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A look at notable MLB pitching debuts in Royals history

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It’s Brady Singer day!

MLB: JUL 08 Royals Summer Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brady Singer will make his Major League debut today against the Cleveland Indians, just over two years since the Royals made him their first-round selection in the 2018 draft. It has been a quick rise for Singer, but he impressed in the minor last year with a 1.87 ERA in 10 starts at High-A Wilmington before he was promoted. He initially struggled at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, but made adjustments and finished strong with a 3.47 ERA in 16 starts. Overall, he had a 2.85 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 148 13 innings in his first professional season.

The Royals have not been afraid to be aggressive promoting prospects when they feel the player is ready. Singer will reach the big leagues after just 148 13 minor league innings, which is one of the quickest rises through the minors before reaching the big leagues that I could find in Royals history.

Fewest minor league innings before MLB debut, Royals history

Pitcher Year Age of debut Minor league IP
Pitcher Year Age of debut Minor league IP
Brandon Finnegan 2014 21 years, 145 days 27
Jeff Granger 1993 21 years, 274 days 36
J.P. Howell 2005 22 years, 47 days 95 1/3
Jim York 1970 23 years, 25 days 148
Brady Singer 2020 23 years, 356 days 148 1/3
Craig Chamberlain 1979 22 years, 191 days 160
Zack Greinke 2004 20 years, 214 days 180
Luke Hochevar 2007 23 years, 358 days 183
Ambriorix Burgos 2005 21 years, 4 days 187 1/3
Bret Saberhagen 1984 19 years, 359 days 187
Scott Bankhead 1986 22 years, 298 days 188 1/3

You could also include Joakim Soria on this list, he pitched just 16 innings of affiliated ball when he debuted with the Royals in 2007, but had also pitched many more innings in the Mexican League.

Singer, like most of the pitchers on that list, was drafted out of college (or independent ball, in the case of Luke Hochevar), although Bret Saberhagen and Zack Greinke were drafted as high schoolers which makes their ascent all the more amazing.

What can we expect out of Brady Singer in his debut? Here is a look at a few other anticipated Major League pitching debuts in Royals history.

Bret Saberhagen, April 4, 1984

Saberhagen was a teenage phenom in the minors, and after just one year down on the farm, he made the Royals’ Opening Day roster in 1984. With the Royals down 4-2 in the fourth at home against the Yankees, manager Dick Howser pulled starter Paul Splittorff and put in Saberhagen to make the youngest debut in Royals history at age 19 and 359 days, a record that still stands. Saberhagen was so nervous that on the first batter, he crossed up catcher Don Slaught, who had called for a pitchout, and sent a curveball to the backstop. Fortunately, he found his composure and tossed 4 23 innings of shutout ball, sprinkling three hits with no walks. Two weeks later he would make his first career start in Detroit, beating the eventual World Champs, and a little over a year later he would win the first of his two Cy Youngs, as well as World Series MVP.

Tom Gordon, September 8, 1988

Tom “Flash” Gordon had an absolutely meteoric rise through the minors with perhaps the best minor league season by a Royals pitcher ever. He began the 1988 season in A-ball, but after 17 starts in which he struck out 172 hitters in 118 innings, he moved up to Double-A. he gave up just two earned runs in 47 13 innings there for a minuscule ERA of 0.38, so they moved him up to Triple-A Omaha for three starts at the end of the minor league season. Once their season was done, he got a cup of coffee with the Royals in September and made his debut at the age of 20 years and 295 days.

Gordon was brought on in relief to face the best offense in baseball, the Oakland A’s, who would go on to win the pennant that year. But he didn’t seem intimidated, striking out the second batter he faced, eventual MVP Jose Canseco. Gordon would retire all six batters he would face, including All-Star first baseman Mark McGwire. The next year, he would win 17 games and finish second in Rookie of the Year voting.

Kevin Appier, June 4, 1989

Ape was a first-round pick in 1987, and less than two years later he was in the big leagues, pitching for a team in a pennant race. He was called up in early June to make a start against the Angels, just over an hour away from his hometown in Lancaster, California. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced, Brian Downing, but was scoreless over the first three innings. He would give up two runs in the fourth, then a two-run home run to Jack Howell in the sixth before he was pulled. He ended with a line of 5 13 innings pitched, 8 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, and three strikeouts.

Zack Greinke, May 22, 2004

The enigmatic Greinke was called up in May, with the team already 11 games out of first, having disappointed after expectations the team could build off their surprising run in 2003. He made the start in Oakland, where they spelled his name “Greinki” on the scoreboard in front of a half-empty crowd. His first three innings were scoreless, as he tossed 90 mph fastballs and a unique 60 mph curve that baffled sluggers like Eric Chavez. Erubial Durazo touched him for a two-run home run in the fourth, and the A’s loaded the bases in the fifth, but Greinke wriggled out of it, and ended his day allowing just two runs in five innings pitched with five hits and one walk in an 84-pitch no decision. “I wasn’t nervous,” he would remark after the game, and it never seemed like he was.

Luke Hochevar, September 8, 2007

Hochevar was the only #1 overall draft pick in Royals history, selected over Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer. He had high expectations, signing what was then a club record bonus of $3.5 million, with the hopes he could turn around a moribund pitching staff. Hochevar had mixed results in the minors, but came up in September as roster expanded to pitch out of the bullpen. After starter Brian Bannister gave up seven runs in the sixth inning against the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, Hochevar entered the game in the seventh. Robinson Cano (booo!) singled off him to start his career, but he settled down and through three shutout innings, allowing three hits and one walk with one strikeout. He wouldn’t make his first big league start until the next April, giving up six runs in 4 23 innings in a loss against the Athletics.

Yordano Ventura, September 17, 2013

Ventura seemed like a stiff wind could knock him off the mound, as he stood with a slight frame and seemingly quiet demeanor. But with a violent delivery that caused his leg to recoil and a competitive, sometimes overly-confrontational attitude, he silenced hitters with a fastball that could touch triple digits. He struck out 155 hitters in 134 2/3 minor league innings that year and earned a cup of coffee with the Royals as they found themselves in the periphery of a Wild Card race. He faced the Indians, another Wild Card contender, and future Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. He tossed five shutout innings before the Indians finally got to him for a run in the sixth, and would exit after 86 pitches, three strikeouts, two walks, five hits, and one run in 5 2/3 innings. A year later, he would be on the national stage, pitching in Game 6 of the World Series.

Best start in a MLB debut, Royals history

Pitcher Date Opponent IP K BB H ER Game Score
Pitcher Date Opponent IP K BB H ER Game Score
Craig Chamberlain August 12, 1979 DET (W 7-1) 9.0 6 2 6 1 75
Steve Busby September 8, 1972 MIN (W 3-2) 9.0 7 2 5 2 74
Eric Skoglund May 30, 2017 DET (W 1-0) 6.1 5 1 2 0 73
Glendon Rusch April 6, 1997 MIN (W 12-2) 8.0 4 1 4 0 73
Derek Botelho July 18, 1982 BOS (W 9-0) 7.0 3 1 3 0 73
Rich Gale April 30, 1978 MIL (W 3-0) 7.0 4 1 6 0 68
Melido Perez September 4, 1987 CHW (W 6-2) 7.0 4 3 6 0 64
Jimmy Gobble August 3, 2003 TBD (W 2-0) 6.0 3 1 6 0 62
JP Howell June 11, 2005 ARI (W 8-5) 5.0 8 2 4 1 61
Mark Gubicza April 6, 1984 CLE L(0-2) 6.0 4 1 5 1 61

What do you expect out of Brady Singer today?