Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Organizational Outlook: Starting Pitching

The Royals' starting pitching has been dreadful for the past decade, finishing at the bottom in most pitching statistics. This season is no exception, with the Royals' starters having the highest ERA, fewest strikeouts, tons of walks, and the fewest innings pitched. So, is there hope for the Royals' rotation? The Royals' starting pitching depth has shown significant improvement over the past few months, particularly at lower levels. The Royals also have a few talented starters who could be mainstays in the rotation by 2008.

Predicting the rotation in 2008 is a pretty tough task. The Royals' current rotation doesn't have any starters who will likely be long-term starters for the Royals. Perez, Elarton, and Redman's contracts will have expired by 2008 and Hernandez will be released or non-tendered this offseason. Jimmy Gobble is best suited for the bullpen, although he may become a #5 starter if given enough opportunity. Luke Hudson might be the best bet to become a good starter for the Royals, as he has pretty good stuff and appears to have figured out his command problems.

Here's the 2008 Rotation filled from within:

#1 Luke Hochevar
#2 Zack Greinke
#3 Tyler Lumsden
#4 Luke Hudson
#5 Billy Buckner

Hochevar, Greinke, and Lumsden have frontline to mid-rotation starter talent, but they probably won't reach that potential until 2008 or 2009 (if they ever do). Realistically, I think one of those starters will reach their potential as a frontline starter, one will be an average starter, and one will be a bust or get injured. Given the Royals' track record of developing pitching, that is probably an optimistic outlook. Nonetheless, the Royals need to add some more top starting prospects to improve their chances of building an above-average rotation.

Starting Pitching Prospects: Hochevar, Greinke, and Lumsden give the Royals the best shot at a quality rotation by 2008. By that time, the Royals should have another group of starters approaching the majors as well. The Royals' currently have a very good rotation at Burlington featuring this next wave of pitching talent.

The Burlington rotation features 5 good young starters, Cordier, Nicoll, Kniginyzky, Rosa, and Cortes. Cordier has the best stuff and has been lights out for Burlington. He could move very quickly through the Royals' farm system and has frontline starter potential. Nicoll is probably the second-best bet to become a major-league starter. He also should move quickly as a polished college pitcher with excellent control. Kniginyzky is also a college pitcher who was converted to a starter this season and has pretty good stuff. Rosa has good stuff and is still pretty young. His command still needs some work though. Cortes is the youngest of the group at age 19 and is holding his own in low A ball. Overall, the Burlington rotation gives the Royals 5 good arms who could all emerge as mid-rotation starters by the end of the decade.

High Desert also has a few starters worth noting. Blake Johnson, acquired in the Dessens/Perez deal, has excellent command and good strikeout numbers. Luis Cota has struggled at High Desert, but he still has a live arm with lots of potential. Cota has pitched better lately, so maybe he's starting to master High Desert.

Overall, the Royals have much improved pitching depth, particularly in the low minors. While the improvements probably won't help the big-league team for a few years, they should make an impact once the Royals' offensive core has fully developed at the major leagues.

Organizational Needs: The Royals need some veteran pitching to improve the rotation until Greinke, Lumsden, and Hochevar are ready. The Royals also need more pitching prospects near the major leagues so they can improve the rotation in the next couple of years.

Offseason Moves: Moore should continue to focus on getting more young pitching into the Royals' organization, as he did throughout July. The Royals need a couple of veteran starters to anchor the rotation in addition to Perez. The free agent market has a lot more starters around the age of 28-30 who are decent #3 or 4 starters. So, the Royals should be able to get one of those starters fairly easily.


At 2:28 AM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

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At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great summary Sooner. I agree completely with your idea of adding one or two low-to-mid cost veterans into the mix again for the next year or so. I wouldn't mind seeing Redman resigned if he would come back at roughly the same price ($4M?).

At 1:55 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

I think Redman could be resigned for about the same amount. He's eligible for arbitration, but I don't think he'd get much of a raise through arbitration, if any.


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