5 KC Royals who’ll be the difference between success, failure

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Reliever Carlos Hernández

A singular reliever's value waxes and wanes, with the overall bullpen's performance mattering most. However, if the Royals need one reliever to rebound most of all, it has to be Carlos Hernández.

Hernández has shown flashes of brilliance in his outings, with a strong fastball that can keep hitters off balance. His average fastball velo sat at 99.1 last season, ranking in the 99th percentile among all MLB pitchers. That pitch led him to a stellar first half, posting a 0.99 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in his first 37 games. That stretch, after Kansas City traded away several relievers, had Hernández in line for more high-leverage opportunities.

Those opportunities did not turn out very well for the fireballer. He flamed out, posting a 1.93 WHIP and 7.82 WHIP in the season's final 30 games. In the matter of 25⅓ innings, Hernández went from the Royals' future closer to one of the worst relievers in baseball.

Hernández rediscovering himself would be a major boost to the Royals bullpen in 2024. He is entering his fifth season with Kansas City, so something has to give this year. The Royals' closer job is still up for grabs, despite the Royals adding plenty of bullpen arms this offseason. A successful Hernández could not only help Kansas City win games but also become a valuable trade chip.