2018 Royals Season Preview – Nathan Karns

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 13: Nate Karns
KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 13: Nate Karns /

Acquired in a trade for former Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, there were significant expectations for Nathan Karns in 2017. What started off as a promising season in the back end of the rotation quickly went south when Karns underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. With the bar again set high for 2018, can Karns make a return and produce for the entire season?

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Kelvin Herrera, I highly recommend it. Each preview will have a link to a previous one in the first main paragraph. We’ve finally made it to the starting rotation! The bullpen portion of the 25-man roster is complete and for the next five days, we will be going over the potential starting rotation and giving a preview for each player within it. Today’s focus will be on a pitcher many were relying upon to produce in 2017. He’s a pitcher who didn’t end up producing much. That pitcher is… Nathan Karns.

Acquired in an offseason trade for beloved former Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, fans immediately expected Karns to add value at a rate comparable to their solid ex-center fielder. A former National, Ray, and Mariner, Nathan (also known as Nate) Karns has pitched more than 100 innings in a season just once in his career. The 30-year-old righty is notorious for suffering injuries and missing significant time because of them. Karns’ best season to date came in 2015 when he posted a 3.67 ERA in 147 innings of work. After avoiding arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.375 million deal, Karns will be looking to reestablish himself in 2018.

What did he offer last season?

Before undergoing thoracic outlet surgery, Karns appeared in nine games (eight starts) for the Royals in 2017. In his eight starts, Karns pitched 44.2 innings and had an ERA of 3.55. His K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) was also fantastic, sitting at 10.2. Although he did give up a whopping four runs in his one relief appearance (.2 innings), Kansas City will rely on him to be a starter in 2018. You may take his bullpen statistics with a grain of salt. Overall, Nathan Karns performed very well in his quarter-ish of a season. He didn’t allow too many runs, went relatively deep into games and excelled when it came to striking out plenty of batters. Can Royals fans expect this level of performance throughout the entire 2018 season? Let’s find out.

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer isn’t very optimistic when it comes to Nathan Karns’ 2018:

  • 16 starts
  • 91 innings pitched (5.69 innings per start)
  • 5-6 record
  • 4.50 ERA
  • 8.71 K/9

This is a lot to take in. Karns has incentives built in his contract for 15 and 20 starts, as well as an All-Star incentive. Barring any setbacks (the Royals expect him to be ready for Spring Training), I fully expect Karns to eclipse the 16-start mark. With that said, he should also pitch more than 91 innings. I will take the over on both five wins and six losses. I predict Karns’ ERA to sit a tick below 4.00 this season, so I’m going under 4.50. With a lifetime K/9 of 9.3, it’s not likely Karns would have sustained a 10.2 figure for all of 2017, but I’ll still take a hair over 8.71. Just one of many Royals in store for a small bounce back season, Karns’ 2018 comes at a pivotal point in his career.

The verdict 

Nathan Karns started 2017 off on a high note. He couldn’t end it on one, but this could be the season he puts everything together and is an above-average pitcher. He won’t be a world-beater, but it’s completely possible Karns performs better than he’s projected to. This would not only help the club, but it would also help his case once arbitration rolls around next winter. There are plenty of pitchers on the Royals coming off injuries or bad seasons, so expect Karns to chase success just as hard as the next guy.

What do you think, Royals fans? Will Nathan Karns establish himself as a reliable pitcher this season? Is he due for another injury? Will he be effective? Let us know what you have to say!