One of the KC Royals new additions to the bullpen has made a good impression so far.
When the KC Royals won the World Series, one of the things they were best known for was their dominant bullpen. As long as the starters could give them a few innings, the bullpen would almost always find a way to close out the game.
That’s why it may have been difficult for many to watch Royals relievers struggle just a few seasons later. There were definitely some who saw success but for the most part, Kansas City’s bullpen had gone from one of the best to one of the worst in a very short time.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that one of the organization’s focuses has been on improving its stock of relievers. While some of this has and will come from the draft and prospects, they have also worked on bringing in free agents to build up their arms. Thankfully, fans started to see a difference last year.
With a mix of young arms and veterans, the Royals were able to rely on their bullpen to close out games and clean things up when they got messy. While the dominance of the 2014-15 bullpens still may not have been there, things were definitely looking up.
The focus remained over the offseason and the success is still being seen. While there has been a few issues to start the season, many of the Royals bullpen arms are doing well to help the team stay in games.
One reliever that is making a big impression is Jake Brentz.
There was some concern surrounding Brentz when he came to the organization. He was drafted by Toronto in 2013 and didn’t make it very far in the minors before being traded to Seattle in July of 2015.
He made it to Seattle’s Triple-A team but was traded again, this time to Pittsburgh in September of 2016. He spent a few years with Pittsburgh mainly sitting in Single and Double-A and was eventually released in August of 2019 then quickly picked up by the Royals.
Brentz had something the Royals liked, velocity. Kansas City has quickly acquired a group of pitchers that can pitch with fire. But typically with high velocity comes a lack of control. Brentz was a prime example.
In 2018, he struck out 12.4 batters per 9 over 32.2 innings. He also walked 10.7 per 9. This is an extreme example, but in most of his minor league seasons he typically floated anywhere from 4.8 to 7.1 walks per 9. Strikeouts are nice, but not when a lot of walks accompany them.
Still, the Royals wanted to take a chance. Brentz was a nonroster invite to spring training for the 2021 season and found his way onto the roster to start the season. So far, things have looked great.
Brentz has appeared in 6 games and pitched 4.1 innings, striking out 4 and allowing only 1 walk with no runs. The sample is small, but still promising so far as his control has been much better than in years past. The Royals are noticing, and in a recent article from Megan Garcia at Royals.com, she included a quote from manager Mike Matheny talking about Brentz’s success.
"“Put him right through the meat of it, and he continues to take any challenge we give him,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after the win. “And we’re incrementally giving him a little bit more, little bit more, and he’s responded exceptionally well. That was part of the lineup that we earmarked. Couple tough hitters. You better be on your game. And he made really good pitches in a tough situation.” royals.com"
With his success so far, it’s likely Brentz will continue to get the go-ahead in tough situations. If they want to compete, the Royals need relieves that can pitch in challenging situations. If Brentz can become the reliable pitcher Kansas City needs, he could solidify his role in the bullpen for the future.
There is plenty of season left and the stats don’t begin to tell the story yet. For Brentz, though, one thing is for sure. He has found some control and the Royals are going to run with it.
The Royals have seen success from Jake Brentz so far. If they are going to compete, they will need pitchers like Brentz to continue pitching well and with control.