KC Royals Lineup: Key questions remain unanswered

(Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

KC’s pitching slots seem fairly set; the question is how long they’ll stay that way.

The KC Royals began last season with serious pitching issues. Brad Keller’s 7-14 2019 campaign raised questions about his true potential and made Danny Duffy ace by default, Mike Montgomery was a disappointing 2-7 after joining the Royals the previous July, and prized prospects Brady Singer and Kris Bubic hadn’t thrown a major league pitch.

In the pen, reclamation projects Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland had good camps, but good camps don’t guarantee good seasons. Could Ian Kennedy repeat his excellent first season as a reliever, or did the acquisitions of experienced closers Rosenthal and Holland signal uneasiness with Kennedy, or a willingness to move him in the last year of his contract? Young relievers such as Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow and Richard Lovelady had promise but not much experience.

The questions are different for 2021.

Starters: Will the KC Royals’ rotation stay intact?

Keller’s 5-3, 2.47 2020 suggests he’s back on the beam. Mike Minor’s signing completes the starting five and gives the young starters another veteran mentor. But whether the rotation holds as presently configured depends primarily on Duffy, Singer and Bubic.

This will be the final year of Duffy’s five-year mega-contract; while he’s been serviceable, he hasn’t pitched up to the deal. He’ll stay in the rotation if he pitches passably and will likely find himself in the bullpen if he doesn’t. Pitching well, on the other hand, will push his name into midseason trade discussions.

Circumstances pressed Singer and Bubic into service last season and, although they weren’t wildly successful (Singer went 4-5, Bubic 1-6), both displayed big league fight, stuff and poise. They’ll stick if that continues, but may head to Omaha for more seasoning if it doesn’t.

Bullpen: Is there another lockdown trio brewing in the KC Royals’ relief corps?

Greg Holland became Kansas City’s presumptive closer as soon as he agreed to return to the club last month. After the Royals traded Rosenthal to the Padres last summer, Holland capably resumed the role he knew so well from closing for the Royals’ great 2014 and ’15 teams.

With Holland back, the club might have the ingredients for the kind of back-of-the-pen triumvirate not seen since Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland formed “H-D-H” several seasons ago. Davis, who’s struggled the past couple of years, is back with the Royals on a minor league deal; if he recaptures his once-dominating form, he’ll likely set up Holland, or Holland will set up him. The club shows no signs of pursuing free agent Herrera, but Rosenthal is still on the market (although he may prove too expensive). Staumont, Scott Barlow and Jesse Hahn are also possibilities.

The Royals appear in good shape elsewhere in the pen with Jake Newberry, Barlow, Hahn, Kyle Zimmer, and Staumont all coming off good years.

Next. Lefty bat Brian Goodwin is available. dark

Important questions remain as the KC Royals prepare for spring training. How the club answers them will be interesting.