The Kansas City Royals signed a veteran pitcher that fans need to keep an eye on. Reason being, with the rotation not being 100% set in stone, Clay Buchholz could make his move.
When Kansas City Royals signed Clay Buchholz to a minor league contract, his spot with the team was a bit unknown. Was he going to be a bullpen arm? Or was he going to compete for a starting spot? Over the next few weeks, we will figure out the answer.
When news broke late March that the Royals signed Buchholz, it was a bit confusing.
At the same time, Dayton Moore seemed to be doing what he has created as a norm. Dig deep into the pitchers returning from injury, and turn them into bullpen arms that are productive.
By the numbers:
When looking at his career, Buchholz has a 4.01 career ERA over 208 games and 1,175.0 innings. He also has a career 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 3.3 walks per nine innings. When looking at his career it does not look half bad for a starter. Especially for a team that is rebuilding.
However, Buchholz has thrown over 140.0 innings in a season just once over the last five years. 2016 was the first year he was used in the bullpen as well.
Interesting enough, in 2016 he spent 21 games off and on as a starter while coming from the bullpen 16 times. As a bullpen arm, he posted a 3.65 ERA over 22.2 innings, striking out 5.3 hitters per nine innings and walking 3.6 hitters per nine innings. Not necessarily ideal for a bullpen arm.
As a starter in 2016, he posted a 5.21 ERA over his 21 starts. During that same span of time, Buchholz struck out 6.4 hitters per nine innings while walking 3.8 hitters per nine innings. When you include his two starts in 2017 before being shut down due to injury, his ERA jumps to 5.63 and he struck out 6.4 hitters per nine innings while walking 3.8 hitters per nine innings.
When taking everything he has recently done in, this is less than ideal.
Where Clay Buchholz fits
With the Royals rebuilding and trying to figure out what they have in the future, perhaps Buchholz best fits the team in the bullpen. Even though his velocity has steadily decreased over the years, he could provide the Royals with a veteran presence in the bullpen.
Buchholz could be that arm that can help bail the team out when the starters do not go deep into games. With injury history or inconsistencies of some of the current rotation arms, Buchholz could also provide the Royals with spot starts.
Anything more and I think the Royals will be pushing their luck. I say this because Buchholz has a pretty significant injury history. In 2015, Buchholz missed nearly the entire year due to a right flexor strain. Then in 2017 he essentially missed the entire year after tearing his right flexor tendon in his right elbow.
Having a similar injury two of the last three years is concerning. Which is partly why I think the Buchholz would better suit the Royals as a bullpen arm and potential spot start pitcher.
The biggest catch is Buchholz accepting this type of role. If he is not on the 25-man roster come May 1st, Buchholz can opt out of his contract. Whether or not he wants to be a bullpen arm or starter is not fully known, but that could play a part in whether or not he opts out to become a free agent.
For the time being, it is worth keeping an eye on how he does during Extended Spring Training and in the minors over the month of April. If he performs well, he could be a future piece to the bullpen this year. If the fifth starter spot remains up for grabs perhaps Buchholz becomes the fifth starter.
It will definitely be an interesting story to follow!
So what do you think Royals fans? Does Buchholz make the 25-man roster, or does he become a free agent? Should he be used as a bullpen arm or a starter? Let us know below!