KC Royals: Bullpen’s performance will be telling in 2020

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals’ bullpen was among the worst in the league last season. If it can improve in 2020, the team’s record should reflect that.

The 2019 season was not kind to the KC Royals. While certain individual players experienced good seasons and put up numbers, the team as a whole struggled immensely en route to a 59-103 record.

Relief pitching, literally intended to relieve starters once they leave the field, was more of an added pain last season. The Royals’ bullpen ranked 27th in the MLB with an average ERA of 5.07. Former site expert Ryan Sikes broke down the bullpen in Sept., but let’s reinforce how important it is as the regular season is less than two months away.

The usual suspects will be relied upon to do their jobs. Aside from the likelihood that aging reliever Ian Kennedy will have his name swirled around in trade rumors, he was consistent a year ago and should put forth a similar performance in 2020. Arms like Scott Barlow and Tim Hill are next in line. Kevin McCarthy struggled in 2019 but projects to bounce back this season.

After that, wild cards like Jesse Hahn come into play. Can the veteran resurrect his career that’s been ridden with injuries? The same could be asked about former No. 5 overall pick Kyle Zimmer, who finally made his MLB debut in March of last year. What about Glenn Sparkman, Eric Skoglund and Jorge Lopez? All three guys have started games but may be out of opportunities to do so long-term.

One of the curses of this year’s bullpen may also be a blessing in disguise. By having so many bodies competing, there’s bound to be a group that sets itself apart from the rest of the pack. Josh Staumont and Richard Lovelady are young arms seeking to establish themselves as arms for the future. Heath Fillmyer could work his name back into the mix under the same category. You get the point: endless options.

Oh yeah, there’s also the crop of pitching from recent MLB drafts. By the end of the regular season, we could see some impressive young hurlers receive chances to show what they bring to the table. Manager Mike Matheny will have his work cut out for him in regards to choosing a reliever (or two, or three… but hopefully not many more than that) every night.

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In an ideal world, regardless of which players step up, at least some of them will do so. Even if the KC Royals’ relievers can improve their ERA to 4.40, that would have been tied for 17th in the bigs in 2019. Although that isn’t good, it’s certainly a start.