Kansas City Royals: 3 players who need to take next step in 2020

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /
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Kansas City Royals, Jakob Junis
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

1. Jakob Junis

Drafted in the 29th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Royals, Jakob Junis put together an unimpressive first half of the season with a 5.33 ERA in 106.1 innings of work. He started off the second half on a much better note, spinning a 4.54 and 4.45 in July and August, respectively. But the wheels have completely fallen off for him lately.

In his last 7 starts, Junis has tossed 40.1 innings with 36 strikeouts but has allowed 23 earned runs to the tune of a 5.13 ERA. His only plus pitches are his slider and changeup, but his other three rank below the league average, particularly his curveball. Per StatCast, Junis’ curveball has 48.7 inches of drop from the release point in his hand – or 5.5 inches of less drop, which equates to approximately 10 percent less than the league average.

It’s odd because his curveball is his best pitch in terms of horizontal movement (6.8 inches of more movement than league average) but it’s catching far too much of the strike zone. The 26-year old’s fastball tops out around 92 mph and there’s certainly still time for him to figure things out.

In 2017, Junis was really good in 12 starts for Triple-A Omaha with a 2.92 ERA in 71.0 innings but the big leagues have figured him out. He needs to adjust back to it now.

Reason for optimism

Junis displayed a terrific stretch from the All-Star break to the end of August in which he tossed 54.1 innings while striking out 53 batters to the tune of a 4.14 ERA.

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Reason for pessimism

Since then, he’s tossed 12.0 innings while allowing opponents to bat 0.283 off him. He’s given up 9 earned runs in his last 3 starts with a 6.75 ERA. It could very well be fatigue but keep in mind Junis spun a 3.24 ERA between the months of August and September a year ago.