It’s no secret that the Kansas City Royals have been less than stellar when it comes to developing their own starting pitchers. Drafting and developing starting pitchers is arguably the hardest part of running a farm system, and can often times be a crapshoot. A combination of bad luck and bad philosophy has plagued the Royals over the last decade or so, but some of that luck may be beginning to take a turn in the Royals favor.
A while back, I wrote an article for RoyalsFarmReport.com detailing which organizations had the most success when it comes to developing starting pitching. The method for the project was very unscientific. I gathered up all of the starting pitchers on 2017 Opening Day rosters, added in obvious starters that began the 2017 season on the DL, added in starters that accumulated at least 1.0 fWAR during the season but did not start the season in the rotation, included a couple of anomalies, and awarded each pitcher to the organization that I felt was most responsible for their development.
My findings actually favored the Royals a bit more than I expected, but the reality of the situation isn’t as optimistic. The Royals actually rank tied for 15th when it comes to the number of starting pitchers on 2017 Opening Day rosters that they had developed. Right in the middle of the pack. Thanks to Zack Greinke, the Royals finished 11th in total fWAR accumulated by said starting pitchers, putting them in the top half of the league.
The problem with this of course is that Dayton Moore and company were not around to draft Zack Greinke and his 5.1 fWAR in 2017. The numbers begin to expose Kansas City quite a bit if you remove Greinke from the Royals equation (though there’s a couple teams you could probably say that about).
No matter how grim things may be down on the farm for Kansas City, I am actually optimistic that things are going to turn around pretty quickly.
Eric Skoglund will make his 2018 debut at Kauffman Stadium tonight against the Seattle Mariners. If you somehow forgot about his MLB debut last summer, go ahead and remind yourself of how awesome that was to watch.
Skoglund currently ranks as the Royals 18th best prospect according to Royals Farm Report. The 25-year old lefty stands at an imposing 6’ 7” on the mound and he uses his length well to hide the baseball from opposing hitters. His stuff has the potential to make for a nice back-of-the-rotation big league starter, and he has had excellent control throughout his minor league career.
Skoglund has all of the makings of a pitcher who can last in a big league rotation, and he will finally get his opportunity to prove himself. After it was announced that Nate Karns would be moving to the bullpen, Eric Skoglund was the next man up for the Royals rotation. As it currently stands, 60% of the Royals rotation is made up of homegrown talent, an excellent step in the right direction for the organization.
Steamer Projections project Eric Skoglund for an ERA of 4.57 and 1.0 fWAR in 101 big league innings this season. That sounds just about right. Skoglund’s ERA was 4.11 in 100.2 IP last season with AAA Omaha after being closer to 3.50 in 2015 and 2016.
Danny Duffy is 29 years old. Jake Junis and Eric Skoglund are both just 25. These three make up 60% of the Royals rotation and figure to start every fifth day for Kansas City this season barring a trade. If Skoglund can produce an ERA around 4.50 (a quality start produces a 4.50 ERA) and throw 110-130 big league innings in 2018, the narrative surrounding the Royals and their starting pitching development will begin to change.
The Royals need Eric Skoglund to have a good season. Dayton Moore and company have had a tough time getting their own guys to the big league rotation, but Eric Skoglund certainly has the ability to help turn this narrative around. Jake Junis and Danny Duffy are doing their part, and Eric Skoglund will get his opportunity on Tuesday night.
Having three homegrown starters in the rotation that each post solid seasons would be a huge win for the Royals this season, even if they don’t do much winning on the field. You certainly can’t change the past, but the future is starting to look brighter in KC.