KC Royals: Angel Zerpa makes big league debut tonight

(Mandatory Credit: MLB photos via USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: MLB photos via USA TODAY Sports) /

Angel Zerpa is a name many fans of the KC Royals might not know. But they will get the chance to know Zerpa better tonight when he makes his major league debut against Shane Bieber and the Cleveland Indians. Per mlb.com’s Kansas City beat writer Anne Rogers (Twitter link), Manager Mike Matheny revealed the plan to start Zerpa yesterday.

Zerpa’s debut coincides with a slew of injuries that have recently plagued the Royals’ pitching rotation. Mike Minor is on the Injured List with left shoulder impingement syndrome. Brad Keller last pitched last month when he suffered a right lateral strain, and is now on the 60-day IL. And most recently, Brady Singer left his Tuesday night start after lasting only two-thirds of an inning; he was pulled with right arm inflammation.

Although Tyler Zuber was called up to take the roster spot of Singer, he’s a reliever, so it’s Zerpa who will get the starting nod tonight. Zerpa was moved to the 40-man roster last November to protect him from being poached in the Rule 5 Draft.

But what does Zerpa bring to the mound as a pitcher that Kansas City fans can expect to catch a glimpse of in tonight’s matchup?

Angel Zerpa has zoomed through the KC Royals’ minor leagues this season.

The left-handed Zerpa began the 2021 season pitching for the Royals’ Quad Cities High-A affiliate. He had an outstanding May, notching a 1.82 ERA, .176 OBA, 0.81 WHIP, and 37 strikeouts in 24.2 innings. He finished his time with the River Bandits in mid-June with a 2.59 ERA, .205 OBA, 0.96 WHIP, and 53 strikeouts in 41.2 innings.

Zerpa, 22, was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He got off to a rocky start with the Naturals—in the two games he pitched for them in June, opponents tagged him for 12 runs in just 7.2 innings for a 14.09 ERA. But his 13 strikeouts over that two-game span foretold what he could become.

Zerpa managed to clamp down, notching a 5.96 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45.1 innings, including a great September when he posted a 2.25 ERA, struck out 15 batters, and allowed just three runs in 12 innings. That earned Zerpa a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, where he allowed three runs in 1.1 innings.

Overall this season, he has a combined 4.58 ERA, .250 OBA, 1.28 WHIP, and 108 strikeouts in 88.1 innings pitched. He also has a low 1.02 HR/9, a 2.85 BB/9, and an excellent 11.00 K/9. His 1.50 GO/AO shows his ability to keep the ball down and force groundouts.

With those numbers, it’s no wonder Zerpa has zoomed through the minor league ranks this year. He’ll look to carry his minor league success to the majors tonight.

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Angel Zerpa has rocketed through the KC Royals’ minor league ranks this season and will throw his first major league pitch tonight. Game time at Kauffman Stadium is set for 7:10 p.m. CDT.