After Wednesday’s start against the Chicago Cubs, Brady Singer is making it difficult for the Royals’ front office to find a reason for keeping him in the minor leagues after spring training. Through three innings, the 2018 first-round pick has allowed no runs on three hits and collected four strikeouts. All three of the hits were singles off the bat of Jason Heyward, Victor Caratini, and Steven Sousa Jr. Heyward was the only one to square the ball up.
It may seem premature to dictate a pitcher’s performance through three innings of spring training, but Singer hasn’t been facing a usual cast of reserves and minor leaguers. Here is the list of hitters he has gotten out.
So far, Singer has gotten outs on the following hitters in Spring Training:— Jack Johnson (@JohnyJ_15) February 26, 2020
Domingo Santana (K)
Franmil Reyes (K)
Bobby Bradley (GO)
Kris Bryant (GO)
Anthony Rizzo (GO)
Javier Baez (GO)
Albert Almora (K)
Jason Kipnis (K)
Nico Hoerner (GO)#RoyalsST
At least seven of those names are everyday starters with the exception of Kipnis and Bradley. However, Kipnis enjoyed several years of success in Cleveland before his production torpedoed in 2017 and Bradley led the International League in home runs last season.
The reality is that Singer is proving he can get the big league hitters out, which is what general manager Dayton Moore says he would have to do to crack the Opening Day roster.
“We wouldn’t (be surprised),” Moore told Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. “We don’t put limitations on our guys. We have a battle plan like anyone else. We have a script like anyone else on when a player might be ready to make it to the Major Leagues. Strong organizations, healthy organizations, aren’t afraid to be flexible in their plans. The player ultimately tells us if they are ready.”
There is, however, is a logical reason to keep him in Triple-A through the first couple weeks of the 2020 season. Kansas City could gain an extra year of control on Singer if they keep him off the Royals’ roster for 16 days during the regular season. They also won’t need a fifth starter until April 9th barring a rain out. Hypothetically, the Royals could start Jorge Lopez on the ninth and call-up Singer for the next start against the Orioles on April 16th. That game would fall on a Friday, attracting a larger crowd and giving Singer an easier lineup in Baltimore.
It’s also worth nothing that Singer will be 24 years old in August. Brad Keller, who the Royals’ have coined the ace of their staff, is 25 years old. Richard Lovelady made his debut last season at 23. Randy Rosario, Stephen Woods Jr, and Jake Newberry, who all have a strong chance to make the Opening Day roster, are between 24 and 25 years old. Singer isn’t so young he will be overwhelmed by big leaguers.
Singer has done exactly what Moore hoped for when he drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2018. The Royals wanted to speed up their rebuild time by going with the college pitcher route. And unlike previous draft classes, it appears they’ve hit on more than just one of them.
Barring injuries, Kansas City’s rotation will feature the likes of Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, and Mike Montgomery as the locks. The fifth spot has been dubbed the toss-up. Excluding Singer, the realistic options include Jorge Lopez, Jesse Hahn, Eric Skoglund, Foster Griffin.
Here is how spring training has gone for each of them:
Lopez - 4.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 6 K, 1 BB (0.00 ERA)
Hahn - 2.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 1 K, 2 BB (22.50 ERA)
Skoglund - 0.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 1 BB (40.50 ERA)
Griffin - 3.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 3 K, 2 BB (15.00 ERA)
The other route could be through free agency. Former Royal Jason Vargas, Collin McHugh, Andrew Cashner (though he’s being marketed as a reliever), and Danny Salazar could be potential cheap one-year deals that would be flipped for prospects at the deadline. But the return for any of those names wouldn’t be substantial enough to gamble on. Plus, the Royals are looking to develop their pitching prospects and not block them. Adding a declining veteran to eat up innings until the All-Star break would be doing exactly that.
It’s still early, as the Royals have exactly one month until they open up in Chicago against the White Sox. That being said, there is plenty of time for someone to emerge as the best candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation. But the bottom line is simple. If Singer, or any of the 2018 arms are consistently getting major league hitters out in spring training, there’s no reason to keep them from doing it during the 2020 regular season.
After all, Moore said that “the player ultimately tells us if they are ready.” If Wednesday was any indication of how Singer will throw through spring training, he’s going to be more than ready when the Royals’ leave Surprise.
Will Brady Singer make the Royals Opening Day roster?
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