Kansas City Royals: Projecting Jakob Junis’ and Brad Keller’s 2019

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KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 16: Starting pitcher Jakob Junis #65 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 16: Starting pitcher Jakob Junis #65 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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The Kansas City Royals are stocked with young talent on their pitching staff.

Two of the better young arms are Jakob Junis and Brad Keller. Both bring different things to the table, and both should take on a big role on this Kansas City Royals pitching staff.

What should we expect and who ends 2019 with the most success?

Jakob Junis

Junis, at 26, is the older of the two and has the most big league experience. He had some trouble mid year, but both he and Keller started and ended the season well.

He lead the team in innings pitched at 177, strikeouts at 164 and had the lowest WHIP of 1.27 among all starters. However, Junis also lead the team in hits allowed with 182, runs at 94, and HR’s at 32. On the surface it looks like a mixed performance at best. When you look a bit deeper, there is reason to believe 2019 will be much better.

One positive is that Junis goes right after hitters and he doesn’t walk many people. This is part of why he has trouble with home runs. Overall though, his performance has been the most consistent of any one on the staff.

He had a bad stretch starting in late May and ending In early July. That’s when he went on the DL with back problems. The most dreadful month and a half of Kansas City Royals baseball I’ve seen in years. How frustrating would it be to know you couldn’t allow a run or risk losing.

When you look at his statistics starting the last two months of 2017. Then look at his stat’s before and after his troubles and injury, they all look the same. His monthly WHIP is between 0.84 and 1.26 and averages around the 1.15 range. He strikes out just about a hitter an inning. With lower pitch counts, he gets deep into games. Most nights he gives the Royals six or seven innings of work.

Junis works fast and always looks in command, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. You would never know by looking at him whether he was having a good day or bad.

Given a full healthy year, I believe he will again lead the Royals in innings. strikeouts and give up the fewest walks. His ERA should be somewhere around 3.50 or less. I think he will give up fewer homers too, my guess would be around 20.

Brad Keller

Keller came into the league a bouncing ball of joy, and why not. In 2017 he was a second tier prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks then started 2018 on a major league roster. He won the Rule 5 draft lottery.

Once he got comfortable in the big leagues and began to start, he surprised everyone including himself. On the mound he was all business. He worked quickly and attacked the hitting zone. At 23 years of age, he will be the youngest of the starting staff.

The young righty had his ups and downs last year. He moved into the starting role at the end of May and did well. He had a rough patch from early July to the beginning of August but ended the season pitching even better.

He did have a tough night in September against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even then it was for only four runs in six innings. For any rookie, let alone for a Rule 5 pick, Keller had a great year. He gave the Kansas City Royals 140.1 innings, only gave up 133 hits, had a WHIP of 1.30 and an ERA of 3.08.

Not bad numbers for your first go around. This year he is not unknown. There is ample video and stats on him for teams to be better prepared for him this year. This is when you usually find out what a players got. Can he, and will he, make the adjustments needed to stay successful?

Junis was able to make those adjustments last year and now it’s Keller’s time to show he can do it. I think he can. At six foot five inches and 230 pounds, he is an imposing presence on the mound and his fastball seems to play fast to hitters.

Next. Kyle Isbel focused on success. dark

I believe both Keller and Junis will approach 200 innings in 2019. In my opinion, Junis will probably end up the year with the better overall numbers. Keller’s strikeout and walk ratio need to improve. However I believe Keller will have more success. He showed a greater ability to keep runs down.

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