The Kansas City Royals addressed one of their needs when they signed innings-eater Jason Vargas. Three of the five rotation spots were solidified with the signing, but what would the team do to fill the back-end of the rotation?
James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Vargas provide a solid foundation to build a rotation on. They will go deep into games and allow the team to be in position to win consistently. Reports of the team being near the top of their budget, according to Bob Dutton of KansasCity.com, seemingly suggest that the last two spots will be filled from within the current roster.
The team has a large amount of young talent but only a select few that seem poised to make the jump to the big league roster. What follows are six pitchers that are poised to seize a position at the back-end of this rotation.
Statistics in the following slides are courtesy of KansasCityRoyals.com and are current as of the end of the 2013 season.
According to MLB.com, Jason Adam ranks as the 18th best prospect in the Royals' organization. His work at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year showed a young pitcher that has a lot of promise but still needs some work.
Adam is on the 40-man roster and will surely see some playing time during spring training in 2014. He needs a lot of work on his secondary pitches and needs to find consistency within the strike zone to take that next step. Hitters are batting far too well against him, posting a .277 batting average according to MLB.com.
Adam will likely be a part of the Royals rotation sometime in the future but his chances in 2014 are slim. Don't be surprised if you see enough of him in the spring to get fans excited.
Another minor league hurler that is currently on the 40-man roster, John Lamb spent 2013 returning from Tommy John surgery and reestablishing himself in the organization. Reestablish is a good way of describing his 2013 season.
Lamb was able to throw over 108 innings in 22 effective starts split between the Carolina league and the Pacific Coast League. He was able to keep his walks low and show good command over his pitches. Hitters found some success against him but that can be expected from a pitcher that is around the strike zone in the minors.
Lamb will continue to increase his inning load going into 2014 and could find himself in the big leagues before the season is over with. If he can put together an impressive spring, he could surprise a lot of fans and find himself in the rotation on Opening Day. Most likely, he will find himself starting the season at Triple-A Omaha and preparing for his big league debut.
Chris Dwyer found his way to the big league roster in 2013 as he worked out of the bullpen at the end of the season. The 6'3" left-handed hurler notched 28 starts at Triple-A Omaha before making his debut in a Royals uniform.
Dwyer has been known to have control issues, and 2013 did not go a long way in disproving that theory. He walked 72 hitters while striking out 112 over 159.2 innings in Omaha. He keeps hitters off balance with his secondary pitches and keeps opposing hitters from achieving a high batting average. He does allow his fair share of home runs and should benefit from pitching in Kauffman Stadium as his home park.
Dwyer has a great chance at cracking the rotation if he can take down either of our next two hurlers in the spring. He should, at the very least, see opportunities as a spot-starter throughout the season.
Wade Davis was the other piece in the James Shields trade that the Royals had hoped would work out. An inconsistent pitcher who seemed to throw better from the bullpen, Davis had some experience starting, and the Royals turned to him in 2013 to take a rotation spot.
Davis proved to be the weak link of the 2013 rotation and seemed to have lost the team's confidence in him before the season was over. His 5.32 earned run average was enough for the team to look to the youngsters to overcome the disappointment.
Davis will likely still be given the opportunity to start in spring training and try to break camp with the team in that role. He may need an exemplary run in the spring in order to hold off either of our last two hurlers and is likely destined for a role in the bullpen in 2014.
The fifth spot in the Royals' rotation will likely go to young hurler Yordano Ventura. Ventura pitched well enough in 2013 to leap from Double-A to Triple-A and all the way to big leagues before the season ended.
He started 25 games in the minor leagues before starting three more in 2013. His above-average fastball and deadly curveball keep hitters guessing on a regular basis. His three starts in the big leagues last season gave him confidence and some points to work on, but there is nothing suggesting that he will not be able to continue to succeed.
Ventura is likely to start the season as the Royals' number-five starter, allowing the team to control his innings by occasionally skipping a start and still giving the team the ability to capitalize on the young man's success.
Danny Duffy was heralded as one of the best starters the Royals had developed until he found himself undergoing surgery on his throwing arm. He made his successful return to Kansas City last season and now finds himself fighting for a spot in a rotation some thought he would lead one day.
Duffy's road back has been fairly standard for a pitcher returning from injury as he saw days of dominance and others of inconsistency. By the end of the season, he seemed to have found his way.
He started five games for Kansas City late in the 2013 season. Over 24.1 innings, he would allow just five runs while striking out 22 hitters and walking 14. As he heals, his control seems to be coming around, and he should be in a good spot to claim his rotation spot back.
Manager Ned Yost will continue to develop his pitching staff and round out his rotation in 2014. The mix of veteran starters and young talent gives him plenty of options. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura stand to benefit from the openings and are most likely to grasp those final two spots in the rotation.
Ultimately, the Royals have a lot of exciting arms to fill a rotation with and that is a big improvement from seasons past.
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