The 2019 Royals starting rotation has for the most part done a decent job. Last year it was rated in the top 10 teams in the MLB in ERA even, a little fact that gets overlooked a lot. This year, even with our 5th pitcher slot still undetermined, we seem poised to do that again. Keller could potentially be part of the rebuild being only 23 years old. He has the skill set to be a decent middle of the rotation guy in a strong rotation.
Jacob Junis and Jorge L. both at age 26 may be a guys who ends up being a little past their prime starter years for the rebuild in 2023. They could find themselves being possible trade pieces down the line or find themselves spots in the bullpen much like Wade Davis in 2014 and Ian Kennedy has this year. But with starting experience they would provide us rotation depth at least. Homer Bailey will be long gone at age 31 and really is nothing more than a band-aid this year while we develop some of our farm system guys. Both Heath Fillmyer and Eric Skoglund as young pretty talented arms would likely be fighting for the 4th or 5th spot in that rotation though as the talent below them appears to be superior to theirs. So let’s break down who these talented pitchers are and what we can expect from these guys.
Brady Singer drafted number 18 by the Royals last year just had his first start in the minors and while he struggled in the first inning giving up 2 runs, he was just coming back from and injury and was a little rusty. He then proceeded to sit down the next 15 batters he faced in 6 strong innings. He is still young and developing his stuff, but has a solid repertoire of fastball, slider, and change-up. His fastball and slider are above average and his change-up average at this time. I expect to see him develop these three pitches into elite pitches in the next 2 years and add a 4th pitch to his repertoire. He has a lower arm angle, which adds deceptiveness to his pitches and he has a little above average control. At his age all of this is very promising and is projected as the Royals future ace of the rotation. He is expected to make his debut at the majors by 2021.
Daniel Lynch was the 3rd of the five pitchers the Royals picked up in the 2018 draft, but has outperformed expectations to this point. He has lifted himself to the 4th highest prospect in the Royals system right now has put himself on a faster track for the majors than anyone expected. Upside some of the other pitchers may develop to be better, but currently he is one of the more polished. He brings an above average fastball, change-up, and slider, and an average curveball. His four pitches combined with above average control over all of these pitches has him turning heads early. He is projected to be more a middle of the rotation guy and could see the big leagues by 2021 as well.
Jackson Kowar was teammates with Brady Singer at Florida and was the second man in the rotation behind Singer. Some scouts felt that Kowar could potentially be better than Singer in the long-term, but Singer was just more polished. Kowar has an above average fastball and changeup with an average curveball. His change-up is currently his best pitch with excellent deception with the ball tumbling and fading. His curveball has been considered inconsistent at times and the Royals have been talking with him to change from a curveball to a slider to add more consistency with his third pitch, but when he debuted his curveball appeared fine. So perhaps he will still develop the slider and add a 4th pitch. He holds runners well and his delivery should be good for durability. He has the potential to be in the front part of the rotation. He is also currently projected to move to the big leagues by 2021. Perhaps he and Singer can repeat the 1-2 punch that won the Florida Gators the National Championship in 2018.
Kris Bubic the 4th pitcher taken by the Royals in 2018 out of Stanford has always been a guy to rely on his fastball to change-up combination with great success, but a strong 3rd pitch will be needed to make it in the next levels. His curveball is considered pretty average and he seems to know it as he is very selective on when he throws it. His fastball and change-up typically have less than 10 mph between them in their velocities, so he will need to work on getting a larger velocity difference between these pitches to throw hitters off more. To this point, his deceptive arm angle and funky delivery have made him hard to read and have made his change-up a successful strike out pitch, but as he moves up he may see more struggles. Despite the inconsistent curveball, he is a strong strike thrower and is projected to be a 4th starter in our future rotation. He is a little behind his fellow 2018 pitchers, but there is enough potential there the Royals feel he could catch up. Currently projected to move to the majors by 2022.
The 5th starter in our rotation will likely fall to Brad Keller if the Royals are able to wrap him up for the long term. If Bubic fails to catch up to his three counter parts I mentioned earlier than we may see more of Skoglund or Fillmyer in the 5th spot with Keller moving to number 4. Of course these are projections based on talent evaluations and people don’t always live up to expectations; or an injury could hold someone up from the timetable currently set. However, based on talent evaluations that have been done on these pitchers, and the expectations the Royals have for them, we could see the strongest Royals rotation in a very long time, if not ever. The bullpen would again be more questions than answers at this point. But here are a few possible bullpen candidates I see at this point.
Possible 2022-2023 Bullpen
Possible 2022-2023 Starting Lineup
(1) Centerfield- Khalil Lee (projected as the next Cain)
(2) Short Stop – Adalberto Mondesi (projected All-Star player)
(3) 1st base- Nick Pratto (projected as the next Hosmer)
(4) Right Field- Seuly Matias (Projected Monster power hitter, strike out a lot)
(5) Catcher- MJ Melendez (projected as the next Perez)
(6) DH- Ryan O’Hearn (below average defense, average contact, above average power)
(7) 3rd Base- Hunter Dozier (above average defender, average power, below average contact)
(8) 2nd Base- Nicky L. (good defense, good contact hitter, good speed, good arm)
(9) Left Field- Kyle Isbel (good speed, good base-runner, Good contact, good defense)