The good and the bad from Royals rookie arms

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely in love with this current rotation that the Royals are running out there. Every single day there is something to look forward to on the mound:

  • Brad Keller still has a 0.00 ERA and has asserted himself as this team’s ace
  • Danny Duffy is currently pacing for a career best mark in K/9
  • Kris Bubic
  • Brady Singer
  • Jakob Junis has one of the best sliders in baseball
  • Are we going to get to see Daniel Lynch take a spot in the rotation soon?

No matter who the Royals run out there, you have something to be excited about. Every. Single. Day.

40% of this current rotation that I love so much is made up of rookies that either cracked or almost cracked a major top 100 prospect list this past off-season. Brady Singer was on BA’s list, as well as MLB Pipeline, while Bubic came in at 114 on FanGraphs list, putting him as the Royals #3 prospect at FG.

If all you did was flip over to their FanGraphs page, you wouldn’t be overly impressed by the performances of the Royals three (including Zuber) rookie arms so far:

  • Kris Bubic: 4 starts, 19.1 IP, 5.12 ERA, 5.40 FIP, 8.84 K/9, 3.72 BB/9, 1.86 HR/9, 53.8% GB%, 8.6% SwStr%
  • Brady Singer: 5 starts, 25.2 IP, 4.56 ERA, 5.18 FIP, 8.42 K/9, 4.21 BB/9, 1.75 HR/9, 47.2% GB%, 9.6% SwStr%
  • Tyler Zuber: 10 appearances, 10.1 IP, 5.23 ERA, 8.15 FIP, 8.71 K/9, 8.71 BB/9, 2.61 HR/9, 46.2% GB%, 8% SwStr%

One of the first things that popped out to me was Brady Singer’s K/9. Singer is striking out almost the exact same amount of hitters in the big leagues as he did in both minor leagues that he appeared in last season. The number is also not far off of the 9.08 K/9 that he posted as a junior at Florida. This is who he is. He strikes out enough guys, but strike outs will never be his identity.

Another thing that strikes me as interesting is Kris Bubic’s GB%. Kris Bubic was never a big ground ball guy in the minors. He never had a GB% over 45% in the minors, and is now running up a rate over 53%. His changeup has been a real issue for opposing hitters and I really like the trend here for Bubic.

Tyler Zuber has to get his walks down. Walks were never really an issue for him in the minors, but he wasn’t an elite control guy either. His BB/9 were over 3.3 in both stints at Wilmington, came down a bit at AA, but has gotten out of control against the big boys. Part of this appears to be that Zuber is nibbling. I don’t mean to call him gun shy just yet, but he has given up a few HR and appears to be afraid of catching too much of the plate now with his pitches. His stuff is really, really good. This isn’t something I’m worried about long-term.

All three of these guys are posting career lows in SwStr%, which is both totally understandable and presents the biggest learning curve for these young arms. Big league hitters will not chase pitches out of the zone as frequently as MiLB hitters. That’s why they are in the big leagues. The broadcast team mentioned last night that Kris Bubic was only starting hitters with a strike 45% of the time. Last night he went 9/20. That won’t cut it at the big league level. Kris Bubic is more than capable of getting that first pitch strike over, and he will, but he missed the experience of “learning the hard way,” so-to-speak, in AA and AAA. A-ball hitters aren’t able to make you pay for your mistakes like big league hitters can.

The biggest positive that I’m taking from all three rookies so far is that they are competing their asses off. They are a bunch of competitive dudes that don’t back down from anyone. Their strikeout rates, despite missing AAA experience, have held their own early on, meaning their raw “stuff” is going to play at the big league level once they learn how to command it a little better.

You have to remember, these guys have always been the best of the best on every team they’ve ever played on. This is (obviously) by far the biggest challenge they’ve faced in their baseball careers. The pure stuff they’re throwing at big league hitters has stood up to the challenge. Now, can you figure out how to use it most effectively? Once they do, these kids are going to be really, really special.

Oh, and by the way, there’s more coming.


Photo credits: Gregory Bull – Kansas City Star


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