Predicting the Kansas City Royals 2014 Rotation
The biggest weakness for the 2012 Kansas City Royals has been the struggles of the starting rotation.
Injuries and inconsistent performance have translated into the Royals having one of the worst rotations in all of baseball. Add in the major regression of former top prospect Mike Montgomery in Triple-A, and nothing has gone right for this group.
The good news is that there is help on the way, and by 2014, the Royals may have some quality starters to build their rotation around. This article will preview the 2014 Royals rotation.
When the Royals brought up top prospect Danny Duffy last year, he predictably struggled. The then-22-year-old left-hander went just 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA in 20 starts. Duffy did show some flashes of potential, but he struggled with his control and was very hittable.
Duffy appeared to have learned some lessons from his big-league struggles in 2011 when he came into spring training for this year. In fact, Duffy got off to a strong start to the season, going 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in six starts before getting injured.
Duffy required Tommy John surgery, which of course ended his season after those six starts. There is good news though, as the date of his injury means that he should be back on the mound for the bulk of the 2013 season.
That could mean that Duffy is back where he should be for the 2014 season. He may not be an ace, but he looks like he could become a very solid middle-of-the-rotation guy that strikes out a lot of hitters.
The key piece of the Zack Greinke trade is knocking on the doorstep for the Royals. That player is Jake Odorizzi, a 22-year-old right-hander, who has been having a very good season between Double- and Triple-A and is expected to make his big-league debut before the end of the season.
Odorizzi had a strong start to his 2011 season in High-A, going 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA before a promotion to Double-A. Odorizzi's Double-A experience didn't go as smoothly, but he was able to learn from it as he went 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA in 12 start.
Odorizzi started this year repeating Double-A, and has proven that he learned some lessons a year ago. He went 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA in seven starts before quickly getting promoted to Triple-A.
In Triple-A, he has gone 7-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 12 games despite playing in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Odorizzi has more than enough ability to be a very good middle-of-the-rotation starter, and he even has the potential to become a No. 2 guy. By 2014, he should be a key cog in the Royals' rotation.
The Royals' best starter this year has been Felipe Paulino; however, just like Danny Duffy, his season was ended early by Tommy John surgery. Still, his success with the Royals over the past two years is a bit of a surprise, as the team basically got him for nothing last year from the Rockies.
Paulino went 1-9 with a 5.11 ERA in 19 games, including 14 starts, for the Astros in 2010 before being traded to the Rockies at the end of the year.
With the Rockies, he spent his time in the bullpen, but didn't really impress as he went 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in 18 appearances. That led to the Rockies selling Paulino to the Royals in late May 2011.
Paulino immediately stepped into the Royals rotation and went 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA in 21 games last year, which was a nice surprise for the team. He continued his success at the beginning of this season, as he went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts before getting hurt.
Paulino has quietly become a very solid pitcher. With the Royals, he has done a solid job of limiting hits and he done a great job of striking hitters out with 158 in 162.1 combined innings with the club.
Hopefully, he gets back on the mound quickly and is able to re-join the team by the All-Star Game in 2013, which would allow him to build for 2014.
Ever since the Royals used the top pick in the 2006 MLB draft on Luke Hochevar, he has frustrated the team and their fans. Hochevar is a guy with a world of talent, but even in his best years, he has never been more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Hochevar appeared to be improving after having the best two years in his career over the last two years. Hochevar went 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA in 18 starts in 2010, and followed that up by going 11-11 with a 4.68 ERA in 31 starts last year.
Instead of taking the next step forward this year, Hochevar has regressed. So far, he has made 20 starts and has a 6-9 record with a 5.26 ERA. This is partly because he's been very hittable this year, allowing an even 10 hits per nine innings pitched.
Hochevar projects to be an innings-eating veteran presence on a pitching staff that is expected to be very young. Obviously, if the Royals are able to invest in a free agent, such as Zack Greinke, the need for Hochevar in 2014 wouldn't be very significant.
Following a 2010 season where he went 10-7 with a 2.38 ERA in 28 starts across three levels at just age 19, John Lamb was among the top prospects in all of baseball. What the left-hander had done at such a young age was extremely impressive, especially considering he finished the season in Double-A.
Lamb went 1-2 with a 3.09 ERA in eight starts in Double-A to open the 2011 season, but he just didn't appear to be right. His strikeouts were significantly down, as his stuff wasn't the same as it was a year ago, leading some to question whether there was an underlying injury.
After those eight starts it finally came out that there was an injury that was having an effect on his performance, and he would require Tommy John surgery.
Lamb has not pitched since mid-May 2011, but he is getting closer to a rehab assignment per Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
Even if Lamb doesn't pitch in a game until mid-August as reported, he would still be able to get innings in by pitching in the fall instructional league or the Arizona Fall League.
Then he would be able to possibly start 2013 back in Double-A, and have a chance to reach the big leagues before the end of the year.
Also considered: Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer, Luis Mendoza, Aaron Crow, Will Smith, Zack Greinke