The Kansas City Royals have not given Cal Eldred a strong arsenal of arms to work with, but is he the right man to lead the young hurlers?
Let us not kid ourselves, trying to get consistent performance out of the players who have made a majority of the starts for Kansas City Royals would be difficult. Outside of Danny Duffy and Homer Bailey, the next four leaders in starts for the Royals in 2019 had little experience. Glenn Sparkman had started 3 games, Brad Keller (20), Jorge Lopez (9) and Jakob Junis (46). Of the 79 combined starts of this group, 66 came from two players.
Junis’ numbers have become progressively worse in the last three seasons. A variety of Sabermetrics support this notion as his WAR as gone from 1.4 to 1.2 to 0.9 and his ERA+ has dropped from 104 to 100 to 91. More of a traditionalist on stats? The ERA has increased from 4.30 to 4.37 to 5.24. The wins have been strangely consistent with 9 each season but the losses have piled up from 3 to 12 to 14.
Keller turned heads last year as a Rule 5 pick and has been one of the few serviceable arms the Royals have had this year, including being named the Opening Day starter. Like Junis though, his WAR decreased (3.5 to 2.6) and ERA+ as well (142 to 114). The ERA jumped from 3.08 to 4.19 and his walks per nine innings increased from 3.2 to 3.8.
Sparkman looked like he might be an integral part of the rotation with solid numbers split between AA and AAA in 2018. His18 starts between both clubs produced a WHIP of 1.21 while walking just 12 batters through 101 innings. The transition to the big leagues has been rough as his WHIP is 1.50. Sparkman has allowed 38 free passes in 127 innings and the ERA is an abysmal 6.02.
In Cal Eldred‘s defense, Lopez has not had a good season in the minors or big leagues since 2015. Whether playing for the Milwaukee Brewers organization or coming over to the Royals in a trade last year, he has struggled to keep men off base. He has shown a few flashes of good pitching this year that may buy him some more time but he is far from a proven commodity. Sparkman and Lopez are not wide-eyed young pitchers either with their ages at 27 and 26, respectively.
I am not a fan of a turning over coaches quickly before they have a chance to prove what they can do, but with this bumper crop of pitchers coming up, I want the Kansas City Royals to ensure they have the right man in place. The lack of progression, dare I say regression, of the pitching staff, tells me we need to make a change going into 2020.