This week’s edition of KC Royals Midweek Musings covers the club’s pitching youth movement, injuries, and more.
Some KC Royals Midweek Musings while wondering if maybe, just maybe, this team could somehow slip into the expanded postseason:
Youth movement is here…and should stay. When the KC Royals opened their spring training camp back in February, four-fifths of their starting rotation was all but set in stone–Danny Duffy, Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, and Mike Montgomery were the presumptive first four, and the final slot was up for grabs.
But that was before COVID-19 shut down spring training and before it hit Keller and Junis. Then Montgomery suffered a lat injury in his first start of the season and is probably out for the year.
Fortunately, Keller and Junis are back, joining Duffy as expected. The other two spots in the five-man rota belong to kids with not much experience–Brady Singer, who just turned 24 last week and Kris Bubic, who’ll be 23 next week, are now big league starting pitchers.
Whether the Royals, absent COVID-19, would have promoted Singer with just a year’s worth of pro ball may never be publicly known, but there is little doubt the club’s pitching uncertainties had something to do with starting the season with him on the staff. Bubic, on the other hand, was clearly thrust into the breach by KC’s pitching shortage.
The two rookies came to the majors sooner than most, and probably sooner than the front office would have preferred. Singer, the KC Royals’ top draft choice in 2018, has one season under his belt, a 2019 campaign split between High A and Double A while Bubic, drafted 22 spots after Singer, started his pro career immediately with 10 Rookie League appearances, then pitched at A and High A last year.
Both, though, have pitched reasonably well and flashed more than just glimpses of why they’re held in such high esteem. Through Tuesday’s game against the Reds, which he started, Bubic is 0-2; Singer won his first game Sunday, has pitched five innings in each of his four starts, and is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
The Reds administered Bubic his first big league battering Tuesday, scoring five runs in his first three innings on seven hits, including a triple and two home runs. But he bounced back by retiring seven in a row–including four on strikeouts–before exiting after the fifth. That manager Mike Matheny had the confidence in Bubic to leave him in speaks volumes.
Singer’s control has suffered a hiccup or two but he’s averaging almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings. His 1.300 WHIP is a tad high, but not yet concerning, and he’s demonstrating the mound presence of a veteran.
And then there’s 26-year old Josh Staumont, who pitched 16 times for KC last season and is now a bullpen staple. Staumont is 0-1 after taking a tough loss Tuesday night, but has 14 strikeouts in 7.2 innings (16.4 SO9) and has given up just two runs. And Tyler Zuber, 25, has definitely had good moments.
The youth movement has arrived in Kansas City. Barring an unforeseen collapse of these young hurlers, it needs to stay.
Injuries. Injuries seem more prevalent this season and the KC Royals have their share of players on the Injury List. Before Monday, Kelvin Gutierrez, Foster Griffin, Glenn Sparkman and Mike Montgomery were all on the 60-day list, their seasons presumably over; Bubba Starling was on the 10-day list but recently returned to work at the club’s alternate site, and Randy Rosario remained on the IL where he’s been since late last month. Nick Heath went on the 10-day list on August 8 with a strained hamstring.
Things got worse Monday, though, when newly-acquired outfielder Franchy Cordero was moved from the 10-day list, where he’d spent only a day, to the longer list. Then came this news Tuesday from The Athletic’s Alec Lewis:
Trade deadline approaches. This season’s trade deadline is August 31, which means teams have less time to decide whether to be buyers or sellers and gauge potential trades. Making decisions more difficult than usual is the significantly restricted trade market: only 60-man Player Pool members can be dealt. So, returns won’t be as attractive as in years past–although some top prospects are scattered throughout the clubs and their alternate training sites, don’t expect them to be traded absent overwhelming needs and returns.
Unless the KC Royals are legitimately in contention at next week’s end, major deals involving the club are unlikely. Kansas City isn’t about to move young starters Brady Singer or Kris Bubic; the same goes for prospects Bobby Witt Jr., Daniel Lynch, Daniel Tillo, Austin Cox, Kyle Isbel, or any of their other top prospects on the 60-man–including top 2020 draft pick Asa Lacy and Carlos Hernandez, added to the Pool Tuesday afternoon.
At this point, the Royals could offer up two players finishing their Kansas City contracts. Ian Kennedy, whose value increased dramatically last season when he successfully made the transition from struggling starter to standout closer, may attract some interest, although his stock has fallen–he’s no longer closing and he’s 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in seven games. He’s also surrendered four home runs.
Maikel Franco signed a single-season free-agent deal over the winter. He started slowly but is gradually improving at the plate; another good week to 10 days could increase any interest the club may have in re-signing him, but would also make him more attractive to other clubs.
Former Royals overseas. Can former Royal Aaron Brooks pitch any better for the Korean Baseball Organization’s Kia Tigers? Brooks again went deep into a game in last week’s start with eight innings of one-run ball against the LG Twins. He struck out six and didn’t walk anyone. Brooks is now 7-3 with a 2.32 ERA.
In Japan, Nori Aoki is hitting .316, and Alcides Escobar .286, for Tokyo.
Simulation update. Despite going 4-3 since our last look at Baseball-Reference’s simulated 2020 season, the virtual KC Royals remain near the bottom of the American League Central with little hope of escaping fourth place. At 45-75, they’re 31.5 games behind front-running Cleveland, 14 behind third place Chicago, and two games in front of last place Detroit.
Ryan O’Hearn’s 19 home runs lead the team, as does Whit Merrifield’s .318 average. Jorge Lopez, no longer an actual Royal but still a member of the simulated squad, has seven wins, the most on the club; Danny Duff’s six victories are good enough for second, but he and Brad Keller each have 12 losses. Ian Kennedy still leads in saves with 11.
The Yankees, Indians, A’s, Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers lead their divisions.
The simulation utilizes Out of the Park Baseball 21 and is updated every day around noon.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with more KC Royals Midweek Musings. Until then, stay safe and healthy.