The winner of the KC Royals’ Pitcher of the Year award may be a reliever.
Who Kansas City’s Pitcher of the Year will be is hard to say. Deserving candidates are few—the ERAs are high, the wins low, and no true ace has emerged to lead a staff beleaguered by unpredictability, inconsistency, and injuries.
The top hurler shouldn’t come from the club’s starting rotation. Danny Duffy was the best of the starters when he wasn’t on the Injured List and until last month’s trade took him to the Dodgers. Mike Minor and Brad Keller are tied for the team lead with eight wins apiece, but Minor’s lost 11 games and Keller 12. Keller’s 5.39 ERA is the third-worst among American League starters, and Minor is right behind at 5.30. And Keller’s presence on the Injured List casts the rest of his season in doubt, so he probably won’t be named Pitcher of the Year for the third time.
Brady Singer goes from good to not-so-good with regularity and has only three wins, Kris Bubic has had his moments but is still working to become consistent.
A pair of KC starters are, however, making late-season cases for Pitcher of the Year. Carlos Hernandez made a surprise relief appearance Saturday against Seattle and didn’t surrender an unearned run in 5.2 innings, and he’s 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA as a starter this month. His 2021 record is 4-1, 3.62 with 66 strikeouts in 64.2 innings.
Fortunately, Daniel Lynch isn’t the pitcher he was during his three-game big league debut in May, when he lost twice in three starts and posted an ugly 15.75 ERA. But after a six-week retooling in Triple-A, Lynch returned to the KC Royals with a win and a loss in late July, and is 3-0 in August with a 2.39 ERA. He heads into the season’s final five-plus weeks 4-3 with a decreasing 4.47 ERA.
But it’s Scott Barlow who may have the best 2021 resume. He leads the Royals in saves with 10, is among American League appearance leaders with 60, and is 5-3 with a stellar 2.56 ERA. Relievers don’t often win “pitcher of…” awards, but this might be Barlow’s year to do it.
So it is the race to crown Kansas City’s Pitcher of the Year should be close.
The KC Royals are out of playoff contention, but that doesn’t mean things won’t be interesting down the stretch. All eyes should be on Salvador Perez, Nicky Lopez, Whit Merrifield, Daniel Lynch, Carlos Hernandez, and Scott Barlow.