What is KC Royals newest pitcher Matt Sauer's role in 2024?

The Royals picked up a new player in the Rule 5 Draft, but what does he bring to the table?
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The KC Royals left Nashville quietly, as many teams did after the Winter Meetings. However, drafting pitcher Matt Sauer in the Rule 5 Draft is an intriguing way to try and improve the MLB roster.

Sauer came from the New York Yankees pipeline, where he was the organization's 25th-best prospect. The Yankees left him and several other pitchers unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, likely due to their solid MLB rotation and bullpen. Still, Sauer was one of three prospects New York lost to the draft.

Kansas City's drafting Sauer all but guarantees him some sort of role in 2024. They could add him to the 60-day IL with some mysterious injury, but that benefits Kansas City in no way. This team is constantly looking to improve on the fringes, and hopefully, Sauer does that in some way shape, or form.

What will Matt Sauer bring to the KC Royals pitching staff?

The biggest question surrounding Sauer this offseason is what role will he fill. The jury is still out on whether he will be a reliever or a starter, and Royals general manager J.J. Picollo did not provide any clarity last week.

"There were a handful of arms we liked,” Picollo said. “The difference between him and the other guys is we liked his ability to potentially start long-term. There's some similarities in what we liked about Brad Keller when we selected him a few years ago. Physical guy, good fastball, good breaking ball, strikeout numbers are good."

Picollo comparing Sauer to Keller is an appropriate comparison and says a lot about how the team may use him in 2024. Keller, a Rule 5 selection, started his Royals career with 21 relief appearances and then joined the rotation later in 2018. Keller made the transition seamless, eventually having a 2.6 fWAR season.

Keller fell off the rails in 2023, but it is easy to forget he had 7.3 fWAR across his first four seasons. By all measurements, Keller is a success story of the Rule 5 draft for both Kansas City at MLB at large.

We will look at Sauer closer ahead of the 2024 season and how well his stuff plays in different situations. But, looking at Sauer's playing-level experience and Picollo's statement, all signs point to Sauer starting 2024 in the bullpen. If he is a member of the rotation to start the season, the Royals have bigger problems at hand.