Every off season, I think a few items need to get done for the Royals to maintain or improve. I will be going over each of my keys to start this off season. Today's key is knowing the which eight starting pitchers the Royals will use next season.
A team will not be able to go with just five starters, they need to know who is going to fill in if a pitcher gets hurt (see Duffy and Paulino in 2012) or sucks (see .... well just about everyone except Shields and Santana in 2013). Here are the top starters in the organization right now and a few thoughts on each.
James Shields - He is the only for sure bet going into 2014. He is good and healthy for now.
Jeremy Guthrie - he could end up being Dayton Moore's biggest train wreck so far. He is guaranteed
15M 20M over the next two seasons. With over 10% of the team's budget being allocated to him, he is going to start even if he struggles.
Here are a couple Guthrie facts to keep in mind.
- He can't strike anyone out. He was the only Royals pitcher who threw over 5 innings and had a K/9 less than 5. His K/9 was the lowest among all 2013 qualified starters. How and the hell isn't he on the Twins?
- His LOB% of 78.2% was the 14th highest in the league and a career best for him. I expect his ERA will regress up to his FIP and xFIP levels near 5.00.
Danny Duffy - I think he will be given every chance possible to start. He just needs to find the plate and throw strikes. It would be great if he quit messing around once he gets ahead in the count.
Felipe Paulino - Paulino is supposed to be ready by the start of spring training. I consider Duffy and him to have the widest range of possible levels of production. They could pitch like #2 starters or like a pile of #2. It is just tough to tell. If the TJS pair are healthy and productive, it would go a long way to stabilizing the starting staff.
The (Crappy) Hot Hand Crew
Wade Davis - I am not sure how "the player critical to making the Myers trade work" will fit in next year. I would love to see him traded to a team with cash and needs some bullpen help (see the Nationals and Phillies). The Royals could pick up another player and free up some salary.
He will probably be back though. Over priced, but useful if relegated to the bullpen. Sadly, he will get another chance to start, but hopefully his leash will not be as long as last year.
Will Smith - I think Smith has a chance to succeed. He just need to find a way to get right-handed hitters out. Against lefties he as a 10.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. For righties, it is 5.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. He will be successful as a LOOGY out of the bullpen, but I think the 24-year-old should be given more chances to start.
Chris Dwyer - Dwyer has basically turned into Duffy without the strikeouts. 6.3 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in AAA at age 25. His upside is probably that of Sean O'Sullivan.
Yordano Yentura - He may be part of the future, but he has some road blocks which will probably prevent him from making the rotation out of spring training. First, if the Royals were smart, they would hold him back a few months to get another year of eligibility from him. Second, he needs to find the strike zone. He had problems finding the zone in his three MLB starts (3.5 K/9).
Kyle Zimmer - I think his development cycle will continue with him either starting 2014 in AA or AAA. The best case for him making the majors would be a mid-season call up.
Bruce Chen (resigned) - This is just too easy to call.
- Which team is in love with Chen so much they keep re-signing him? The Royals.
- How long does it take for Dayton to make his first move of the off season? As soon as possible
- Does Dayton completely over pay for free agents? Yes
So the Royals will resign Bruce Chen for 2 years/$12M three days after the end of the World Series.
Luis Mendoza - He should not be tendered a contract. He should get offered a minor league contract. We aren't going to see anything special from him, but he would be a decent innings eater. He is basically Jeremy Guthrie without the $20M price tag (2012-2013 Guthrie's FIP = 4.51, Mendoza's = 4.45)
So how does the staff now stand. If they don't sign anyone else, I see the rotation as:
Immediately next in line:
Later call ups:
At least eight options exist, but I hate the idea of going into the season with Davis in the rotation. While the rotation looks better with Ventura and Zimmer, I think the best among the first seven (nine) needs to be ironed out first. Additionally, Paulino may not be healthy and Duffy may still not be able to find the strike zone. I think Dayton should look for 1 to 2 cheap-ish wild cards for Davis's spot. I would prefer it be pitchers with injury histories or down years (Josh Johnson/Phil Hughes). The team already has Chen/Mendoza depth with Smith/Dwyer in AAA. The team needs to take a chance on upside and not go with the safe signing.
Shields helps to stabilize the staff as a top of the rotation starter. After him are starters with suspect talent and tons of question marks. The key for the rotation in 2014 will be how many of those question marks turn into positive contributions. Also, can any additional upside be added this off season to the rotation.