KC Royals: 3 most overlooked players for the 2020 season

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals, Richard Lovelady
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

1. Richard Lovelady, RP

Richard Lovelady had been a dominant reliever throughout his minor league career. I expect to see that ability translate to the big leagues in 2020.

Richard Lovelady had some genuine struggles during his time at the major league level in 2019. His August was a mess. But there is a reasonable argument to be made that the Royals used Lovelady in such a way, throughout the 2019 season, it was almost designed to hurt his confidence.

In April Lovelady threw only seven innings and allowed four earned runs, but three of those runs all came in one bad outing against Cleveland. In May he threw only six more innings and allowed two earned runs.

In fairness, he was not blowing through lineups, at the time. But his usage was so haphazard it was very difficult to see a plan there, and he was still one of our better relievers.

That 3.6 FIP through the first two months of the season got him demoted for the next two months. As was expected, Lovelady was as dominant in Omaha. He has now thrown 99 innings of Pacific Coast League baseball. Over that time he has 100 strikeouts and only 28 walks. His ERA is under 3.0.

Richard Lovelady is a funky pitcher with an awkward delivery. He may have a bit of an adjustment period to the major leagues. He also has two plus pitches with a 96 MPH fastball and a killer slider that he commands surprisingly well.

To get a true idea of how awkward Lovelady is to face, see the video below. His arm action is unusual and his release point borders on bizarre. He is almost impossible to pick up for left-handed hitters. His fastball comes in even faster than the velocity would suggest. And, when he is pitching with confidence, he locates his slider where he wants it.

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Richard Lovelady is going to become a useful major league reliever. It is one of the safest bets on this young roster. There is nothing left to learn about him at the AAA level. Especially for a team that loses over 100 games, many times by bringing in bullpen arms that walk hitters around the bases. His FIP in Kansas City last season was 4.16. Not bad at all for a rookie trying to find his way. He should have been in Kansas City for all of 2019. And he should certainly be in the big leagues for 2020.