 22 innings for the Royals.
While he was a reliever for the Royals, Strahm made 18 starts in the minor leagues last year and 11 in 2015. At every stop in the minors he’s averaged at least 9 strikeouts per 9 innings, but he has yet to pitch more than 130 innings in a season.
Staumont, the Royals top-ranked prospect, is the fireball option. A 2015 second-round pick from NCAA Division II Azusa Pacific, he fanned 167 batters in just 123.1 innings this past year in Double A and High A ball with a fastball that regularly touches triple digits. He also walked 104 hitters and ended the season with a 4.23 ERA. In the Arizona Fall League, which just concluded, Staumont went 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 24 innings.
Could he be ready to break camp with the big league club after spring training? Maybe, but it would most likely be as a reliever to start. Staumount threw 123.1 innings last season, more than triple the amount of innings he pitched in 2015. Look for him to be on a strict innings count in 2017, no matter where he’s at.
A lefty from the University of Central Floriday, Skoglund posted a 3.56 ERA in Double A last season, fanning 134 against just 38 walks in 156 innings. While he doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as either Strahm or Staumount, the 6-foot-7 Skoglund may be the most ready for a big league rotation. He’s put together two solid minor league campaigns the past two years, making 15 starts and recording a 6-3 record and a 3.53 ERA at High-A Wilmington in 2015.
Are there free agent options the Royals could look at? Of course! Glad you asked! We’ll hit those options up in an upcoming post.