LHP Angel Zerpa
Once upon a time, Angel Zerpa tickled the imagination of Royals fans everywhere. His impressive introduction in the 2021 season at only 21 years old offered fans a semblance of hope during that dreadful season. Yet, injuries and underperformance have sapped the optimism from years ago.
All of Zerpa's MLB appearances last year came after Aug. 1, so fans wouldn't be faulted for missing them. He had a mixed role for the Royals as well. He appeared in 15 games, appearing as a single-inning reliever, starter, and even a bulk pitcher for manager Matt Quatraro. That last role was where he operated best. He had five games pitching four innings or more, posting a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings.
The issue with Zerpa isn't erratic location, a common issue among younger pitchers. He had a career-best 1.69 BB/9 in 2023 and has a 1.84 BB/9 across his career. The issue is that his pitching arsenal doesn't feature any put-away pitches. FanGraph's Stuff+ assigned Zerpa a 76, the lowest on the 2023 Royals and tied for the 12th worst in all of baseball. He can locate his pitches just fine but struggles to miss bats or baffle opposing batters.
The Venezuelan is not arbitration-eligible until 2026, so the Royals have plenty of time to decide what to do with him. His spot on the 40-man roster should be up for grabs, especially if Kansas City wants to bring all more single-inning relievers to the bullpen ahead of Opening Day.
I wonder if another team can help Zerpa out. I am not doubting the Royals development pipeline, as they have noted progression in the minor-league levels. But Zerpa just needs some help. I genuinely believe a change of scenery would be good for Zerpa.