The KC Royals are young, fans know that. But, how much their freshest players bring to the table is often overlooked. In 2023, KC Royals rookies lead the AL with 4.2 fWAR as a group. That comes mostly from third baseman Maikel Garcia and catcher Freddy Fermin, but outfielders Dairon Blanco and Drew Waters all help boost the group.
All of those players became MLB regulars this season, while Blanco debuted this season at 30 years old. It is never too late for a red-hot prospect to force their way into the majors, or a depth player shocking fans by exceeding expectations. But, the latter is the usual outcome, especially as the season winds down.
There are some prospects close to their MLB debuts, due to Triple-A production or the Royals needing an MLB audition of sorts from them. On the flip side, some Triple-A players had MLB expectations this season, but their current production does not reflect an MLB-ready player.
The Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers seem to just chew up and spit out relievers. Jonah Dipoto is no different. He started out the 2023 season promising, with a .87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings for the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals. This seven-game stretch earned him a promotion to Omaha on May 3, 2023. With his strong start and the Royals' bullpen issues, his debut in August or September was a possibility. Then, the wheels fell off.
The 26-year-old reliever has played in 26 Triple-A games this year, posting a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 30 innings of action. that is hardly what a major-league club wants from a single-inning reliever. This wasn't just a bad stretch holding Dipoto back statistically though. His Aug. 11 appearance saw him last 2/3 of an inning surrendering four earned runs and two home runs. Despite being a short-apperance reliever, Dipoto has give up at least one run in 10 of his 26 apperances.
Dipoto is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, but a team adding him to their 40-man roster seems unlikely. His getting called up this season seems even more unlikely though.
Will Klein will be in the Royals bullpen in the future? The stuff is too good for him not to be. But, he could end the 2023 season with a whimper rather than a bang.
Klein represented the Royals in this year's Futures Game, after a resurgent first half in Double-A. He bounced back nicely from a 2022 season where control issues overrode his fastball's effectiveness and strikeout ability. In 2023, Klein kept the strikeout prowess with 13.50 K/9 while reducing the walks to 4.30 BB/p in Double-A. His best performance this season came against the Corpus Christi Hooks when he fanned five batters in two innings of work.
The improvements earned Klein a promotion to Triple-A on June 13. Klein started there strong with a 1.72 ERa and 25 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings of work. With two saves in 12 appearances, Klein looked like a strong promotion candidate to the Royals bullpen later this season. But, since July 28, Klein has regressed to his 2022 form. He has a 15.63 ERA in 6 1/3 innings, walking six batters with only eight strikeouts. The control issues are back, as his strike percentage dropped from 62% to 55%.
Klein looks like he has something affecting him mechanically. There are rare other reasons to cause such a sudden change in his performance. If the issues persist for Klein, the Royals may evaluate shutting him down for the year. The last thing Klein needs right now is the pressures of an MLB game.
I am a big Logan Porter fan. He should have been called up earlier this season, amidst the revolving door of first basemen or concerns about catching depth. But, the Royals did not pull the trigger then and Porter is not giving them a reason to do so in August.
Porter was one of the hottest bats for much of the 2023 season. He posted a .815 OPS with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in the season's first 61 games. He did so playing catch mostly, so there were signs of him being a more complete player than in previous years. But, the dog days of summer dogged Porter.
In 32 games since July 2, Porter has an abysmal .155 batting average, .560 OPS with 31 strikeouts. Granted, he has a shocking .186 BABIP, so there might be some bad luck in play. But, watching him at the plate, he does not look like the same player. The Royals could have him working on different approaches or swing mechanics as they did with Nick Pratto. That approach led to some very bad stats but paid off initially for Pratto in the majors.
Porter had a chance to join the roster, but his and the Royals windows never match up it seems.