Projected arbitration salary: $1,200,000
Another member of that reliever group who started the season in Omaha was surprisingly Josh Staumont. The Royals selected Staumont in the second round of the 2015 MLB draft and he had lived up to expectations through the 2021 season. But a down 2022 changed his trajectory and the 2023 season did little to correct it.
I was high on Staumont's return. He came back to the team two weeks after Opening Day with a good reason behind his minor-league stint.
“A lot of it was just kind of tweaking little things here and there, trying to make sure that we’re being as consistent as possible,” Staumont said about his return. “And some of that just comes with extra reps and stuff like that. It’s good. So we’re just happy to kind of keep the ball rolling. I’ve been throwing really well through spring training all the way up to here. So we just got to kick it up a notch and do it up here basically.”
He had a successful return and those good feelings lasted all of a month. From April 18 to May 23, Staumont pitched 14 1/3 innings with an impressive 2.84 FIP and 3.14 ERA. He struck out 18 batters to walking 8, an acceptable ratio. The fastball velocity was down by far, but a new-look slider offered potential. Building a formidable arsenal is key for any pitcher to extend their career, and Staumont needed another great pitch.
Then things turned for the worse quicker than a hiccup. His next five appearances saw Satumont give up seven earned runs, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio plummeted to one for one. A 13.50 ERA and 7.11 FIP signaled something was wrong with the veteran, especially because of how ineffective any pitch was against opposing batters.
Staumont landed on the IL after his June 5 appearance with a neck strain. He suffered a setback later that month, inducing more testing from professionals. When it was all said and done, the Royals sent the 29-year-old pitcher to the 60-day IL on July 14 ahead of him needing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. There is no timetable for his return, unfortunately, casting his MLB future into doubt.
The Royals faced a similar issue with Brentz last season. Instead of paying Staumont an MLB contract for possibly minimal production, the team should consider non-tendering him in favor of a minor-league contract that keeps him in the system past his recovery timeline.