The Kansas City Royals and their 2014 Starting Rotation

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Author's Note: I wrote this for another site originally, there are a few Cardinals references because I write about both Missouri teams there, but my audience mostly knows the Cardinals.

I realized something tonight that many of you may already know: the Royals might have to get creative next year with their starting rotation if they do not sign another starter. If they do not hit free agency hard to get an innings eating starter, they could be in a world of hurt next season in terms of innings.

The average major league team gets 923 innings out of their rotation in any given season. The Royals have already gotten 945 1/3 innings from their starters this year and have 6 games to go. Just giving them 5 innings per start gets them to 975+ innings out of their rotation this year. They hadn't reached 950 innings from a rotation in the last decade.

  1. #2 starter Ervin Santana will likely finish the year with a minimum of 210 innings pitched. He may not be back on the team next year.
  2. #4 starter Wade Davis threw 125 1/3 innings as a starter this season. He may not be in the rotation next year.
  3. #5 starter Luis Mendoza threw 79 innings as a starter this season. He may not be back in the rotation next year.
  4. #4/5 replacement starter Bruce Chen will likely finish the year with a minimum of 80 innings pitched as starter. He may not be back on the team next year.
  5. Danny Duffy will likely be back on the team next year as a starter, but he will be just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery and has averaged less than 5 innings per start at the MLB level this year.
  6. Felipe Paulino will likely be back on the team next year as a starter, but he will be just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery as well and has averaged less than 4 innings per start at the AAA level this year.

James Shields is slotted in to be their #1 starter and he has averaged around 220 innings a year as a full-time starter. Jeremy Guthrie is slotted to be their #2 starter and he has averaged around 207 innings a year as a full-time starter. That is all the certainty that the Royals have in their starting rotation. The next three spots are likely to be occupied (if not by a free agent - which I think you all will agree is an absolute must) by a combination of three out of the following:

First of all, the team needs about 500 innings (minimum) from their last three starters. As I said before, Paulino is struggling to throw a lot of pitches/innings right now less than a year removed from TJ. Before TJ, he averaged around 6 innings per start. If Paulino were healthy, I think that penciling him in for 180 innings would be absolutely fine. Next year, penciling him in for more than 0 is an interesting proposition. Danny Duffy has never gone deep into games; he only ever averaged over 5 innings per start 2 seasons in the minors (out of 6), much less 6 innings per start. I'd say you're lucky if Duffy gets you 150 innings next year. Luis Mendoza was the first pitcher in the rotation to be replaced this year, despite possibly out-pitching Wade Davis slightly. Mendoza - for you Cardinals fans - is basically Kyle McClellan as a starting pitcher. He strikes out around 5 per 9 innings, walks around 4 per 9 innings, and 5 1/3 innings a start. If you give him 30 starts, he'll likely give you around 160 innings - but will they be innings that help you win? Wade Davis was a starter this year but has been a reliever (much better at that role) in the past. For his career, Davis averages a shade under 6 innings per start, so given 32 starts he should hit 180 innings. Will Smith has been caught in pitching purgatory for the past year. He's a young lefty who has great numbers out of the pen and just decent numbers as a member of a rotation, but he could give you 6 innings a start for 30 starts - 180+ total. He's thrown around 180 in a season before (2012), and over 160 two other times, so it's not a huge taxing load on his arm, either. He could be a surprise pick for the #3 starter in the rotation next year. However, will he give you the "just decent" starter numbers or the "great" numbers out of the pen - or somewhere in between...or worse? Yordano Ventura is basically the Royals version of Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez, with Shelby Miller potential. He's going to end up around 145-150 innings thrown this season. He will give you 5+ innings per start - could possibly get you 160-170 next year - and they would likely be mostly good innings with some bad rookie innings thrown in there, as he'll be 23 years old. Speaking of pitcher limbo - Everett Teaford has been there for 4 years and would likely take quite a while to get back into starting pitcher shape. Aaron Crow is in the same boat as Everett Teaford. He was drafted as a starter, but hasn't been one in the majors, ever.

The Royals might be well advised to go with a modified 6 or 7 man rotation in which James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie still go every 5th day, but the other starters (Smith, Duffy, Paulino, and Davis to start the year - for example) simply fill in around them in order - where they can be used out of the pen every once in a while to help condition their arm and also relieve some of the members of the bullpen of constant use due to a decreased number of arms out there. Example using next year's March/April/May (part of) schedule:

3/31 - Shields
4/1 - off day
4/2 - Guthrie
4/3 - Smith
4/4 - Duffy
4/5 - Shields
4/6 - Paulino
4/7 - Guthrie
4/8 - Davis
4/9 - Smith
4/10 - off day
4/11 - Shields
4/12 - Guthrie
4/13 - Duffy
4/14 - off day
4/15 - Paulino
4/16 - Shields
4/17 - Guthrie
4/18 - Davis
4/19 - Smith
4/20 - Duffy
4/21 - Shields
4/22 - Guthrie
4/23 - Paulino
4/24 - Davis
4/25 - Smith
4/26 - Shields
4/27 - Guthrie
4/28 - off day
4/29 - Duffy
4/30 - Paulino
5/1 - Shields
5/2 - Guthrie
5/3 - Davis
5/4 - Smith
5/5 - Duffy
5/6 - Shields
5/7 - Guthrie
5/8 - Paulino
5/9 - Davis

That would give you 36 games in which Shields starts 8 times, Guthrie starts 8 times, and Smith, Duffy, Paulino, and Davis start 5 times apiece. This is supremely crude math but that would likely give you 36 starts for Shields and Guthrie, while the other 4 would be slated for 22-23 starts apiece. Likely it would turn out more like 33 for Shields and Guthrie and 24 each for the other 4. Shields and Guthrie could combine for the 425-430 innings they normally give you and the other 500 could be reached if the others can simply give you 5 innings per start. If they average 5.5 innings per start in their modified rotation, then they'd give you 528 innings. If they can reach 6 innings per start throwing less often, then that'd be 576 innings out of those 4! You could possibly get over 1,000 innings out of your rotation doing it this way - if luck breaks correctly. Of course, as mentioned above, what sort of innings will they be and can you really expect those pitchers to last an entire season? Who knows.

The Royals need a FA starter or to make a trade for another big name starter. The easiest path may be giving Ervin Santana the 5-year, $75M contract he will likely desire in the offseason...but is it a good buy? We can discuss that another day. This is one other option that could possibly work, and allow you the finances to go out and upgrade SS, or 3B, or 2B, or RF...

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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