The long-awaited debut of the KC Royals’ No. 1 pitching prospect is about here.
Some of the KC Royals may not sleep well tonight.
Heading the list of potentially sleepless Kansas City ballplayers is Daniel Lynch, the promising young lefthander who just happens to be the organization’s premier pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings. That’s because Lynch, 24, won’t be preparing to start his 2021 season Tuesday at Triple-A Omaha; instead, he’ll take the mound at Kauffman Stadium Monday night.
The Royals have called him up. He’ll start against Cleveland at 7:10 p.m. CDT.
For many, the road to the big leagues is long, but it’s been short for Lynch. He started his pro career shortly after Kansas City made him the 34th pick in the 2018 draft, adding him to the marvelously talented pitching class the Royals grabbed in that draft. Brady Singer and Kris Bubic beat him to The Show, but he’ll arrive before early-rounders Jackson Kowar and Jonathan Bowlan.
And it’s quite a leap Lynch will have made after he throws his first official pitch Monday evening. Other than spring training and the KC Royals’ Alternate Training Site this season and last, Lynch has never pitched above High-A. He’s 11-3 with a 2.51 ERA in just two minor league seasons, and went 1-2, 7.71 in five Cactus League appearances this spring.
Lynch will face Cleveland’s Aaron Civale, who’s 4-0, 2.94 in five starts this season.
Displaced from Monday night’s start, and apparently from the rotation, is Jakob Junis who, according to The Athletic’s KC beat writer Alec Lewis, will instead return to the bullpen:
Junis has pitched well since rejoining the rotation earlier this season; now, with his effective new cutter, he should bolster the pen, especially in long and middle relief. He could also see action as a swingman.
Someone, though, has to go to make room for Lynch—he can’t be added to the active 26-man roster without also joining the 40-man. Complicating any corresponding moves is the complete lack of space on the 40-man; there are no vacancies, so the Royals must trim one player from both rosters.
A pitcher on the 26-man is the likeliest candidate, but who that might be is purely speculative at this point considering the club may not officially select Lynch’s contract from Omaha, the event which officially triggers and requires a corresponding roster cut, until Monday. So, some Royals besides Lynch may toss and turn tonight.
Among the possibilities are Jake Newberry, Kris Bubic, and Tyler Zuber.
Opponents have battered Newberry, a Kansas City bullpen fixture since 2018 recalled just Saturday when Kyle Zimmer landed on the Injured List, for eight runs in 4.1 innings this year. His 16.62 ERA doesn’t bode well for a long stay with the KC Royals, and things didn’t get any better for him against Minnesota this afternoon—he gave up three runs on three hits in only an inning.
Zuber has also experienced a bumpy season so far. His ERA is 4.91 in six appearances and he’s walked four in 7.1 innings. But he also has seven strikeouts and spent much of last year with the Royals.
The Royals also recalled Bubic Saturday, and he pitched for the first time today, surrendering two runs on three hits in one inning. One frame might not be sufficient to measure his progress since being demoted to the minors in spring training, but there may not be enough room in the pen for Bubic and Junis.
Another possibility is veteran Wade Davis, who the Twins knocked around Friday night for four runs in just an inning. Davis earned a save Opening Day, but isn’t approaching the same type of dominance he displayed in 2014-2016 with Kansas City: he’s given up at least a run in five of his nine appearances this season, an uncharacteristic propensity for someone who was for several seasons one of baseball’s premier closers. Cutting Davis doesn’t seem likely, but it’s possible.
Calling Lynch up is the easy decision. Deciding who to cut will be far more difficult.
The Royals and their fans have been waiting for Daniel Lynch. The wait ends Monday night.