Grading the 2023 KC Royals: Pitcher Brad Keller

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Welcome to our annual Kings of Kauffman postseason series analyzing the performance of various KC Royals players. Today, we take a look at how Brad Keller did in 2023.

Brad Keller's 2023 was anything but a banner year. It started out so strangely symmetric and unsustainably okay, though. This is how Keller's stats looked through his first four starts:

2-2, 30 1/3 innings, 24 hits, 12 earned runs, 24 walks, 24 strikeouts

Royals fans knew the wheels were going to fall off, and every one of those starts was a white-knuckled watching affair. But people kept pointing to his 3.56 ERA in that span and hoping that the walks and hits would decrease while the strikeouts remained. The former happened first, and Keller's 2023 season went down in a terrible manner. 

Brad Keller's 2023 season for the KC Royals could not have been much worse.

Keller made his last MLB start on May 15 against the San Diego Padres. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings in that start, walking eight batters while striking out two. It was a disastrous performance that was bookended with a trip to the IL with what the team deemed right shoulder impingement syndrome. That kept him out of action until June 28, when he made his first rehab appearance for the Triple-A Omaha Stormchasers. Sadly, that only added insult to injury.

His control seemed entirely gone, walking four batters in 1/3 of an inning in two of his first four appearances. He made nine appearances, totaling only nine innings of work. In that span, he allowed 15 earned runs and walked 21 batters with only five strikeouts. He suffered a setback, and the Royals ended his rehab assignment.

Keller returned for eight more minor-league appearances on another rehab assignment with slightly better results, but clear control issues remained. The Royals reinstated Keller in September, and, surprise surprise, he walked five batters in two innings of work, allowing two earned runs too. 

It was just awful. Fans did not expect much out of Keller in the 2023 season, but injuries caused his performance to decline at a rapid pace. This is how Keller's stats shook out in his MLB season:

11 G, 9 GS, 3-4, 45 1/3 IP, 4.57 ERA, 45 BB, 31 K

Advanced numbers to know:

6.15 K/9, 8.93 BB/9, 5.92 FIP, -.2 fWAR

What season grade should Brad Keller get?

I struggle to see any positives in Keller's 2023 performance. You can attribute control issues to the injury or learning a new pitch, but the results were not there. He only appeared in 11 games this year and still tied for the second-most walks on the Royals pitching staff. He is entering free agency on a very low note and with no certain MLB future. If you put all that together, that has to be an F from me..