The Kansas City Royals are sure to have a bit of a different look in 2018, as seven key members of the team are set to hit free agency. Let’s take a look at a few guys on the Royals’ Farm that may have the opportunity to make their MLB debut in the absence of some of these free agents next season.
The rankings next to each player reflect our rankings here at Royals Farm Report.
7.) Josh Staumont
Staumont struggled with his command in 2017 and may well be best suited as a reliever in the future. I have by no means given up on Staumont as a starter, yet, but he is going to have to make some serious improvements in his control to continue his career as a starter.
If in fact he is moved to the bullpen, Staumont could make a quick rise to KC. His high-octane fastball and absolute hammer of a curveball could prove valuable in the Royals bullpen, especially if the Royals trade Kelvin Herrera during the season.
8.) Richard Lovelady
A for sure bullpen arm, Lovelady’s success has been well documented this season. He’s absolutely dominated hitters and deserves a solid look in Spring Training. Don’t be surprised if he breaks camp with the big club.
9.) Foster Griffin
Griffin may be a bit of a reach to arrive in 2018, but it is totally feasible as well. Griffin pitched well at AA Northwest Arkansas last year, and will surely start the year with AAA Omaha. The Royals will more than likely look to trade Jason Hammel at the trade deadline next July, and injuries happen every year. If Griffin can put up a solid start to his season in AAA, he may very well find himself filling in a spot in the rotation before the end of the year.
12.) Ryan O’Hearn
I’m personally not quite sold on O’Hearn as a big league hitter. He did have a mighty productive season at AAA this season though, and Eric Hosmer is a free agent. I think it’s far more likely that KC signs a guy like Logan Morrison before they give O’Hearn a shot at the every day 1B job, but he could very well be a cheaper option to fill the shoes of Hosmer if the Royals choose to take that road.
14.) Donnie Dewees Jr.
I was really encouraged with Dewees’ first full season in AA this year. I still think he’s a year away from competing for a starting spot in the Royals outfield, but he could definitely play a role similar to that of Jarrod Dyson should there be an injury with the big league club. Look for Dewees to start the season in AAA and keep an eye on him as we approach 2019.
30.) Bubba Starling
Thursday. March 29. Kauffman Stadium. Danny Duffy fires the first pitch of the season to Salvador Perez and the White Sox leadoff hitter promptly flies out to CF……where Bubba Starling is waiting for the ball.
Yes sir. Lorenzo Cain is going to get paid by the Texas Rangers this offseason and Bubba Starling is the next man up in CF for our Boys in Blue. Royals fans have long awaited the arrival of our local hero. It would have been easy to give up on Bubba already, but the Royals have proved faithful to their former number five over all pick. Bubba was well on his way to Kansas City before he got hurt in 2017, and conventional thinking may be that he starts the year in AAA. I say not-so-fast. Bubba explodes in Spring Training, makes a couple of spectacular plays in CF, and wins the job next to Gordon and Bonifacio in the Royals outfield.
Not Ranked: Kyle Zimmer
By now you ought to know exactly what is keeping Kyle Zimmer from making his MLB debut. If he’s healthy, he’ll be here. If not, well, life goes on at this point.
Not Ranked: Christian Binford
Stop laughing, I’m serious.
Christian Binford has been on one wild ride through the minor leagues since being drafted in the 30th round out of high school in 2011. Binford will be 25 when the 2018 campaign begins, and will certainly start the season with AAA Omaha after a really poor campaign with the Storm Chasers in 2017. Binford posted a 7.24 ERA in 19 starts with Omaha, but his 6.28 FIP and .351 BABIP suggest that he may have been getting a little unlucky. Plus, Binford showed improvement after a short stint in the bullpen, posting a 5.89 ERA in his last 10 appearances (9 starts).
Binford has bounced back and forth between Double and Triple-A since 2014, after dominating all the way through AA. He finally found his groove in AA in 2017 and was quickly promoted to AAA after five starts. I believe that something clicked when Binford was sent to the bullpen this season, and I think the former top prospect finally comes around in 2018.
Not Ranked: Eric Stout
Eric Stout had an outstanding 2017 with AAA Omaha, and I actually thought he was a lock to join the KC bullpen as a September call-up. Obviously I was wrong, and the Royals bullpen may very well be crowded to start 2017, but I think there is a 100% chance we’ll see Stout in KC in 2018 barring a trade or injury.
Not Ranked: Sam Selman
Second verse, same as the first.
Selman will be 27 when the 2018 campaign rolls around, and after a great season between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha this year, I fully expect Selman to either join the Royals bullpen out of Spring Training or to be traded.
- 6/10 guys on this list are bullpen arms. That’s really not good for a team that is going to go through a rebuild.
- Only one of these guys is a bonafide SP. Staumont is still a maybe, and the Royals inability to produce quality SP’s is still a big problem.
- Only one of the players on this list has the ability to make an impact as a position player in 2018. Donnie Dewees still needs a whole season at AAA, and unless Bubba Starling can continue to get better like he was in Omaha, the Royals are going to have to go to free agency to find some bats this offseason.
- Only two of these players have the ability to be high-impact guys in 2018. Richard Lovelady and Josh Staumont could make a big impact in the bullpen, but that’s about it as far as major contributions.
- The Royals will ultimately have to be saved by guys who have already gotten their cup of coffee in the big leagues. Guys like Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio, Raul Mondesi, Jake Junis, and Hunter Dozier are going to have a lot on their plate in 2018.