3 KC Royals who need to be better in June

William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
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Reliever Aroldis Chapman

Yes, another player whose numbers look good would look even better if not for bad May performances. Reliever Aroldis Chapman is arguably Kansas City's biggest trade piece heading into the trade season, so his bounce back in June would benefit Kansas City's minor-league system the most.

Chapman was not a popular player after signing with Kansas City this offseason. Work ethic concerns in New York only added to Chapman's off-field issues. His 2022 stats were not going to have teams clamoring for his services, but the 35-year-old veteran improbably ended up in Kansas City. A single-year, incentive-laden deal made it clear that the Royals had no long-term plans for Chapman. This made him an intriguing trade chip before he threw a single pitch this season. That trade value has only gone up as the season has gone along. Chapman is performing at an All-Star level once again.

He is not relying on the fastball nearly as much in 2023, despite still having one of the best four-seamers in MLB. Chapman's fastball velocity is back in the 100th percentile for the first time since 2018. He tosses that pitch 56% of the time, the second-lowest amount of his career. Meanwhile, both his slider and sinker usage rates have risen to the second- and third-highest usage rates in his career, respectively. Chapman's whiff percentage, strikeout percentage, and several more metrics rank in the 95th percentile or better. But those great numbers hide a down May for Chapman.

In the season's first month, Chapman was on another level. He posted a 1.74 ERA, .871 WHIP, and a 6.33 K/BB ratio, which ranked 10th among all qualified relievers in that span. This past month, though, the walks started piling up and the hits started dropping. Chapman had 11 walks and nine hits in 10 innings in May, good for a 2.00 WHIP and a 4.50 ERA in that month. Through 22 games, Chapman has two saves and a 3.10 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 14 walks.

Those numbers still make him one of the Royals' best relievers, but that is not what fans should want. Chapman should be one of baseball's top relievers, one that contending teams will covet and pay a hefty price to acquire ahead of the postseason push. The Royals keeping Chapman past the trade deadline will be shocking, as the contract and the team's last-place position make Chapman a prime trade candidate. But his performance on the mound will determine the quality of Kansas City's return. Chapman performing better in June will benefit the Royals and get him on a contending team sooner rather than later. If the money is not motivating enough, getting out of Kansas City should be a factor.

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