KC Royals: 2 biggest surprises, 2 biggest busts of 2021

(Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Jake Brentz
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

A little-known reliever is making a name for himself with the KC Royals.

That a Cactus League record of 1-0 to go with a 2.89 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 9.1 innings earns its owner a major league roster spot isn’t shocking. But it was at least surprising in the case of Jake Brentz, a lefthanded reliever who’d never been in the big leagues before and whose record wasn’t bursting with great numbers.

But on Opening Day in Kansas City, Brentz became a major leaguer. The Royals added him to the roster after his stellar spring performance.

Brentz came to the Royals in late August 2019 with a sizzling fastball and a penchant for strikeouts (9.74 minor league SO9 through 2019), but also a propensity to walk too many batters and give up too many hits.

Kansas City, a club always on the lookout for hidden pitching gems, took a chance on Brentz and even named him to their 60-man Player Pool last summer. Whatever the Royals saw at the Alternate Training site must have impressed them, and his spring training efforts clearly did.

Now, Brentz is repaying the club for its confidence in him.

Emblematic of just how good he’s been this season is Brentz’s performance over his last 10 games. He’s held opponents scoreless, given up only two hits, and struck out 12 in 11.1 innings.

Brentz’s 30 appearances this season leads the team. He’s 1-0 and his 1.88 trails only Scott Barlow’s 1.80 through Tuesday, and he has 32 strikeouts in 28.2 innings for an even 10.0 SO9.

That Manager Mike Matheny calls on Brentz so often, and he delivers so well, proves how valuable he’s been to the KC Royals. That makes the rookie Kansas City’s biggest surprise of the season.

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The KC Royals’ season deserves mixed reviews. But it’s easy to tell who the biggest surprises, and biggest busts, have been so far.