KC Royals: The many mysteries of a baseball January

(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Last January’s KC Royals rotation questions focused on prospects and veterans, and this January’s questions aren’t much different.

That pre-2020 season speculation about Kansas City’s starting rotation revolved around youngsters and veterans wasn’t surprising. The Royals’ near sweep of the best starters available in the 2018 draft made predicting who might debut in 2020 inevitable, and Brad Keller’s distressing 2019 and Danny Duffy’s perennial unpredictability fueled more January discussions.

Brady Singer and Kris Bubic answered the prospects question. Both started the short 2020 campaign in the rotation; although aside from Singer’s near no-hitter neither was spectacular, they didn’t flop. Singer was 4-5 in 12 starts and displayed the poise everyone expected, and Bubic was much better than his 1-6 record might suggest.

Keller bounced back from losing twice as many games as he won (7-14) in 2019 to go 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA. Duffy, suffering again from some subpar run support, was a bit inconsistent and finished 4-4, reigniting talk that the bullpen might be a better place for him.

This January’s questions are similar to last January’s, but with a twist or two. With Singer and Bubic set in the rotation, the prospect mystery focuses on others—first and foremost is whether the spectacularly talented Asa Lacy, the KC Royals’ first pick in last year’s draft, makes the unlikely jump from pitching in 2020 alternate training site intra-squad games to facing big league pitching. With Lacy, nothing is impossible.

Will the Royals give first big league shots to Jackson Kowar (7-11, 3.50 in two minor league seasons), Jonathan Bowlan (12-9, 3.88 over two years), or Daniel Lunch (11-3, 2.50 in two campaigns)? They might, especially if Duffy, who’s entering the final year of his contract, is traded or another starter is injured or struggles. Minor league contraction could also impact the youngsters’ progression.

Finally, will Keller’s success continue, or will he become a good in even-numbered, bad in odd-numbered years hurler? Will Duffy have a stellar season like so many others post in their final contract years? And will recently re-acquired Mike Minor meet expectations?