The KC Royals still have some decisions to make when it comes to who will be on the mound in what order, but one pitcher may benefit by sitting out a game.
A lot of questions surrounding the KC Royals and their seasons typically focus on the pitching staff. The defense is typically ready for anything, offense can be hit or miss but is usually no surprise either way, and pitching can be undecided and a bit of a mess up until opening day.
When it was announced that Brad Keller would be the starting pitcher for the 2019 season, though, it wasn’t too surprising to many.
Keller, for those who may not remember, answered the call out of the bullpen when the Royals needed him to start in 2018. Having played no higher than AA ball, Keller came to Kansas City through the Rule 5 draft and was expected to do great things. Luckily, he did.
He was a consistent bullpen arm and when the Royals needed a starter, he was promoted. Keller finished the 2018 season with a 3.08 ERA over 140.1 innings with 20 starts. While he is not a high strikeout pitcher and did struggle at times with walks, his crowd control is on point and he doesn’t often give up home runs.
Because of this great season, it was no surprise that Keller was given the go to be the opening day starter in 2019. Keller managed a great start agains the White Sox, going 7 innings and giving up no runs. The rest of his season, though, was not as easy.
Keller still managed some good innings, and put together 28 starts, but saw a bump in his ERA up to 4.19 and a rise in his FIP to 4.35 (up from 3.55 in 2018). In other areas Keller remained similar to his 2018 form.
Now, in looking towards the 2020 season, Keller was always a frontrunner for the opening day start, but he is not the only one. Veteran Danny Duffy seems to have caught the eye of manager Mike Matheny, and now that Keller has to sit out for a few weeks due to a positive COVID test, the door is wide open for someone like Duffy to take the opening day spot.
For Keller, though, this may not be a bad thing. In fact, it may help him get back to his 2018 from and see an improvement across the board.
When Keller opened the 2019 season, he was 23 years old. A 23 year old pitcher, who had only 1 year of major league experience under his belt, was thrown into game 1 and by default, became the team “ace” in some eyes.
Keller managed to power through some tough innings and provide a decent season, but it’s obvious that he saw some decline. In a season where he no longer has to live up to the title of “ace”, though, he may be able to get a little more comfortable.
In 2018, Keller was pitching with a lot on his shoulders, but he wasn’t trying to carry the team as the front of the rotation starter. 2020 may be a similar season for him. In a shortened season where anything can happen, Keller may be able to find a comfortable spot again and work his way back to the front of the rotation by taking a back seat behind a veteran.
There are still some unknowns surrounding how the season will start for Brad Keller, but a season in which he doesn’t have to take the spot of team “ace” may be just what he needs to get back into his comfort zone.