KC Royals: The most disappointing Royals of 2019
Potential, occasionally electrifying stuff and two excellent late 2018 starts gave the KC Royals great hope for Jorge Lopez in 2019. But his inconsistency made for a most discouraging season.
The inevitable departure of a veteran star brought a young pitcher loaded with potential to the KC Royals in the summer of 2018. Forced by Mike Moustakas‘ imminent free agency to get value for him while they could, the club traded Moose to Milwaukee just before the July trade deadline, getting Jorge Lopez (and Brett Phillips) in return. Lopez arrived with an exciting array of pitches but limited big-league experience.
Lopez was not an immediate sensation–he lost his first three and final two Royal starts. But back-to-back games in September seemed to confirm the Royals had landed a gem.
Lopez shut down Detroit to win his first start of the month, striking out eight and limiting the Tigers to one run in seven innings. He was even better–astonishingly better–six days later in Minnesota, where he was perfect for eight innings before surrendering a walk and a hit to the first two Twins up in the ninth. Lopez’s perfect game and no-hitter were gone, but he proved just how dominating he could be.
The glory was short-lived. The same Twins he mastered roughed him up for three runs and nine hits in 4.1 innings his next time out; the Tigers then rocked him for seven runs and eight hits in just one inning.
Despite the shaky end to his season, his talent and the outstanding stuff Lopez displayed twice in September triggered high expectations for 2019. As expected, he started the new campaign in the rotation; but he disappointed from the start, going 0-5 with a 6.29 ERA before manager Ned Yost moved him to the bullpen. He made 18 straight relief appearances, an undistinguished bullpen stint marred by a 5.13 ERA, then alternated between the rotation and the pen before finishing the campaign with a 5.68 ERA in six starts.
As much as the club expected from him, Lopez failed to establish himself in any role–his 4-9 record was as disappointing as his 6.33 ERA, 75 ERA+ and 1.472 WHIP. Whether he started or relieved, Lopez was subpar.
Lopez enters 2020 with an uncertain future, a pitcher without a defined role competing for a job on an overcrowded staff. If he doesn’t establish himself quickly, his disappointing 2019 season may be too much to overcome.