While the KC Royals typically have to wait for pitchers they draft to develop, one fan favorite had a quick turn around in Kansas City.
Young pitching arms are something of a new normal for the KC Royals. Fans constantly get to hear or see updates concerning the pitchers making their way through the minors, those who have scratched the surface of the majors, and even those who were just signed or drafted.
The Royals have put a lot of their stock into college pitching arms during the recent drafts and it looks as though that may pay off soon. Waiting, though, is one of the unfortunate realities that the organization must face. Even many college pitchers need a few years in the minors under their belt before they are ready to fully face the major leagues.
For one of the KC Royal’s past pitchers, though, waiting wasn’t something that he wanted to do. Will Leitch over at MLB.com recently put together an article about the best season by a teenager for each team since 1980. For the Royals, the pick was none other than Bret Saberhagen.
Bret Saberhagen was drafted by the Royals in the 1982 Amateur Draft, out of Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, California. He spent the 1983 season in the minor leagues, managing to pitch 187 innings between both A and AA ball.
By 1984, Saberhagen was on the Royals roster to stay. While he barely made the teenage debut, Saberhagen debuted on April 4, 1984, pitching 4.2 scoreless innings while giving up 3 hits. He was 19 years old and turned 20 just a few days later on April 11. Still, his 1984 season made the cut for a teenage season.
Saberhagen went on to find a good deal of success during his debut season, pitching 157.2 innings, seeing time as both a reliever and starter over 38 games, with 18 starts and 2 complete games.
He held his ERA at 3.48, recorded 73 strikeouts, walked 2.1 batters per 9 innings, and only gave up 0.7 home runs per 9 innings.
While he was no longer a teenager, his 1985 season as a young pitcher saw even more success. Saberhagen started 32 games over 235.1 innings, completing 10 games, with 158 strikeouts and walking only 1.5 batters per 9. He also finished top 10 in MVP voting and won the CY Young Award.
Though Saberhagen may have only been a “teenager” for a few innings during his debut season, that doesn’t make his first few years any less impressive. Straight out of high school with only one year in the minors today sounds like a recipe for disaster, but for the Royals, Saberhagen became great.
Saberhagen spent some of his best years in the Royals organization and is an example that some players are ready to go faster than others. While the Royals have to wait a bit longer for many pitchers today, let’s hope that time will be on their side so fans can see some more success from young players like Saberhagen.
Bret Saberhagen was on fire from the start and the Royals didn’t waste any time moving him up to the majors. Luckily, the move paid off and the Royals had many great years of an outstanding young player.