The Kansas City Royals are going to need to have an impressive first half of the 2017 season in order to buy at the deadline and push for the playoffs. With Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar hitting the market at the end of the year, this very well may be the last time for several years for the Royals to make a well done run at the Playoffs. Half of the battle will be shoring up a starting rotation that can keep the offense in the game. With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in less than a week, the question is, “What will the 2017 Royals Starting Rotation be?”
This weekend, RHP Jason Hammel signed with the Kansas City Royals. Contract details haven’t been released yet, but it has been reported that the two-year deal is worth $16 Million guaranteed. Hammel’s signing comes on the heels of the passing of Yordano Ventura. His untimely and tragic death left a hole in the Royals starting rotation. Hammel was the best pitcher on the free-agent market to fill it. He went 15-10 last season with a 3.83 ERA over 166.2 innings pitched. Those are numbers that are even better than what Ventura had last year.
Right now the starting rotation looks to be Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Jason Hammel. Spots 4 and 5 could be a bit of a battle. Lefty Mike Minor should be back at some point, barring another setback with his shoulder. The Royals traded away Mr. “That’s What Speed Do” Jarrod Dyson to the Mariners to get Nate Karns from the Mariners. Chris Young struggled out of the gate last year. However, he was lights out from the bullpen as a long reliever in the latter part of the season and figures to compete for a starting job. Jake Junis was put on the 40-man roster after the season after spending last year in the minors. Jason Vargas is a previous starter who is looking to do it again. That makes eight people for five spots, seven if Minor has a delayed return. So what will it be?
In most likelihood, the rotation will start out the year Duffy, Kennedy, Hammel, Vargas, and Karns. Vargas was a season-long starter in 2014 with a 3.71 ERA and can still get the job done, earning a no-decision in the three games he started at the end of last year (his first appearances after rehabbing his Tommy John surgery). Karns may be a homer pick to start out he season in the rotation due to the fans wanting to see what they got out of the Dyson trade.
Mike Minor is still uncertain on returning at the beginning of Spring Training. He may not be back to full form until after the season has started. At that point, he’d be next in line if Karns struggles and has to go to the pen. This is a scenario that happened last year in Seattle. Chris Young, while only having a couple seasons left under his belt, excelled from the ‘pen and figures to be a spot-starter in the right scenario(the right ballpark, mainly). Junis is still young and may need some additional time in AAA before being called up again. He had some promising outings, including a 7 inning one-hitter. However, there’s no sense in throwing him to the wolves so early on.
This is all speculation, obviously, and who knows what can happen during spring training? Jonathan Sanchez, who was a former Giants starter and member of the No-Hitter’s Club got a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Will anything become of it? Most likely not, but how likely was it that the Royals were going to make it when they won it all in 2015? This is a team that constantly defies projections and statistical analysis. With manager Ned Yost and GM Dayton Moore at the helm, 2017 could very well shape up to be another contending season for the Kansas City Royals.