KC Royals: Questions abound for Spring Training 2.0
Who will round out the KC Royals’ starting rotation? Will a former closer return to the team? Can the bullpen be strengthened?
The biggest pitching question remaining when COVID-19 interrupted spring training was who would join Danny Duffy, Brad Keller, Jakob Junis and Mike Montgomery in the KC Royals’ starting rotation.
Jorge Lopez, possessor of occasionally mesmerizing stuff but unable after four big league seasons to establish himself as a full-time starter or full-time reliever, was making a case for the rotation in March–in five games (10.2 innings), he was 2-0 and had 12 strikeouts against just two walks. An encore could land him in the rotation.
Although he has only one professional season’s experience, KC’s top 2018 draft pick may also be in the mix. Brady Singer made the Player Pool after drawing a non-roster invitation to spring training and pitching four times with no decisions. His 4.76 ERA and four walks in 5.2 innings doesn’t look quite like the 2019 2.85 ERA, 8.4 SO9 and 2.4 BB9 he posted between High A and Double-A, but speculation about him starting hasn’t been a secret. Bringing him back to camp suggests the clubs is taking a long look; Singer’s work before Opening Day will tell the tale.
Other Player Poolers who may warrant some consideration are Glenn Sparkman, who struck out 12 in 8.1 innings in the spring, Kyle Zimmer and Rule 5 pick Stephen Woods Jr.
Greg Holland’s quest to rejoin the club. The Royals signed two former feared closers to minor league deals in the offseason–Trevor Rosenthal, whose best years came under KC manager Mike Matheny when both were Cardinals, made good before spring training stopped (no runs, no walks and nine strikeouts in five innings) and was signed to a big league contract before rosters were frozen, while former Royals’ closer Greg Holland got off to a good start but had one shaky outing.
Holland made the Player Pool; a strong showing should secure him a spot on the active roster. He won’t be the KC Royals’ closer again, but just being back will likely be good enough for Holland.
Can the bullpen improve? Kansas City’s weak bullpen figured prominently in the club’s two straight 100-plus loss campaigns. But if spring training is any indication, the 2020 pen should be better.
Although Ian Kennedy didn’t resemble the 30-save closer he was last season in his four spring outings (8.44 ERA in 5.1 innings), he didn’t walk anyone and should regain his 2020 form. (If he doesn’t, Rosenthal may step in).
Josh Staumont‘s 0.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts in six innings more than impressed; expect him to land a key relief role. Non-roster invitee and promising prospect Tyler Zuber may also fit–he struck out eight, walked just one and allowed only a run in six frames. And Jake Newberry didn’t give up any runs in 5.1 innings.
Kyle Zimmer could get another chance as a long reliever, as could Jorge Lopez if he doesn’t break into the rotation.
Add 2019 setup man Scott Barlow, and possibly spring camp standout Randy Rosario, to the mix, and the KC Royals should have an improved relief corps.