The KC Royals bullpen looks to be heading in the right direction, but as young starting prospects come up, some current starters could fill in the gaps.
It’s no secret, the Royals bullpen has struggled over the past few years. 2019 especially saw some serious struggles. While there were a few pitchers that stood out with decent seasons, Ian Kennedy most notably, it just seemed like any time they would gain some steam, they would quickly regress again.
Now, though the spring training sample was still fairly small, the bullpen looks to have some decent pieces moving in the right direction for 2020. Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont looked outstanding, there are hopes that Greg Holland will be able to get back on track, and multiple other young arms are starting to come around.
It’s still likely, though, that at some point there will be some gaps to fill during the season as players start to regress or maybe even if some are traded away to bring in some decent pieces for the future ( I know, dreaming big here).
Either way, this could come at a time where those gaps could be filled by none other than a few of the Royals starting pitchers. A move worked for long time starter Ian Kennedy, and while it won’t always work that way, it wouldn’t be a stretch for the Royals to try it again with either Danny Duffy or Jakob Junis.
There has been talk in the past surrounding both of these players and moves to the bullpen already, so even though it hasn’t happened, the thought has been there somewhere, and is probably still in the back of someone’s mind.
Junis has unfortunately seen continued regression through his last few seasons in the majors, holding an ERA of 5.24 during the 2019 season. One stat that may hold the team back from moving him, though, is that he has been a consistent starter, going 30 and 31 games over the last two seasons.
If the production is not there, though, the Royals have plenty of young arms that are fighting for their chance. There was a suggestion in an opening day roster prediction that Junis’s slider is more effective during his first time through the order. If this is the case, he may be the perfect candidate for a long-relief role, especially if the Royals decide to use an opener for a spot at some point.
Along with Junis, Duffy could make for an interesting move to the bullpen as well. He has struggled off and on during the last few seasons with injury and while 2019 was a better season for him that 2018, the 31-year-old pitcher’s best days may be behind him.
Duffy moving to the bullpen is not a new idea by any means, and he has said he was open to it before. Plus, moving Duffy and allowing him to focus on only one or two innings could have multiple positive effects, such as seeing his walks go back down, his strikeout rate go back up, and maybe most importantly, the move could help to ensure that he stays healthy and is not putting so much strain on his arm.
While it’s not likely that these moves will be seen early or at all in 2020, it could be a definite possibility. With the multitude of young starting arms working their way through the minors, the Royals may see fit to give them a shot, and move things around to find out what’s best for the team moving forward.
There is a lot of speculation and unknowns going into the 2020 season, but with the show that many of the minor league pitchers were putting on during spring training, it should only be a matter of time before the Royals pitching staff starts to change for the better.
Do you think Duffy or Junis would fair better in the bullpen? Or, should they continue to try and make it as a starter?