On Wednesday afternoon, the Kansas City Royals brought a new face to the rotation by signing starting pitcher Jason Hammel, in hopes of the acquisition coming to their aid after an abysmal 2016 rotation.
Kansas City Royals 2017 Rotation Elation
Although Spring Training games do not begin for another two weeks, the PECOTA projections have once again predicted the Royals to have a lousy season. That being said, fans should have every reason to believe that this 2017 rotation could be the best one in recent team history.
The Big Fish
With the tragic death of Yordano Ventura on January 22nd, the Royals were left with a massive void to fill in their starting rotation. Hammel was proclaimed as the best free agent arm left on the market and a huge catch for Kansas City when they signed him.
He started 31 games in 2015 and 30 games in 2016, combining for a 25-17 record and an ERA around 3.80. The 34 year-old was hot and cold last year, firing out of the gates with a 0.75 ERA in his first four starts, and later posting a measly 2.84 ERA his six starts in the month of August.
With a two-year deal locked up, Hammel could offer the club a solid No. 3 option and a cushion for a guy like Nate Karns, who could end up in the pen by early summer. Although nobody can replace the emotion and fire that Ventura displayed, Hammel has the potential to put up equal numbers or maybe even better.
Deal with the “Duffman”
After a strong 2016 outing, it’s no question Danny Duffy will be the ace of the rotation in 2017. Posting a 12-3 record with a 3.51 ERA and 188 strike outs, it’s no wonder that the Royals signed him to a five-year $65 million contract extension.
The only cause for concern is that Duffy has had Tommy John surgery before and has never made as many as 30 starts in a season. If he can stay healthy, fans should expect to see great things from the left-hander this year.
Better than 2014?
The Royals have finished in the top half of the American League in starting pitching ERA just twice (2013 and 2014). How does the 2017 rotation stack up? According to Royals Review, ZIPS has projected a low number of innings out of the starters due to health concerns.
Along with Duffy, Jason Vargas is also coming off of Tommy John surgery. Nate Karns missed half of the 2016 season with a back injury. The one strange projection from ZIPS is that Ian Kennedy will only pitch 146 innings this year. Considering he has made at least 30 starts each season since 2009, that seems like quite a low number. Even though the Royals rotation has numerous health risks, it can be expected that they will exceed the number of innings predicted.
The 2014 rotation could be tough to outshine. James Shields was a very viable ace that year, posting a 3.21 ERA with 227 innings pitched. He also had very solid options in Vargas and Ventura to back him up. Once the team decided to abandon the idea of Bruce Chen continuing as a starting pitcher (6.49 ERA, 34 innings pitched) and gave the job to Duffy, the rotation was among the best in the league, finishing fourth in starting pitching ERA.
With all things considered, the 2017 rotation has a legitimate chance to compete with 2014. Hammel and Ian Kennedy, could become two solid starters in the middle of the rotation. Duffy looks primed to be the kind of ace that Shields was, if not better. The only real concern will be if Vargas or Karns turn in a terrible performance in the number five spot. Will the Royals have enough depth to withstand that kind of hit?
Its purely speculation to assume that the 2017 rotation could be better than years past, considering one is a projection, verses actual results. But as of right now, the 2017 starting rotation projects to be one of the best that General Manager Dayton Moore has ever put together. Kansas City fans should at least feel optimistic about the upcoming season when looking at the results on paper.