In what appeared to be a move for organizational depth, the Royals signed relief pitcher Kevin Lenik out of the Frontier League in the middle of June this summer. The signing turned out to be a brilliant one, as Lenik went on to dominate AAA hitters in his time with the Omaha Storm Chasers.
It’s not often that independent league baseball players get a chance to rejoin affiliated baseball. More often than not, players go to independent leagues to finish their careers, not rejuvenate them. Kevin Lenik may have just joined the minority of independent ball players that will have an opportunity to reach the big leagues.
Kevin Lenik, a 6′ 5″ right-handed reliever from Mission Hills, California, joined the Royals AAA affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers in June of this past season in an attempt to bolster the Omaha bullpen. The KC Royals were going through a bit of a rough patch with pitchers this season, and Omaha needed some bullpen depth.
Lenik was signed from the Windy City Thunder Bolts in the Frontier League, the same league that the River City Rascals out of O’Fallon, MO, play in. For the T-Bolts, Lenik posted an ERA of 3.48 in 11 appearances, including a save. Those numbers aren’t exactly what scouts are looking for, but someone in KC’s organization obviously saw something in Lenik that they liked, and so they gave him a chance to prove himself in AAA.
Prove himself he did. In 24 IP for Omaha this season, Lenik posted an ERA of 1.88 while striking out 24 and walking only 8. His .134 BAA and 0.79 WHIP are equally as impressive. The advanced metrics don’t favor Lenik as kindly, as his BABIP was merely .175, but perhaps Lenik has discovered something about his game that will allow him to carry this success with him into next spring.
I don’t know much about Lenik’s repertoire, but have heard that he features a decent fastball/slider combination that can really frustrate hitters at times. I don’t know what the Royals plan with Lenik is moving forward, but it will be interesting to see if he gets any kind of invite to Spring Training in 2018. Regardless, Lenik’s contribution to the Storm Chasers’ pitching staff in 2017 did not go unnoticed.