Newcomer Brad Keller was the Pitcher of the Year for the 2018 KC Royals. He wasn’t even in the discussion for the 2019 award.
Brad Keller was in December 2017 the kind of player KC Royals’ General Manager Dayton Moore likes to look for and loves to get–a relatively obscure find who comes cheap but measures up to more expensive and established talent.
In a roundabout way, KC obtained Keller from among other clubs’ cast-offs left unprotected for the 2017 Rule 5 draft–after Cincinnati grabbed him from Arizona for the low $50,000 Rule 5 price, the Reds traded him to the Royals for $100,000. Keller then made it easy for KC to comply with Rule 5’s requirement to keep him on the major league roster for the entire 2018 season–he went 9-6 (7-2 after the All-Star break) with a 3.08 ERA and 140 ERA+. He was reliable when many of KC pitchers weren’t, making his selection as the Royals’ Pitcher of the Year easy.
But 2019 was anything but easy for Keller. His season went downhill after his exceptional and victorious seven-scoreless-inning Opening Day performance against the White Sox–he won only six games the rest of the way and lost 14, and arm fatigue cut his season short in late August. Poor run support contributed to his troubles (not a problem limited to Keller, of course) but doesn’t explain all Keller’s struggles, not the least of which was the recurrence of the control issues that intermittently plague him.
Keller could be a key asset for the Royals as they approach the final stages of their rebuild. His 2018 performance proves he can pitch and he’s under team control until 2024. But a repeat of his disappointing 2019 campaign might preclude a long and successful Kansas City stay.