We talked about the hitting and we talked about the starting pitching, but the final part in this series focuses on the Kansas City Royals bullpen. It may not sound sexy, but do a little digging, memorize some stats and predict who is going to be a stud in this young bullpen and your lady will be impressed when Luis Coleman has great season. I assume women like talking in-depth about middle relievers, right?
Let’s work from the closer to the long relievers and break down the 2012 Royals pen.
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Closer: Joakim Soria is, arguably, the most recognizable name on this Royals team. He has been the subject of trade rumors for years now, and with the Royals willing to ship out Zack Grenike, one has to wonder if that weighed on his mind. Soria’s 2011 campaign was the worst of his career by a long shot. An ERA over 4.00 is a cause for concern, but Soria has earned his place as in the top-closer discussion. Some may be hesitant to put him that category next season, I’m not and you shouldn’t be either. Look for Soria to rebound in a big way and be the leader of the youth movement in bullpen.
Set-up/seventh inning: The recent signing of Jonathan Broxton is not only one I love but hate, too. I hate it because I’m not sure if he is going to be the go-to guy in the seventh or eighth inning. I also don’t like it because it worries me it might shake the confidence of a young up-and-comer in Greg Holland. However, the one-year deal is an excellent low-risk, high-reward move. Broxton is coming off an injury-filled season and will be entering his eighth season at the tender age of 27, but he is a two-time All-Star who is looking for a big payday in his prime. Also, closing may be in the future if Soria continues his decline. I like this move by Dayton Moore because it also adds another veteran to a very talented, but young, bullpen.
Set-up/seventh inning: Holland was one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season. His first taste of the majors couldn’t have been any worse. Holland gave up 14 earned runs in his first 18 major-league innings, but 2011 was shear brilliance. In 60 IP, Holland allowed just 12 earned runs along with an absurd 3.89-to-1 K/BB ratio. I’ve also heard Holland could be hot on the trade block. That would be extremely foolish unless there was an overwhelming offer. Broxton is likely to be gone after the season, and I don’t know why you would want to give up a guy who is coming into his own.
Everyone else: There is going to be a cluster in the rest of the bullpen because of the young talent on this team. The signing of Broxton tells me it’s unlikely the Royals will persue any of the older, cheaper arms that were mentioned in my starting pitching article. That means Aaron Crow is likely to round out the starting rotation allowing Holland or Broxton to fill the seventh-inning role. This leaves a bit of a cluster at the bottom of the barrel. Stuck in this limbo will be Everett Teaford, and it looks like the Royals may push along Mike Montgomery. Teaford was solid in his brief stint last season. At 27-years-old, he is no spring chicken, but he will be great for spot starts.
All hope is that Montgomery makes the team. The Royals faithful have high hopes forMontgomery, and easing him in as a long reliever/spot starter might be the best formula for early success. Tim Collins has potential, but control is an issue. The lefty recorded 60 Ks to 48 BBs, not something you want out of the bullpen. We can chalk that up to young nerves. The aforementioned Coleman can be a stud. He averaged 9.7 Ks per nine innings to go along with a .207 batting average against. Not bad for a 25-year-old sidearm thrower. Blake Wood, to me, is the final absolute in the bullpen. Kelvin Herrera and Nate Adcock have been mentioned, but neither had enough time to stand out. You can expect the spring to be a battle. Wood is poised to be a solid option and would have been heavily relied on if it weren’t for the Broxton signing. He has improved vastly and added more work than his first season.
This bullpen is legitimately one of the better groups in the league, and with a shaky starting rotation, they will be used heavily. If they can lock down whatever lead their staff hands over, we could be talking about the Royals vying for a playoff spot heading into September.