The KC Royals starting rotation has been far from dominant in the 2023 season. Injuries and unpredictable performances make for some exciting performances but also contribute to their struggles as a team. Kris Bubic's season ended early after he underwent Tommy John surgery; Zack Greinke is not pitching or acting like a staff ace; and Brady Singer has been a shell of his 2022 self so far. The frustrations are mounting, and Kansas City fans want to see some changes in the rotation. After Austin Cox made his first career start on June 28, two more Royals starters are approaching their return to The Show: Angel Zerpa and Brad Keller.
Two KC Royals starters are nearing their MLB returns.
The two starters began a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers on June 28. Zerpa made his first start that day as well, going 4 1/3 innings with three walks and five strikeouts. He only surrendered two earned runs, so it was far from a terrible start.
Zerpa's return is greatly anticipated among the Royals faithful. He only has three starts under his belt between the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but a strong and promising future is expected for him. He is Kansas City's 7th overall prospect, according to MLB.com. A knee injury limited the 23-year-old Venezuelan to 19 appearances in 2022, but he returned to the mound with the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals this season. Across three starts, he allowed one run on five hits while striking out seven. The international prospect has three plus pitches, deploying a fastball, changeup, and slider to keep batters off balance.
Keller's Triple-A debut was less confidence-inspiring though. He only lasted 1/3 of an inning, walking four batters and accounting for two runs. Still, this is his first appearance back from being on the IL, so I am not terribly worried. Keller has not made his first start in Omaha yet, but it will be his first in Triple-A ever. I was surprised to learn that Keller jumped from Arizona's Double-A affiliate in 2017 to start in the majors for Kansas City the following year. Keller already has nine major-league starts under his belt this season, with a 3-4 record and a 4.36 ERA. He will still need some time in Omaha to get stretched back out as a starter. His last start was May 15 against the San Diego Padres. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings in that start while walking a career-high eight batters. The Royals placed him on the 15-day IL on May 19 with right shoulder impingement syndrome. Keller's 40 walks this season still lead all Royals pitchers, despite his five-week absence.