Kansas City Royals Should Try Luke Hochevar in the Bullpen

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer IDecember 26, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 10: Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 10, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Kansas City Royals swung and missed with the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. But they should see if the disappointing Luke Hochevar can adjust to a new role and minimize their mistake for the 2013 season.

The Royals have gone into a surprising win-now mentality this offseason. Their moves to bring in reliable veteran pitching shows they hope to duplicate the unexpected success of the 2012 Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals in 2013.

The team's need for an ace pitcher would not have been so great had they handled the first pick of the 2006 draft differently.

In the 2005 draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers chose Hochevar, a star at the University of Tennessee, 40th overall, but he did not sign, as Scott Boras advised his client to re-enter the draft in a year.

Kansas City picked Hochevar with the first overall pick in 2006. The Dodgers picked Clayton Kershaw with the No. 7 pick. The Giants chose Tim Linecum with the No. 10 pick.

There were three All-Stars awarded to top-10 picks that year, but that didn't include Hochevar (the Rays picked Evan Longoria at No. 3).

Perhaps Hochevar would have developed into a top starter had he signed with the Dodgers. Maybe Linecum and Kershaw would have flopped in Kansas City.

But Hochevar has been a bust for the Royals. Save for a month here or there, the No. 1 overall pick has consistently put up subpar numbers.

His lifetime ERA is 5.39. In 2012, he posted a 5.73 ERA over 185.1 innings. His ERA+ has never reached 90 over a full season. He led the league in earned runs allowed in 2012.

He will show flashes of brilliance with a solid game from time to time but mostly has been rocked.

The Royals hoped to move the Colorado native to the Rockies this offseason. But, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Twitter), the Rockies have balked at the deal after Hochevar was tendered a $4 million contract.

The Royals have him under contract for 2013 and should see if he could play a role in their bullpen. Perhaps he can emulate Tim Linecum's role in the 2012 postseason.

Linecum struggled as a starter in 2012 and in his lone postseason start, but he excelled as a long reliever who helped bridge the starter with the closer with multiple innings.

Hochevar clearly has talent, and perhaps just one time around could make him more effective.

He may never be an ace, or even a capable starter. But as long as he is a member of the Kansas City Royals, the team needs to find a role for him.

If he helps the Royals back into the playoffs, maybe it won't be such a bad pick after all.