With the recent demotions of speedy outfielder Terrance Gore and reliever Matt Strahm, the KC Royals called up two relievers to help aid their pen. One has already made their debut, lefty Scott Alexander was a September roster addition in 2015. The other relievers next game will be their first. Jake Junis.
These call-ups were announced this afternoon before tonight’s game against the Oakland Athletics. The KC Royals elected to go with two relievers instead of any bench help, leaving Whit Merrifield and Billy Burns in the minors.
But let’s focus on the newest member of the Royals major league club, Jake Junis. One of the better pitching prospects, Junis is ranked as the 6th overall prospect in the KC Royals Organization, according to MLB.com, only behind pitchers Matt Strahm, Josh Staumont, Erik Skoglund, and Scott Blewett. Picked in the 2011 Draft as a 29th round pick, Junis has slowly risen up the minor league ranks, making his way onto the 40 man roster last offseason.
Junis has mostly pitched as a starter in the minors, appearing in 101 game, 96 of them starts.
A cool background, Junis was a basketball star in a Illinois high school and was dual baseball player, pitching and playing third base. Drafted by the Royals in 2011, Junis made his pro ball debut in 2012, pitching 7 games in the Rookie League for the Burlington Royals. Junis then went to Idaho Falls in 2013, struggling immensely. His control was good that year, posting 55 SO to 17 BB in 59.2 IP. His problem was filling the strike zone too much, giving up a whopping 12.8 H/9, good for the second worst in the Pioneer League that year.
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Junis then rebounded though in Single A Lexington in 2014. He went 9-8 with a 4.30 ERA that year in 26 appearances.
Then came Junis’ best professional season, making 27 appearances between A+ Wilmington and AA NW Arkansas, posting a 3.78 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP while posting the 15th best BB/9 in the minor leagues that year.
Junis, now rising up the prospects list, found himself in AA last year, where he performed really well. He had a late season swoon though, struggling in the hitter friendly AAA .
But Junis has made his advances. As Fangraphs pointed out, he increased his K% in Double A from 14% to 24%. The KATOH Prospect Rankings rank Jake Junis as the Royals 13th best prospect, projecting him for a 1.9 WAR in his first six years.
What Junis impresses me with, and everyone else, is his ability to command all of his pitches. He comes at you with a moving fastball, a curveball he can locate well, and a decent changeup.
His fastball sits in the low 90s. But he can reach mid-90s in the in the pen.
If his role in the majors league is a full-time reliever, his pitches could play well, with his two average to above-average secondary offerings. If he spends time in the rotation in the future, look for him to be more of a reliable back-end starter with good control.
Junis should be an interesting pitcher out of the pen. He’ll probably start out as a versatile reliever, that can give you an out or give you 4 innings out of pen. Look for him to settle into a more defined role later in the future. Overall, he could provide some quality innings for the KC Royals, no matter the role.