Grading the 2023 KC Royals: Pitcher Dylan Coleman

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Welcome back to our Kings of Kauffman offseason series analyzing the 2023 performances of various KC Royals players. Let's look at pitcher Dylan Coleman. Please read this entirely, as Coleman had a brutal 2023 season, but I am optimistic about his 2024.

How many times have we talked about the KC Royals 2018 draft class? Most of that focus rightfully falls on high-round picks like Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. But there were plenty of other players the Royals picked after them. One was a Missouri State pitcher named Dylan Coleman. Coleman made his MLB debut in 2021, excelled in 2022, and looked to ascend to bullpen anchor in 2023.

Yet that could not be further from the case this season.

The KC Royals had high expectations for Dylan Coleman in 2023.

Coleman started the 2023 season with the major league club. This season started on a rocky note, with Coleman walking two batters and allowing a hit in a somehow scoreless inning against the Minnesota Twins on March 30. The wheels quickly fell off completely in his next four appearances. He allowed an astounding 10 earned runs in only four innings. The issues were so apparent that the Royals demoted Coleman to Triple-A Omaha in early April.

“He realized that he was not himself,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said (subscription required). “Whether it’s mechanical, strike-throwing, whatever it is, there’s something that’s off, and he recognizes that. And he said It’s not fair to himself, it’s not fair to the team, and it’s not fair to the other guys to go out there and compete without an arsenal that can get major-league hitters out right now."

Coleman's struggles did not stay in Kansas City. He appeared in 32 games for the Storm Chasers, with a 1-5 record and 5.43 fielding independent pitching (FIP). Coleman's control seemed nonexistent with a 9.39 BB/9 in Triple-A, mostly outweighing an impressive 14.09 K/9. It had to have been frustrating for Coleman, who was a valuable bullpen arm in 2022.

The Royals recalled Coleman on July 5 after a string of solid outings. It was a pivotal return after the Royals traded away Aroldis Chapman to the Texas Rangers. There was a spot for Coleman to carve out a role again and make fans forget about his early-season struggles. He pitched well enough in nine July appearances, with a 4.95 FIP and three successful holds. August was a whole different beast for Coleman, though.

He made nine more appearances in August with very different results. He racked up an 0-2 record and an 8.90 FIP while walking and striking out the same number of batters. His final MLB game this season was a terrible ending point, hitting a batter and then surrendering a walk-off home run against the Oakland Athletics. It was a low point for Coleman and the Royals as a whole before the team turned things around in September.

Like his first demotion, Coleman was not lights out for the Storm Chasers. He limited opposing batters to a .195 batting average but still issued 7.71 BB/9 in 12 games. The control issues really limited any effectiveness Coleman had this season. This is how his 2023 stats ultimately looked at the MLB level:

23 G, 0-2, 18 1/3 IP, 8.84 ERA, 19 BB, 21 K

Advanced stats to know:

1.11 K/BB, 7.02 FIP, -.4 fWAR, 85.4 MPH average exit velocity (T-23rd among relievers with at least10 IP)

What season grade should Dylan Coleman get?

Coleman underwent some major pitching arsenal changes this season. Learning a cutter and throwing it 26.6% of the time feels like an unwise move, which only hurts his fastball's effectiveness. Coleman still induced soft contact at a good rate, but batters could either wait to tee off on a below-average pitch or draw a walk from Coleman. He was not an effective reliever by any stretch. He still has massive potential, but his 2023 performance is an F from me.