Royals Relievers (minimum three appearances)
6. Austin Cox - 2.15
Royals fans expected the 2018 draft class to produce for the Royals this year, but few had that expectation for 2018 fifth-round pick Austin Cox. A starter throughout his professional career, Cox's debut was more of a necessity than his forcing his way to Kansas City. His first career start was more than rocky, but his prospects as a multi-inning reliever are still strong. He has allowed only two hits over 12 1/3 innings, with 13 strikeouts and four walks in that span. His most impressive stat is that, as a reliever, Cox still has not allowed an earned run. That is what matters most coming out of the bullpen.
7. Carlos Hernández - 3.03
Speaking of starters turned dominant relievers, Carlos Hernández
is a great example. He made his debut in 2020 as a starter, but he just never latched on as a consistent piece of the rotation. A lack of fastball control in 2021 and 2022 caught up to the fireballer, but he has excelled in an opener and reliever role this year. His 10.58 K/9 and 2.38 BB/9 are both career bests, and he now has the best fastball in the Royals bullpen and one of the best in all of baseball. That's what (fastball) speed do.
8. Scott Barlow - 3.22
The longtime Royals closer Scott Barlow has seen greater heights in his tenure but remains a steady presence in the bullpen. I was concerned that he was washed up earlier this year, to be honest with you. That is what happens after some uncharacteristically bad starts. Barlow has not put those behind him, but he is good for a save more often than not. Since June 3, he has had four saves in ten games, with 14 strikeouts and four walks in that same span. That comes out to an elite 12.6 K/9 and okay 3.6 BB/9. Barlow could be on the move later this summer, but for now he is a dependable weapon in late innings.
9. Josh Staumont - 4.02
To be honest, I forgot about Josh Staumont on this year's roster. The Royals put him on the 15-day IL back on June 7 with a neck strain, following two concerning outings just days before. MLB.com's Anne Rogers reported that Staumont "faced a setback" on June 27. Outside of his two most recent appearances, he has a 2.82 FIP with 11.65 K/9. The fastball may not run past batters anymore, but Staumont is still a good bullpen arm, without a doubt.
10. Jackson Kowar - 4.06
Look past the 6.17 ERA, because Kowar is coming more and more into form in 2023. The 26-year-old 2018 draftee may not be the frontline starter that Royals fans expected, but he is posting several career highs out of the bullpen this year. His three-run outing against the Tampa Bay Rays sent him back to Triple-A Omaha in exchange for James McArthur unfortunately. Kowar could be back soon, as he is giving quality innings more often than not.
As an entire unit, the Royals have an average bullpen according to their 4.08 FIP. Like the starting rotation, there is a large difference between the 4.93 ERA and 4.08 FIP. That .86 difference is the largest in all of MLB, nearly 20 points higher than second-place Oakland Athletics. It is a concerning trend that the defense is below-average throughout each game, and actually gets worse once the bullpen takes over.