The Young Royals Rotation

The Kansas City Royals decided to use the shortened season to their advantage when it came to their young pitchers. Lynn Worthy wrote an interesting piece for KansasCity.com gathering quotes from their pitching coach Cal Eldred. Directly from the article: “We got to take all of our pitchers in the organization, those on the 40-man roster and shift them back into player development,” Eldred said. “They had an opportunity when their arms were as healthy and felt as good and strong as they possibly could be to work on some of those things without the strain of, ‘You’ve just got to make it to the next start,’ or, ‘You’ve just gotta make it to the next outing and get outs.’ You can’t do that in a bullpen in between.”

The Royals already had a young and budding starter in Brad Keller but in 2020 they decided to call up both Brady Singer and Kris Bubic as well. Both of which hadn’t seen competition over AA ball. Both were bold moves and came with speculation but like Eldred said they had time to focus on development and these young Royals pitchers really improved as the season went on.

Keller came into 2020 working on trusting his arsenal and mechanics a little more. He admitted to tinkering too much as the 2019 season progressed and felt like it really hurt him in the long run. Something clicked for Keller because he pitched 54.2 innings producing a 2.47 ERA with a 3.43 FIP.

Keller is great at what he does and that is inducing weak contact. He was fourth overall in GB%, fifth overall in HR/9, and fourth in Barrel%. He is able to achieve this with his stellar four-seam/slider combination that in his career has posted a near 50% groundball rate. 

He is definitely due for some regression with a .233 BABIP and with all expected stats screaming run. Plus a perfectly dreadful 8.4 SwStr% means not only regression but likely a mediocre strikeout rate to boot. 

Moving forward one would expect a high three ERA pitcher who could provide you with some decent ratios. Keller is just 25 years old and can certainly grow and improve as a pitcher. Who knows maybe even become a Kyle Hendricks type. For now he is nothing more than a late-round flier to grab if you have a risky rotation late into the draft.

Kris Bubic at 23 years old got the call after only pitching as high as A+ ball. Coming into the 2020 season he was known for having a wicked changeup but as a pitcher altogether he needed a lot of work. Overall he was above average when it came to exit velocity and hard-hit rate against but with a severely lacking barrel rate against it looks like that might have been an aberration. 

His four-seam fastball which comes in at a slow 91.8 MPH had a .374 wOBA and 148 wRC+ against. Overall the pitch also had a .397 BABIP meaning severe regression is coming for this fastball. With a lack of movement and velocity, it seems like Bubic’s fastball could become a big problem.

The wicked changeup did have good separation from his fastball in terms of velocity but it was at the bottom of the league in both vertical and horizontal movement likely being the reason for the .247 ISO batters hit against it. The main issue is how he leaves it in the zone 50.6% of the time. He needs a pitch that causes hitters to chase and this should be it. 

The last issue with Bubic is his lack of command. It becomes pretty clear if you look at his plot charts and the 9.9% walk rate.

 

 

Bubic is the one young pitcher from the Royals that you want to stay away from. Just the overall numbers of a 4.32 ERA, 4.75 FIP, and 4.69 SIERA make you want to look away. He is nothing more than a streamer for 2021. 

Singer was just like Keller, a bright spot for the Kansas City Royals in 2020. He impressed with a 4.06 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and 4.29 SIERA in 12 starts. At age 24 he got the call after only playing in AA ball in 2019 becoming another young Royals pitcher to make quite a jump to the major leagues. 

With Singer we are going to take a look at his splits because they tell an important story. In the month of July he had two starts resulting in a 3.60 ERA. Then comes August where he pitches 24.2 innings that get paired with a 5.84 ERA. In the final month of baseball he then rings in an ERA of 2.73. On the surface level that 2.73 ERA is backed by a 2.28 FIP and 18.1 K-BB%. So what happened?

Two things happened. First and most notably is that Singer went to his slider more in the month of August. 

 

 

The slider was known to be his best pitch in prospect reports and throwing your best pitch more is usually always a good thing. In that month his slider produced a .180 wOBAcon and 15.1 SwStr%. In other words it produced whiffs and when hitters did make contact it wasn’t of quality. This lead to his September producing a significantly lower batting average against and wOBA against compared to August. Most impressively he did not allow a single home run in the entire month. 

The second thing that happened was Singer’s extremely rough schedule in August. He faced the Cubs, the Twins three times, and White Sox in that month, all playoff teams. Of course we want the pitchers we roster to be able to take on the tough teams but five straight starts against those offenses is a difficult task for any rookie. 

With Singer making a notable pitch mix change that caused better results in every facet of his game he becomes the most exciting player of the bunch. If he continues to throw his slider more and raise that strikeout rate he will provide a lot of value on draft day.

While Kris Bubic looks to have a lot of work to do both Brady Singer and Brad Keller look to be on their way to becoming viable MLB/fantasy pitchers. Their pitching coach seems to have some validity behind his statement and they clearly worked with their young pitchers to help further their development. With Danny Duffy and Jakob Junis being a mess they sure could use the help.  





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