It isn’t great yet, but the KC Royals’ pitching is gradually improving.
Five pitchers from Kansas City’s heralded 2018 draft class—Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Jonathan Heasley, Jackson Kowar and Kris Bubic—have seen action this season. Zack Greinke is back with mixed, but lately good, results. Brad Keller has been unsurprisingly inconsistent. Scott Barlow is one of the majors’ best relievers and pitches like it, while Josh Staumont’s struggles are becoming more frequent.
But the staff’s body of work is disappointing. The rotation and bullpen both rank low, which helps explain why the Royals were on pace to lose 100 games not that long ago.
Fortunately, though, things are looking up. Singer, whose troubles helped earn him a stint in the minors earlier this season, is performing like the club thought he would when it picked him in the first round of the 2018 draft—2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in July and August (his record would be better but for weak run support), Singer is arguably becoming the staff ace: his 5-4 is the only winning record among the club’s regular starters.
Also in turnaround is Bubic. At least for now, pay little attention to his 2-6 record, which doesn’t reflect how good he’s been lately. His July-August 3.04 ERA contrasts sharply with the 7.45 he had through June and he hasn’t surrendered four or more runs in a game for almost two months.
Lynch is now a solid rotation piece. He held the Dodgers scoreless over five innings Friday night (LA scored all its runs off the bullpen and KC lost 8-3) and he’s giving his club a chance every game. His four wins tie Barlow, Greinke and Collin Snider for third most on the staff.
And Keller? Although inconsistency remains the name of his game, and the White Sox battered him for eight runs in 5.2 innings Aug. 2, he’s 4-3, 4.69 since June and showing some signs—especially a winning one-run, six-inning effort against Boston six days ago—of righting himself.
Barlow leads the bullpen. Primarily the closer until manager Mike Matheny recently began adding high-leverage eighth inning assignments to his portfolio, he leads the club in saves with 18 and hasn’t blown one since June. An ugly six-run disaster against the Yankees July 29 remains the only significant mar on his season—he’s 4-4, 2.32 in 50 games.
So, Kansas City still doesn’t have a top-notch pitching staff, but it will be a fun one to watch for the next several weeks.
Improving pitching, some exciting rookies, and a new team energy give fans good reasons to stay interested in the Royals.