Who has the best shot at Kansas City's final rotation spot?
Kris Bubic was headed in the right direction to start 2023 before injury robbed him of the rest of his season in April. He was getting great separation between his circle changeup and fastball, and his SO/9 was up and his HR/9 and BB/9 both down.
Bubic’s circle change may be the best pitch the Royals have in their arsenal. But he had Tommy John Surgery in April and probably won't be able to make a start until June or July.
That leaves Kansas City with Lynch, Lyles, and Bowlan for the final rotation slot. Lynch has had a rough start to his professional career: across parts of three seasons with KC, he has a 5.18 ERA and has struggled to strike out batters and force bad contact. And he's a player the Royals may choose to part with this winter.
Unlike Lynch, Bowlan's clock hasn't really started; he's pitched only twice in the majors. The Royals could leave him in Triple-A to let him develop more; If he doesn't break through, he'll probably find himself part of a trade.
That leaves Jordan Lyles, and there's really no way around him unless he's traded before Opening Day. Lyles' struggles in 2023 were real: he had the worst ERA (6.28) and most losses (17) in the majors, marks that arose both from his own doing and from playing for a bad team.
But Lyles is durable and eats a ton of innings. He's pitched 177 or more innings in each of the last three seasons. And his 1.244 WHIP this year was one of his best. If he can get his HR/9 back down to the 1.31 he put up in Baltimore in 2022, Royals fans should be much happier with him.
Could others find their way into the rotation mix? There have been rumblings that the Royals may still be hunting for another starter, and they certainly have some young players they could move to make that happen. They may also try to flip one or more of their young starters; if they do, expect the return to be one capable of filling a rotation spot.