Who here likes to read bad news?
That question proves your kindergarten teacher wrong — there are such things as stupid questions.
That being said, I’ll do my best to spin my preview of the 2012 Kansas City Royals starting pitching staff positively. Hey, it could be worse, at least the overall staff finished 27th in majors last season.
Let’s start with what we do know, and not the big name All-Star who is rumored to be considering the Royals as a destination. Pitching-wise, this season boils down to Jonathan Sanchez. Can he be the anchor of this staff and return to 2010 version that had an ERA just over three? Or will Sanchez be the guy that was often injured and has had a losing record in five of six seasons? There’s a lot riding on that left arm, not only for his future as 29-year-old, but for Mike Montgomery. It looks like the highly rated prospect may spend another season in the minors honing his skill. Montgomery was the 19th-rated prospect last season, but a horrendous year that ended with a 5.32 ERA.
The number-two in this rotation is Luke Hochevar. The former number-one overall pick has yet to “figure it out,” but with 11 wins last season and his lowest ERA in a full season, he might be on his way. The two-to-one K/BB ratio is also encouraging for the Royals pitching staff. The other concern: Will his velocity come back? It’s not what it was at the University of Tennessee, which may be good, because he has added some pitches to the repertoire. Hochevar has become more of a pitcher and less of thrower.
I think it’s safe to say you can write Danny Duffy’s name in ink on the starting pitching scorecard for the 2012 Royals. The lefty is another baby face in this rotation who is gaining experience rapidly. Duffy is just 23 years old and already has scouts buzzing about his curveball. He’s not afraid to go to it at any time and gladly will move it around the plate. Duffy’s fastball won’t overwhelm anyone, but his control is what projects him to be a number-two starter in the big leagues. With only a small sample to go by, many people have said he is in the mold of Cole Hamels.
Felipe Paulino hasn’t been very good early on in his career. He is still just 28 years old and has a plus fastball but hasn’t been able to put any semblance of a decent season together. He will get a shot in this rotation but with a very short leash. There are budding talents in this organization, and the Royals patience is measured by how quickly their 20-to-25 year olds are progressing.
The wiley veteran, Bruce Chen, is not technically part of the team, but I would be surprised if they don’t bring him back at a reasonable price. Plus, he is a Type B free agent, and I doubt any team is going to want to part with a draft pick. The argument for keeping Chen is he had one of his best seasons as a starter and has become an anchor in this rotation. With back-to-back, 12-win seasons, the 34-year-old earned himself a spot in this rotation for at least another year. If the ERA continues to hover around the mid-to-high threes and he can add a few wins, Chen’s services as a leader in the clubhouse become that much more valuable.
The five-spot is a bit of mystery with the rumors swirling around Kauffman Stadium. The Royals are looking to add a proven veteran to aid in this young team’s development. It just so happens that Roy Oswalt is available. There has been debate to the intensity of how interested they are in each other. The Royals have a bit of extra cash in the bank because of the All-Star Game, so don’t be surprised if they splurge for a year. I think each side is downplaying the interest, but it is Oswalt’s choice in the end.
I’ve also heard rumors of Jeff Francis or Chris Capuano donning the powder blue. Each of these pitchers is a shell of their former selves with lots to prove. Francis was horrendous last season but was an innings eater for the most part. Capuano had somewhat of a bounce-back year with the New York Mets but is being pursued by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals seem like a long shot in this rumor, as well. The most persistent rumor before the Sanchez trade was the Royals trying to acquire Jair Jurrjens. There have been reports it’s between the New York Yankees and Royals — how often do hear that? — for Jurrjens. The Royals are unwilling, rightfully so, to part with any of their top prospects, and the Yankees desperately need pitching. The Yankees have more room for error, but if the Yankees balk, the Royals are in good position to bolster the rotation, yet again, this offseason. The other option in the number-five spot is Aaron Crow. He is 25 years old and had a very good season out of the bullpen. The youngster would have been a definite for the rotation, but the Sanchez trade and said rumors have made him a question mark. Spending another year in the bullpen may be to the Royals advantage, though.
Overall, this rotation can sink or swim. Each guy as the potential to be very good or very bad; trust me, I know that’s vague analysis but that’s what it boils down to with journeyman and prospects. If I had to predict, I’d say that there will be a starting pitcher on this team vying for spot on the All-Star roster. The edge goes Hochevar.