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Donnie Joseph - LOOGY Potential

The arrival of Donnie Joseph to the bullpen gives the Royals something they haven't had all year - a lefty specialist.


The move to place Wade Davis on the paternity list and recall Donnie Joseph from Omaha was a procedural move. Davis wasn't going to pitch again before the All-Star Break anyway, so this was simply a move to get another left-handed reliever in the bullpen. We know Frank Ned Yost covets options in the pen and was probably happiest a couple weeks ago when he had three lefties. Even if two of them were Will Smith and Bruce Chen.

Joseph made his Royals major league debut on Thursday, where he faced Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Zoilo Almonte. Wells is a right-handed hitter who owns a pretty strong platoon split this year and lined out. Overbay, who had killed the Royals with home runs in the series, is a lefty bat. Almonte is a switch hitter who is better against right-handed pitching. Joseph walked Overbay and gave up a single to Almonte before he was relieved by righty-specialist Louis Coleman who whiffed right-handed hitting Eduardo Nunez and Luis Cruz to end the inning.

This is how it should work, right? Joseph as a LOOGY and Coleman as a ROOGY?

Anyway, back to Joseph.

In Omaha, Joseph whiffed 46.5 percent of all left-handed batters he faced. Yes, 46.5 percent. That translates to a 15.9 SO/9 strikeout rate. That's Greg Holland territory. Against right-handed hitters, it's a still impressive 26.8 percent, which is 12.9 SO/9.

There's always been a bit of a command issue with Joseph, but it's gotten worse since joining the Royals. Here are his walk rates as a professional the last three seasons:

2011 - 4.6 in AA (Carolina)
2012 - 2.4 BB/9 in AA (Pensacola)
2012 - 3.7 BB/9 in AAA (Louisville)
2012 - 6.8 BB/9 in AAA (Omaha)
2013 - 5.2 BB/9 in AAA (Omaha)

Yeah, the walks aren't ideal. But they can be limited with the correct usage out of the pen. Besides, he gets a ground ball anywhere between 45 and 50 percent of the time and historically has limited the home run. This year in Omaha, he's surrendered just three in 38 innings of work which is a 0.71 HR/9 rate. His line drive rate hovers around 10 percent, meaning hitters have a difficult time barreling up the ball. It's all about the strikeouts and being able to minimize the damage from the walks.

Cool fact: Joseph has struck out 59 hitters this year in Omaha. Fifty-two of those went down swinging. He has swing and miss stuff. He also has miss and miss stuff.

The platoon split and the walks make him an ideal candidate for LOOGY status in the bullpen. With the Royals and Yost attempting to define roles for the relief corps in the wake of the struggles of everyone not named Greg Holland, it makes sense to keep a guy like Joseph around.

The Royals have some time to make a move with the upcoming break. Davis is going to return to the rotation, so the move will come from the relievers. I'd like to see the Royals dump J.C. Gutierrez and go with a bullpen that includes Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Joseph and Coleman in the late innings Bruce Chen/Luis Mendoza as the long man and Holland as the closer. That's a tough looking pen and one that will give Yost the one thing he covets most - the ability to play the match-ups. Whether he pulls the levers correctly is another matter, but at least he has the proper tools.