In this post, I'm going to breakdown the starting pitching of each team in the AL Central, including an in-depth look at each team's starting pitching prospects. There will be 3 subsequent posts detailing the bullpens, infielders, and outfielders. Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of where the Royals stand talent wise, now and in the future. Current ML ERA Rankings:
9. White Sox (3.86)
10. Twins (3.87)
13. Indians (4.37)
18. Tigers (4.45)
30. Royals (6.01)
As you can see, the Royals' starting rotation is not even close to anyone else in the division (not surprising). Chicago White Sox:
1. Mark Buerhle (signed thru 2006; club option 2007)
2. Freddy Garcia (2007)
3. Jose Contreras (2006)
4. Orlando Hernandez (2006)
5. Jon Garland (2006)
The White Sox rotation is pretty well locked in through next year and the two aces are under contract through 2007 (Buerhle's option will likely be picked up). The White Sox rotation has been pretty solid and they were looking to add AJ Burnett near the trade deadline. I expect they'll try hard to get him this offseason, making this the best rotation in the division.
Farm System: The best SP prospect in the system is Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy projects as a No. 3 starter and has good control. His K/BB ratio throughout his minor league career is over 6. Gio Gonzalez is a 19-year-old lefty starter that has a good K/BB and averages over 1K/inning. Gonzalez is in high A ball and has a good feel for pitching. Sean Tracey throws a good mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. Tracey is probably the best arm in the system, but control has been a problem. This is one of the weaker groups of SP prospects in the division. But, they won't be hurting because of the rotation they already have.Minnesota Twins:
1. Johan Santana (signed thru 2008)
2. Brad Radke (2006)
3. Carlos Silva (2006; option in 2007)
4. Joe Mays (2005; no way option is picked up)
5. Kyle Lohse (under control thru 2007)
The Twins rotation remains pretty solid. Santana and Radke are proven frontline starters and Silva and Lohse have had solid years. With the departure of Mays, the Twins have plenty of talent waiting to enter the rotation.
Farm System: The Twins' best SP prospect is Francisco Liriano, a lefty with Johan Santana-type stuff. Liriano has really come alive at AAA, with a 1.59 ERA in 79 IP with 93 K's to just 22 walks. The Twins organization is filled with pitchers with sick K/BB ratios. Scott Baker gives the Twins a second good arm waiting in the wings at AAA. Baker has 4 good pitches and like seemingly every Twins pitcher, an excellent K/BB ratio. Finally, JD Durbin, a RHP with a good mid-90s FB and a power slider, is having an okay season at AAA. Durbin has a 4.55 ERA with 48 walks and 74 K's in 87 IP. This is just the AAA team. The Twins have great depth here, maybe the best in baseball.Cleveland Indians
1. Kevin Millwood (signed thru 2005)
2. CC Sabathia (2008)
3. Jake Westbrook (2006, 2007 option)
4. Cliff Lee (under control thru 2009)
5. Scott Elarton (2005)
The Indians' rotation was a bit of a surprise this year. Millwood was pretty mediocre last year, but is having a very good year. Cliff Lee is having a breakthrough year. Sabathia is having a bad year, but should rebound. The rotation features a lot of inconsistent starters, so it's hard to predict how good it will be. But, it should remain around league-average unless Millwood resigns, Lee maintains his current form, and Sabathia develops into a frontline starter.
Farm System: Adam Miller is the Indians' top pitching prospect. Miller can hit triple-digits with his fastball and has a good slider. Miller has the makeup to become a No. 1 starter, but he's had some injury problems this year. Jeremy Sowers is a polished college lefty has had a very good debut. Sowers has a 2.37 ERA at AA with 58 Ks in 68 innings and just 8 walks. The Indians have pretty good depth and some impact SP prospects in their system. Detroit Tigers
1. Jeremy Bonderman (under control thru 2008)
2. Mike Maroth (under control thru 2008)
3. Jason Johnson (2005)
4. Sean Douglass (2005)
5. Nate Robertson (under control thru 2009)
The Tigers' rotation features 3 young arms that should form a core of the rotation. With two talented SP prospects ready to join the rotation in 2006, the Tigers will have a very young rotation. The Tigers' rotation should continue to improve.
Farm System: The Tigers have two of the best right-handed SP prospects in the minors. Justin Verlander has a good mid-90s fastball, a great curve, and a potential plus change. Verlander's pro debut has been outstanding, with a 0.28 ERA in 32 IP at AA and 1.67 ERA at High A in 86 IP. His command has been excellent as well. Joel Zumaya could give the Tigers a third ace. The 20-year-old righty has a mid-90s fastball and flashes a good curve. Zumaya has a 2.70 ERA with 47 K's in 40 IP. He's still somewhat raw, but very young.Kansas City Royals
1. Jose Lima (2005)
2. Runelvys Hernandez (under control thru 2008)
3. Zack Greinke (under control thru 2010)
4. DJ Carrasco (under control thru 2009)
5. Mike Wood (under control thru 2010)
Now that's a scary rotation. If it lives up to its potential, it might win the Pacific Coast League championship! The only thing this rotation has going for it is Zack Greinke and Runelvys Hernandez. Everyone else pretty much shouldn't be there next year or in a No. 5 spot at best. The Royals have a couple more young arms who could contend for a rotation spot next year (Bautista, Howell, Sisco). The Royals can only improve, I think. The Royals have 4 potential starters with No. 2/3 starter abilities (Bautista, Greinke, Hernandez, Sisco). But, the Royals have to develop them (don't count on it). There isn't much help coming in the minors.
Farm System: This is as bad as it gets. The Royals' most talented SP prospect is in low A ball. Luis Cota is having a good season there, with a 3.82 ERA in 132 IP with 121 K's to 54 walks. He's 19 years old, but still a long ways away from the majors. JP Howell has had a good season in the minors. Howell breezed through short stints at High A and AA, but has struggled at AAA and the majors. Howell could eventually be a No. 3 or 4 starter. Billy Buckner earned a quick promotion from low A and has struggled some at High Desert. Buckner has a good curve and his fastball and change can still improve. But, in a best case, scanerio, he's probably a No. 4 starter. The Royals' starting pitching depth and impact potential is the worst in the division.
The Royals' starting pitching is well behind the other 4 teams in the division. Not only do the Royals already have the worst rotation in the majors, but their farm system is behind the other 4 teams in the division. So, if the Royals don't improve their farm system, they will only fall further behind, if that's even possible. The Royals' best bet is to develop Greinke, Bautista, Sisco, and maybe even Burgos. This is all the Royals have to work with for the time being.
Future Rotation Rankings:
1. White Sox (two aces, willing to add more)
2. Twins (good depth and good starters waiting at AAA)
3. Tigers (Bonderman, Zumaya, and Verlander could be a lethal trio)
4. Indians (future uncertain, but if Miller develops look out)
5. Royals (developing Greinke, Bautista, and Sisco would help a lot)