Local kid? Yes. Righty reliever with a plus-fastball? Yes. Available for cheap with minor league options? Also yes. Codi Heuer checks several boxes that should intrigue the Royals ahead of spring training. But, no player available at this time willing to take a small salary is perfect.
The Chicago Cubs non-tendered Heuer after two injury-hampered seasons in the organization. He missed all of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on March 8. Then, he made 15 rehab appearances with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Then, he went under the knife again after suffering an elbow fracture. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Maddie Lee said the fracture did not harm Heuer's UCL, but the fracture recovery " requires immobilization, which adds a wrinkle in the rehab process.”
I am told that Heuer will be available to pitch in spring training. Keeping that in mind, he should be an enticing addition to any team. He will still need time to build up strength in his arm, something he was trying to do in his rehab starts. Kansas City could not need Heuer immediately, but he should be back in form by this summer to contribute.
Heuer will be 27 on Opening Day, hopefully with several pitching years ahead of him. He was selected by the White Sox in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. At the 2021 trade deadline, the Sox traded Craig Kimbrel to the Cubs for Heuer and Nick Madrigal, sending both to the other side of Chicago. Heuer pitched 62 1/3 innings for the White Sox, with solid results. He had a 9.2 K/9 and 1.219 WHIP, accumulating a 3.34 FIP. He struggled with the Cubs with his walks rising and strikeouts dropping, but his 3.14 ERA was more than acceptable out of the bullpen.
In 2021, Heuer leaned heavily on his fastball, while mixing in his slider and changeup. Both of those offspeed pitches had positive run values according to Baseball Savant, while his fastball had regressed from his 2020 debut. Still, he missed barrels and limited hard contact on his offspeed offerings. Heuer had a tantalizing arsenal, it is now time to see where it stands after two seasons lost to injury.