In a year of extreme ups and downs for the Kansas City Royals, Jake Junis is emerging as a positive above the rest. The surprising rookie is making a name for himself and proving he belongs in the majors.
The 29th-round pick by the Kansas City Royals in the 2011 draft—a pitcher out of Rock Falls, Illinois—is making a name for himself. He is doing so quickly in a year where inconsistency seems to be the norm.
Jake Junis has spent much of the past five years bouncing between the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals and lower Royals affiliates. It wasn’t until 2016 that Junis managed to make the jump to Triple-A Omaha.
Even though he has made seven different trips to the big leagues this year, he has made the most of each experience. The back-and-fourth started back on April 12 when the Kansas City Royals started extremely slow and the pitching struggled.
After two relief appearances, Junis was called upon to make his first start against the Twins. He managed to only go 4.2 innings but allowed just two runs in a 6-4 win.
After the All-Star break, Junis has made three different call-up appearances. The great thing about him is that he does not seem to miss a beat.
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Since being called up on July 24, Junis has a 3.24 ERA and a 4-0 record. He is averaging nearly six innings per start and has allowed less than two runs per start over his last four starts. For a team that has had an inconsistent bullpen this year, having a starter go six innings nearly every start is very helpful for the team.
His pitch efficiency is very impressive. Over his last 10 appearances, he is throwing an average of 15 pitches per inning. Since being called back up in July, he is averaging 14.5 pitches per inning. That type of efficiency is crucial, if he is going to go far into games in the future.
Something I find more impressive than any other number is his 21 strikeouts compared to two walks since July 24. That equates to just over eight strikeouts per nine innings.
In fact, over his last 10 appearances with the Kansas City Royals this year, he has 42 strikeouts compared to eight walks. That equates to a 5.25:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Simply put, the kid is throw strikes and he is making a lot of hitters miss. That is impressive for a rookie.
Future for Junis
His current numbers are a bit deceiving. When he was first called up, he made rookie mistakes, which was expected. Due to that, his ERA is 4.41 and his overall record is 6-2. Seemingly every start and relief appearance, he is getting better and better.
His pitches continue to improve, and—most noticeably—his slider is continuing to get better and stand out. It seems to be his strikeout-pitch that hitters are struggling to follow and hit. Having a solid mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a slider that moves sharply, with control, will make him a difficult pitcher to bat against.
As I have said, Junis is making a name for himself this year. He is becoming a reliable starter for the team. With recent struggles on and off the field for Kansas City Royals pitchers, it is nice to see a prospect become a viable starter in the big leagues.
If Junis continues at the rate he is going, don’t be surprised to see him as part of the Opening Day rotation in 2018 and—potentially—the No. 3 starter for the team next year.