2018 Royals Season Preview – Kelvin Herrera

BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Kelvin Herrera
BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Kelvin Herrera /

Once regarded as one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, 2017 was not kind to Kelvin Herrera. In what was the worst season of his career, Herrera was never able to establish any momentum or confidence at any point in the season. After avoiding arbitration for one more season by agreeing to terms with the Royals on a one-year deal, can Herrera return to being the dominant force he once was?

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Ryan Buchter, I highly recommend it. Each article will link to the previous season preview. Many of you may remember an article a little over a week ago questioning whether or not Kelvin Herrera will finish the season with the team. It concluded by stating Herrera’s salary may not be worth keeping on the books all season. The trade rumors surrounding the 28-year-old may manifest into an actual midseason transaction. The two-time All-Star will surely be looking to return to his old self in 2018.

What did he offer last season?

2017 was a year to forget for Kelvin Herrera, to say the least. The flame-throwing righty appeared in 64 games for the Royals last season, pitching 59.1 innings. Last season, Herrera posted career-worsts (excluding his two-game 2011 season) in ERA and FIP with 4.25 and 4.30, respectively. He also tied his career-high with nine home runs allowed. Blowing five saves in 31 opportunities, it seemed as if Herrera wasn’t able to handle the pressure of being the club’s closer. Strikeouts weren’t exactly routine (8.5 K/9) but came a bit more frequently than in 2015 (8.3 K/9).

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer predicts a bit of a bounce-back for Herrera in 2018:

  • 65 innings pitched
  • 31 saves
  • 3.82 ERA
  • 65 K

Evidently, Steamer sees Herrera as the full-time closer for the Royals in 2018. The system also sees Herrera pitching more innings than he did last season and experiencing a bit more success this time around. All of this seems pretty close to spot-on. I’m going to take just a couple under 65 innings pitched and ever-so-slightly over 65 strikeouts. 31 saves is pretty accurate: I’m taking the even. A definite bounce-back candidate this season, Herrera’s ERA lowering from 4.25 to 3.82 doesn’t seem to do him quite enough justice. I’ll take slightly under 3.82. Don’t expect him to put up 2015/2016-like numbers, though.

The verdict

One of many players looking to either resurrect their career or bounce back from a rough 2017 campaign, Kelvin Herrera is in complete control of how his 2018 season goes. Looking at his career numbers, it’s not out of the question to expect him to somewhat resemble his old self this season. Picking him to be an All-Star isn’t a safe bet, but expect things to go a lot more smoothly in 2018 than they did in 2017 for the seventh-year reliever. If they don’t, he very well could be on the move when July rolls around.

What do you think, Royals fans? Can we expect the old Kelvin to come back? Is he going to be even worse this season? Something in between? Let us know what you have to say about it!