Well, it is official. The Royals have named Luke Hochevar their 2011 Opening Day starter.
There hasn't exactly been breathless anticipation of this decision, although it is curious that the Royals waited this long to make an announcement. With Opening Day just ten days away, we're just about at the point where, given the rigid schedules employed by today's pitching staffs, you just about have to start making plans.
And really, that's 80% of what this is. Traditionally, there is also something of an honorific quality to the decision, and the Royals have generally been a traditional organization. Hochevar has been around for awhile, and as a former top pick, he's a player that the team can put out there with some small amount of hope and pride. You can write the narrative almost mechanically, if you'd like. And here's young hurler Luke Hochevar, the former number one overall pick. Hochevar is the first of the many exciting young arms the Royals have coming up in the next two years! Done and done.
Not that Hochevar doesn't stand a decent chance of actually being the best pitcher the 2011 Royals will have, either. His composite stat lines haven't been impressive, but he's had his moments over the last three seasons, and 2010 was the best year of his career at the Major League level. Well, kinda. The ERA+ was his best, but the peripheral numbers actually weren't much different, if not actually being a little worse. Stat Corner's tRA+ actually had him as slightly above average. Still, he's not Kyle Davies (story doesn't sell as well and there's less upside) and he's not Jeff Francis (a random and mercenary short term veteran).
These are special things.
Hochevar is, without question, one of the priorities for 2011. Along with Alex Gordon, he's the rare current Royal that is worth caring about. The Royals need to see what they have with the 27-year old Hochevar, and starting the season with him in place atop the rotation is a nice beginning.