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Royals' Starting Pitching Pipeline

Hard to believe Jeremy Guthrie is a long term answer to the Royals' rotation woes.
Hard to believe Jeremy Guthrie is a long term answer to the Royals' rotation woes.

With speculation coming from the Royals that they might give the likes of Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow a look at becoming starters this off-season, I though a quick rundown of what other in-house options are available or on the horizon might be relevant.

As a quick aside, the idea of Tim Collins being a starter seems almost laughable to me. He's never started in his professional career and given the combination of his very small stature and sometimes marginal control, it is hard to envision Collins grinding through inning after inning every fifth day. As for Herrera, he was a tremoundous started in the low minors...when he was healthy...which wasn't very often. Unlike Crow, who was seemingly moved to the bullpen to get him to the majors, Herrera was moved to relief to simply keep him healthy. I love Herrera out of the pen setting up Greg Holland for years to come (or reversing roles with Holland).

When it comes to Aaron Crow, I would not mind him getting an honest to god look, but am skeptical that a) the Royals will actually give him one and b) that Aaron has the third pitch to make any look he is given successful.

With the possible exception of experimenting with Crow, the other two moves strike me as desperation. Of course, when you look at the other options in-house, maybe desperation is warranted.

While the Omaha Storm Chasers are having a spectacular year, I would not give a whole lot of the credit for that to their starting pitching. Having already contributed Will Smith and Everett Teaford to the major league roster, the Chasers have the guy we all know about (Jake Odorizzi) and then, well, some other guys.

Odorizzi has a 3.17 ERA and 4.22 FIP in 90 innings in AAA this year. He's striking out 7.8 batters and walked 3.4 per nine innings, while averaging less than six innings per start. My hunch is that if Jake was more pitch efficient, he would probably already be in Kansas City. As it stands right now, he seems to be the only viable help that the big league club could count on come 2013.

The other guys are Nathan Adcock (5.09 ERA, 3.69 FIP, less than 6K/9), Doug Davis (36 years old), Chris Dwyer (6.21 ERA, 6.09 FIP in 6 starts in AAA) and Ryan Verdugo (3.62 ERA, 4.97 FIP in 112 innings). Adcock has shown signs, at time, of being a passable major league pitcher: a number five type guy or, more likely, a swing guy.

Other than Odorizzi, there is no one in AAA who projects as anything more than rotation depth at best. Odorizzi himself does not come with the expected ceiling of a front of the rotation guy and instead is tagged as a future 'number three type' by most. That still makes him the current best pitcher in the organization who is, you know, actually pitching right now.

In AA, of course, Mike Montgomery has continued to struggle. After putting up an unsightly 5.69 ERA/4.95 FIP in Omaha, Mike has basically matched that with a AA 5.50 ERA/4.56 FIP. Montgomery is approaching 300 innings pitched over the last two seasons and has pretty much not gotten anyone out with any consistency since 2010. One has to get in a very positive frame of mind to even begin to imagine him fitting into a major league rotation at this point.

Montgomery has fallen to the point that he isn't even the best prospect on the AA staff at this point. That honor belongs to Yordano Ventura, who blitzed A ball, but has given up 16 hits, 12 runs and 10 walks in his first 19 innings of AA action. Ventura's strikeouts are still up (17) and he's young for AA, so it is hardly time to panic. However, you probably aren't going to see Ventura in Kansas City next year and likely won't even see him in Omaha until next summer.

There are some moderatley intriguing arms in AA in Michael Mariot, Justin Marks (both of whom have decent, not dominant numbers this season) and the recently acquired J.C. Sulbaran who has thrown eight innings for the Naturals and struck out seven...and walked six. Noel Arguelles is down there, too. He is no longer intriguing, just an annoyance.

We would be remiss to not mention the injured Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino and John Lamb at this point. Frankly, they might all be better than Jake Odorizzi, IF they can get healthy and IF they can stay healthy and IF, in the case of Duffy and especially Lamb, they development into the pitchers their prospect status foretold they might become. It is possible, maybe even likely, that all three might pitch in Kansas City later in 2013, but it is hard to see any of them being at full strength and effectiveness until the start of the 2014 season.

In High A ball, the Royals have Jason Adam, who has both been effective and thrown a bunch of innings in his only two professional seasons. While this year's first round draft pick, Kyle Zimmer is already in Low A and likely to move quickly. I could see both approaching the bigs by mid 2014.

Okay, so help might - and that's the critical thing as these are pitchers we're talking about and not sure things - arrive as follows:

  • 2013 - Odorizzi
  • 2014 - Duffy, Paulino, Lamb, Ventura
  • Late 2014 - Adam, Zimmer

I have intentionally focused on pitchers with a chance to be more than back of the rotation types, that's not what Kansas City needs. They need a number one type or at least two number twos and a three out of the above names and you all know that is not enough names on the list above to rely on that happening.

Nothing new here, really, just further affirmation that if Dayton Moore is serious about 2014 being 'the year', he better find some outside the organization pitching options to fill in the top of his rotation.