Gabe Speier has the stuff to get guys out in the major leagues. It is incumbent upon the Royals to finish his development and to learn how to use him.
Gabe Speier has already had an interesting, winding career, through no fault of his own, since being drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in 2013. In 2014 he was dealt in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes trade to the Tigers. He was then traded to the Braves for Cameron Maybin. He would also go on to pitch for the Diamondbacks organization after being thrown into the Shelby Miller/Dansby Swanson trade before the Royals acquired him in the John Jay trade.
He has thrown over 60 innings each year since 2016. Each year since 2016 his strikeouts per 9 innings have been climbing steadily. His FIP in AA since 2016 was consistently in the 3s. He has only thrown 40 innings of AAA baseball, all of which were last season when the Royals brought him up to Omaha, and his FIP spiked a bit. He walked 17 batters in those 40 innings. But he also struck out 45. He is not a finished product, but he is an intriguing one.
As Speier prepares to enter his age-25 season, we should expect him to be a big-league bullpen arm, a position the Royals can certainly use. He only pitched in 9 games last year for the big-league ballclub, but his stuff was good enough to play. Between the minor leagues and the big leagues last season, he threw just over 69 innings and struck out 83 batters. His fastball, changeup, and slider all seem capable of getting big-league hitters out.
When he is on with his fastball control, he is deceptive and hard to hit. He throws a nice 95 MPH fastball and works in a slider behind it that gets swings and misses. He also threw a decent changeup in the minors has not used it much once the Royals brought him up to Kansas City.
Striking out enough hitters is not Speier’s issue. He has times where he struggles to control his pitches. And when it does it leads to walks and hits. If he can get to the point where his control is no longer an issue, he can become a very useful weapon as a middle reliever. Even if he never completely solves his control issues, it appears that he may still have value as a lefty sent to get left-handed bats out in clutch spots.
Gabe Speier will never be the headline name in a bullpen. He will almost certainly never be the closer for a successful team. But he is exactly the kind of player that great bullpens have and know how to use. He is not the difference between losing a hundred games and making the playoffs. But developing and utilizing arms like his in middle relief is the difference between a .500 team and a playoff team.