clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nate Karns scouting report from a Mariners fan

New, comments

Karns has potential, but has trouble going deep in games.

Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Royals fans are certainly upset with the team trading away Jarrod Dyson, a popular player and integral part of a championship-winning ballclub. But as one player departs, a new player is welcomed to the organization. I wanted to get a better idea of new Royals pitcher Nathan Karns, so I asked Ethan Novak at Lookout Landing if he could give Kansas City fans an idea of what to expect with the 29-year old right-handed pitcher.

For the most part, we are all sad to see Nathan Karns go. There was a point in the beginning of the season where I was convinced he would be far and away the most valuable starting pitcher on the Mariners’ staff (yes, this includes the version of King Felix before we knew he was very, very broken). I obviously didn’t realize at the time that James Paxton would come up from Tacoma in June sporting a triple-digit fastball and a cutter of doom, but the point still stood at the end of the season: of all the Mariners’ starting pitchers in 2016, Karns had the second-highest fWAR/GS. I was so excited about Karns at one point that I had Lookout Landing’s media maestro Jose Rivera make this:

The potential is obvious. Karns has a fastball that he will run up to the mid-90s and will comfortably throw to any part of the zone. Typically he’s sitting 92-94 with it, but he is more than capable of running it up to 95-97. Interestingly enough, his fastball usage took a fairly large dive in 2016 in favor of his curveball, which as of Thursday was my favorite pitch on the whole staff (apologies to Paxton’s cutter and Edwin Diaz’s everything).

His curve–a hard, sharp offering that I nicknamed ‘The Hammer of Dawn’–will sit in the low-80s and generate a ton of strikeouts, whether it be inducing chases out of the zone, or freezing hitters with offerings in the zone. It is a hell of a pitch and when he has both that and the fastball working, he looks borderline unhittable. This is not hyperbole, I promise. There were so many times last year where we Mariners fans were sure we were watching the makings of a no-hitter. He’s that good when he’s on.

Now that I’ve buttered him up for you, I suppose I should now dash some hopes and dreams. If you want to live in the perfect world I described above, you can stop reading here. Perhaps the most frustrating part of Karns is his inability to work deep into games. There were so many games last year that seemed to follow the same formula:

• Innings 1-4: Karns looks like a demigod


It was honestly amazing how quickly he’d hit a wall during his outings. Whenever that third trip through the order would come around, his command would slip up ever so slightly and he’d immediately become vulnerable to a vast amount of hard contact. When you add in the fact that he’s never really that great at limiting free passes at any point in a game, it had the tendency to become a big problem very suddenly.

And then there were the other issues. After a bout of ineffectiveness in late June, the sinking Mariners moved Karns to the bullpen in an attempt to get him back on track. Karns gave the generic “whatever it takes to help the team win” comments when asked how he felt about the move, but overall he seemed fairly unhappy about the move. I know, a guy who was a starting pitcher his whole life didn't enjoy getting moved to the bullpen. Shocking, right?

After a brief, uninspiring stay in the bullpen, he was placed on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain. A month later he was transferred to the 60-Day DL and we all sort of forgot he existed. Then there was the story told by a reporter (I believe it was Ken Rosenthal) during the World Series, in which Karns told a recently-traded Mike Montgomery something along the lines of “at least we can watch you in the playoffs with the Cubs now”. Fans took this as a slight at the Mariners, declaring them dead in the water even though the team would go on to remain in the playoff hunt up until the very last game of the season. I took it to mean “that sucks you got traded, but at least you didn’t get traded to a bad team!”, but emotional fans gonna emotionally fan.

Between the injuries and the murmurs of him finding himself on the organization’s shit list, I suppose the trading of Karns shouldn’t be that surprising, but I am bummed to see him go. There is clearly potential there and if the Royals can figure out how to get him to pitch deeper into games, he could be a terrific presence in the rotation for years to come. Worst-case scenario, I could see him becoming a fireballing, two-pitch monster out of the bullpen one day. May he find health and consistency and true love in Kansas City. Please treat him well. We will absolutely cherish Jarrod Dyson.

Well you’d better!

Hmm, a pitcher with borderline unhittable stuff but command issues that has trouble getting through five innings and has been shuttled between the rotation and bullpen. That sounds a bit familiar. Hopefully Karns can find some consistency in Kansas City. Many thanks to Ethan Novak and you can follow Jarrod Dyson and all the latest Mariners news over at Lookout Landing.