Can the rotation keep the KC Royals in first place, or anywhere close to it?
It is an unusual place for the KC Royals to be, this first place perch they surprisingly occupy atop the American League Central 17 games into the new season. But this division lead is more precarious than the 1.5 game margin KC holds over Chicago and Cleveland, which the Indians can cut to one if they beat the Yankees tonight.
The slight lead is a position these refreshingly different Royals earned primarily through game-by-game perseverance, some small ball, a bit of timely hitting here and there, and the strong back and leadership of Salvador Perez. But without improvement, the starting rotation will hold this club back.
As a group, the starters remain Kansas City’s overriding question; we wrote even before spring training began about their individual and collective uncertainties and, while some things have changed, others remain the same or have grown worse.
Our obvious point about Kris Bubic heading into his second big league season was that he required improvement. Bubic was 1-6 with a 4.32 ERA in 10 starts last year after leaping from High-A to the majors and, while he provided occasional glimpses of what should become a promising career, inexperience prevailed and control was an issue.
Unfortunately, Bubic regressed in spring training and forced the biggest change to a rotation so many considered “set.” The seven runs and four walks he surrendered in 7.1 innings, and an unsightly 2.455 WHIP, left the Royals no choice but to send Bubic out 10 days before camp broke; he toils now at the Alternate Training Site, working toward a return sure to come at some point. For now, Jakob Junis (more on him later) occupies what was Bubic’s rotation slot.
What about the rest of the “set” rotation?