KC Royals Prospects: Why Angel Zerpa isn’t ready yet

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Angel Zerpa’s first major league start, a late-September outing for the KC Royals against Cleveland, didn’t go as badly as the 6-1 defeat the Indians handed Kansas City might suggest.

In fact, the rookie pitched pretty well.

Facing a club that battered KC all season—the Indians went 14-5 against the Royals—Zerpa gave up only two unearned runs in five innings; both came in the third, one on Oscar Mercado’s double and the other via Bradley Zimmer’s sacrifice fly. Otherwise, Zerpa proved why Major League Pipeline ranks him as Kansas City’s 18th best prospect by retiring the side in the first inning (two on strikeouts) and again in the second. He did the same thing in the fourth.

Zerpa left trailing 2-1 when Manager Mike Matheny elected to go with fellow rookie Dylan Coleman to start the sixth. Coleman, Tyler Zuber, and Kyle Zimmer combined to give Cleveland four more runs.

Zerpa finished with four strikeouts, walked only one, and gave up three hits. Not a bad day for a young (22) hurler with only one Triple-A start to his name before the Royals called him up.

And it followed an excellent stint at High-A Quad Cities, where he went 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA, 11.4 SO9, 1.7 BB9, and 0.960 WHIP in eight starts. What happened in between Quad Cities and Kauffman Stadium, however, calls Zerpa’s ultimate readiness for the major leagues into serious question.

Angel Zerpa needs more seasoning before he’s ready for the KC Royals.

Zerpa’s big league debut certainly suggests he’s capable of pitching in the big leagues, but one good outing doesn’t mean his time has come. He pitched quite well at Quad Cities, but not at subsequent stops with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha.

The lefthander’s Quad Cities performance earned him an early-June promotion to Double-A, but he couldn’t repeat with the Naturals what he’d done for the River Bandits. Instead, he lost three of his 13 starts without winning any and his BB9 (3.8) more than doubled.

Nevertheless, the organization moved Zerpa up to Omaha, where he allowed three runs on two hits (including a home run) and lasted only 1.1 innings in his only start, which was also his only appearance before Kansas City summoned him to supplement its injury-plagued rotation.

While his one game was fine, the time Zerpa spent in Double-A and Triple-A prove he requires more work before he can return to the Royals for a longer stay. He could start 2022 at Omaha, but rejoining Northwest Arkansas is more likely.

Also look for Kansas City to retain Zerpa on its 40-man roster. The Royals added him last November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and risk losing him in this year’s version unless they keep him where he is.

Next. Bubba Starling shuts it down. dark

Angel Zerpa appears to have a bright future with the KC Royals, but only after spending some more time in the minors.