Heading into the 2017 season, the Royals’ starting rotation was a huge question mark. After some injuries and poor performance, a kid by the name of Jakob Junis was given multiple opportunities to start. It’s safe to say he made the most of them, grabbing the attention of fans, teammates and front office staff alike. With a couple spots in the rotation for the taking in 2018, does one of them belong to Junis?
If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Ian Kennedy, I highly recommend it! Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. Ian Kennedy is coming off a very rough 2017 and although he may improve a tad bit this season, don’t count on him to be his old self. Let’s take a trip back in time to the end of the Kennedy piece:
"“Better days are ahead – tomorrow’s preview will be a positive one! I promise.”"
I’m a man of my word, so here we go. A young pitcher made his season debut in April of last year and split time between the MiLB and MLB until he received his final promotion on August 14. Many of you may remember Jakob (or Jake) Junis? Yes, that was him. After quickly becoming a fan favorite because of his youth and potential, can Junis take a step forward this year?
What did he offer last season?
In 2017, Junis pitched 71 and 98.1 innings at the AAA and MLB levels, respectively. In Omaha, Junis appeared in 12 games (all starts) and had an ERA of 2.92. His K/9 was a remarkable 10.90 and he walked just under two batters per nine innings. I struggled to find any holes while looking at Junis’ minor league stats on the year – they were brilliant. The 25-year-old righty dominated in the minor leagues and the Royals called Junis up on many occasions throughout the season.
Junis appeared in 20 games (16 starts) with the Royals and averaged 5.8 innings per start, including pitching at least five innings in his final eight starts of the year. He saw his K/9 dip to 7.32, but his walk rate remained low. His 9-3 record on the season indicates amazing success but when looking closer, Junis’ 4.30 ERA shows he still has work to do in order to become a good pitcher. All-in-all, Jake Junis was great in the minor leagues and flashed immense potential with the Royals.
What can we expect in 2018?
Steamer projects Jakob Junis will win the same amount of games in 2018, but will lose nine more than last year:
- 29 starts
- 171 innings pitched (5.9 innings per start)
- 9-12 record
- 4.68 ERA
- 7.39 K/9
It appears as if the projections aren’t very fond of Junis. I, for one, am quite fond of the young right-hander and believe he will be very solid in 2018. Steamer does give credit to Junis’ endurance and efficiency (projecting 5.9 innings per start), which I think is a spot-on prediction. 29 starts is an accurate figure as well. Considering Junis posted a K/9 of 7.32 in a little over half a season of work in 2017, 7.39 seems just about right. Don’t be surprised if it’s a bit higher than that, though. I’m taking a couple over 9 wins and a few under 12 losses in 2018. I anticipate the ERA to be below 4.68 as well. Overall, it should be a very solid second campaign for Junis and he should progress quite well.
Jakob Junis was very fun to watch in 2017. He went deep into games, pitched efficiently and put W’s on the board. Expecting him to progress this season is only natural. Are there going to be some struggles? Of course. Bad games happen when it comes to young pitchers. However, there are also going to be more gems like this one in 2018. Having a young right-hander who can give you nearly six innings a game is a luxury, especially if he’s effective while doing so. Junis should provide the Royals a solid complement to Danny Duffy, the subject of tomorrow’s preview. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the rotation ahead of Spring Training but one thing is a sure bet: you’ll hear Jakob Junis’ name quite a few times in 2018.
What do you think, Royals fans? Is Jakob Junis going to continue to progress in 2018? Is the league going to figure him out? Let us know what you have to say!