3 reasons why the KC Royals might contend in 2022

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals, Brad Keller
(Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports) /

If their pitching improves, the KC Royals could surprise next season.

Kansas City’s 2021 pitching was a sore spot. While Carlos Hernandez emerged as the club’s best rotation piece, no starter won more than eight games, two lost 12 and, aside from Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont and Domingo Tapia, the bullpen suffered from inconsistency the club can’t afford.

In a nutshell, the pitching probably has nowhere to go but up. And maybe, just maybe, it will get better.

Brad Keller needs to bounce back from a bad 8-12, 5.39 season that ended on the Injured List, and recapture the form that made him the club’s Pitcher of the Year in 2018 (9-6, 3.08) and 2020 (5-3, 2.47). He’s been best in even-numbered seasons, so 2022 might be good.

Brady Singer’s obvious talent is tempered primarily by his apparent reluctance to supplement his sinker and slider with a changeup. Singer fully developing that third pitch will improve his pitching and the club, and is something the Royals should insist on soon.

And things will be even better for the rotation if the Royals add a reliable starter, Hernandez keeps up his good work (5-2, 3.55 as a starter in 2021), Daniel Lynch pitches like he did in August (3-0, 2.39 in five starts) and Kris Bubic picks up where he left off in 2021 (2-1, 2.20 in his last five starts).

Barlow and Staumont were the best of the 2021 bullpen—Barlow saved a team-high 16 games, won five, and had a 2.24 ERA while Staumont went 4-3, 2.88 with five saves. Tapia turned out to be a fine in-season acquisition, rookie Jake Brentz was a pleasant surprise but slipped a bit late in the season, and fireballing late season addition Dylan Coleman struck out seven and surrendered only a run in 6.1 innings. Adding a good middle reliever or two, either from present stock or via trade or free agency, will move the Royals closer to contention.

Will good defense, three rookies and improved pitching get Kansas City to the playoffs? No, not if the offense doesn’t deliver consistently, but those three things give the club a much better chance of contending than it has today, and are reasons why won’t contend could become might contend.

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Contending in 2022 won’t be impossible if Kansas City’s defense shines, its rookies come through, and the pitching improves.