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Royals rookie roundup

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The Royals have been making some real rookie moves

MLB: Texas Rangers at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I have a confession. Lucas Duda hit a home run earlier this season, and when I realized that the ball was going to leave the yard, I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Duda or the Royals to succeed; it had everything to do with the circumstances that led to Lucas Duda having a spot on the Royals roster in the first place. Lucas Duda seems like a great guy and he’s had a nice career. Two years ago, I was ecstatic that the Royals signed him instead of bringing back Eric Hosmer. But this year? This year, there just wasn’t a place for him on the team. Of course, Lucas Duda would hit a home run (rolls eyes). I didn’t want to watch Lucas Duda – or Chris Owings, Billy Hamilton, Wily Peralta, etc. – play mediocre baseball. If mediocre baseball was to be played, at least let younger, more interesting players do it.

Now that Duda and the rest of the one-year free agents have long departed and the September call-ups are here, the Royals roster is chock full of interesting players, for better or worse. The rookies are very real and they are participating in major league baseball activities nightly. The Royals have given playing time to 17 rookie-eligible players in 2019. Thirteen of them made their debuts this year. That sounds like a lot — and it is — but the Royals only rank 12th in rookie appearances (Seattle’s had a whopping 25).

There are indeed many of them, but as a unit, this year’s rookies haven’t done a whole lot to impress. Royals rookie position players are batting .219/.285/.294. The Royals have dedicated 1040 plate attempts – ninth most in baseball – to rookie hitters this year and have gotten the fifth worst production from them at -1.0 bWAR. On the pitching side, Royals rookies have a collective 5.52 ERA. They’ve pitched 146 2/3 innings, all in relief, and have been worth exactly 0.0 bWAR. That’s, um, kind of bad.

But I do like this version of the team better than I did the Lucas Duda/Wily Peralta iteration we saw early on. If you think that seems like faint praise, you may have a point. Still, we’re getting a look at some players who could maybe, just maybe contribute to the next winner, either directly or through trades, and that’s at least something.

In honor of our Royals rookies, I’ve listed them all below, along with why each one is more interesting than Lucas Duda or, in the event that they’re no longer in the Royals organization, where they are now. Without further ado, here they are, in alphabetical order, with gusto.

Humberto Arteaga

Why he’s interesting: In a very small sample size, defensive metrics haven’t liked him (-2 DRS, -1.0 UZR), but he has a reputation as a plus defender. By the eye test, he does appear to have very quick hands and makes some flashy plays. That’s fun.

Scott Barlow

Why he’s interesting: When he’s on, his slider is absolutely filthy, and he’s able to get Ks with his fastball and curve, too. Since being recalled from Omaha, he’s had a 2.39 ERA/2.75 FIP with 10.3 K/9. If he can maintain consistency and avoid stretches like we saw mid-season, he could be pretty great.

Nick Dini

Why he’s interesting: He’s hit well at every minor league level. That hasn’t translated to the majors yet, but it could.

Kelvin Gutierrez

Why he’s interesting: He has a good reputation as a defender, though it didn’t show in his brief time in the bigs, and a broken toe prevented a September call-up. He basically fell out of the third base tree this season, but he’ll climb right back up there next year, I’m sure.

Nicky Lopez

Why he’s interesting: His contact rate of 86.6% is elite, though he may ultimately need to adopt Whit’s nine-eggs-a-day diet in order to put those skills to good use. His defense has been superb, too.

Richard Lovelady

Why he’s interesting: He’s conspicuously missing from the Royals September roster. His last name is Lovelady. His first name is Richard. This may be the most interesting player in the whole organization.

Ryan McBroom

Why he’s interesting: He’s new and mysterious, and came out of nowhere, which automatically makes him interesting. On top of that, he batted .315/.402/.574 in AAA before coming over to KC, while significantly improving his K and walk rates. It sounds like those changes coincided with some mechanical and mental adjustments at the plate, which makes them seem like they could be legit and not just a mirage. Also, his name is ridiculous.

Erick Mejia

Why he’s interesting: He spells his name with a “ck”, which is kind of neat. If he becomes a star, the Royals will have won the Scott Alexander/Joakim Soria trade.

Jake Newberry

Why he’s interesting: Right-handed batters are hitting a mere .150/.250/.300 against him. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Gabe Speier

Why he’s interesting: He is the only Gabe in Major League Baseball!

Bubba Starling

Why he’s interesting: He is Bubba Starling and he’s finally playing in the major leagues. His defense has been as-advertised. Despite being in pretty great shape, his uniform seems ill-fitting and I can’t figure out why. If I was in good shape, I feel like my clothes would fit really well. It’s weird.

Josh Staumont

Why he’s interesting: Staumont hasn’t been able to replicate his gaudy strikeout numbers in his transition from AAA to the big leagues, but he hasn’t looked nearly as wild as advertised and has managed to limit free passes relatively well. If he can get a few more swings and misses and keep the ball in the yard (his 19% HR/FB rate is nauseating), he has the stuff to be an exciting reliever.

Meibrys Viloria

Why he’s interesting: On one hand, he has a 56 wRC+. On the other, he’s only 22 years old and, aside from a cup of coffee in KC last year, had not played above AA prior to his call-up this season. He also rates as a positive defender, despite framing metrics not loving him (or particularly hating him), and he’s reportedly well-respected by the major league pitching staff.

Kyle Zimmer

Why he’s interesting: He appears to be healthy after nearly a full season of pitching out of the bullpen, which is a miracle. He’s been a hot tire fire on the mound with an ERA approaching 11 and is walking over a batter an inning, but the velocity is still there and he seems to be trying something new every night. He’s pitching from the stretch exclusively, relying on his slider, breathing out of his eyelids like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands – whatever it takes to figure it out. Go get ‘em, buddy.

Let’s also remember those that are no longer in ther organization.

Chris Ellis

Where is he now? After being returned to the Cardinals as a rule-5 pick, he carried a 7.18 ERA and walked 5.35 batters per nine innings in AAA, but also had a 9.34 K/9 rate.

Terrance Gore

Where is he now? Gore is in the Yankees organization. He is still very fast. Somehow, despite debuting in 2014, he is still rookie-eligible.

Frank Schwindel

Where is he now? The 2017 George Brett Hitter of the Year is now in the Tigers organization, where he finished the season with a line of .271/.315/.458 across all minor league levels, although he hit a .327/.361/.628 (146 wRC+) line in 28 games in AAA.

Poll

Who has been Royals Rookie of the Year?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Humberto Arteaga
    (1 vote)
  • 18%
    Scott Barlow
    (132 votes)
  • 0%
    Nick Dini
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Kelvin Gutierrez
    (3 votes)
  • 21%
    Nicky Lopez
    (155 votes)
  • 2%
    Ryan McBroom
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Erick Mejia
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    Jake Newberry
    (22 votes)
  • 0%
    Gabe Speier
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    Bubba Starling
    (43 votes)
  • 36%
    Josh Staumont
    (263 votes)
  • 9%
    Meibrys Viloria
    (71 votes)
  • 0%
    Kyle Zimmer
    (3 votes)
717 votes total Vote Now