MiLM 9/2/21: Kowar looks sharp in return to MLB

Be sure to check out “This Week in the Minors” over at Royals Review.

It was tough to decide which batters to feature here, so it will simply be: a lot of them!

Kyle Isbel went 8-for-22 with a pair of homers, a double, and a triple. Bobby Witt, Jr. drove in 9 runs thanks to 3 home runs and 3 doubles.

There’s a piece up on our site that details the usefulness of “+” stats when talking about MiLB.

Hitters
– Witt Jr. (AA/AAA): .945 OPS, 0.36 BB/K, .293 ISO
– Rodriguez (A+/AA): .973 OPS, 0.67 BB/K, .212 ISO
– Torkelson (AA/AAA): .878 OPS, 0.57 BB/K, .278 ISO

The weekly leaderboards are up.

FIP

1.) Dylan Coleman: 2.53
2.) Will Klein: 2.79
3.) Emilio Marquez: 3.01
4.) Jackson Kowar + Jake Newberry: 3.07
6.) Drew Parrish: 3.11
7.) Josh Dye: 3.31
8.) Nate Webb: 3.46
9.) Jace Vines: 3.47
10.) Angel Zerpa: 3.65

The next episode of the RFR podcast will be up tonight. Be sure to check out last week’s episode with Geoff Pontes of Prospects Live.

Wednesday Night Highlight Reel

The real Jackson Kowar was on full display last night

Watching the Royals young arms come up and bee good has been so much fun. Folks were kind of freaking out earlier this year when Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar struggled to make it three innings in any start. What we’ve seen from both of those guys lately, plus Carlos Hernandez, ought to have Royals fans ecstatic about what this rotation can do for the team moving forward.

Last night, Kowar struck out 6, walked 3, and did not allow an earned run* in 6 innings of work against Cleveland (that error on Taylor was kind of BS). Jake Brentz wasn’t able to hold the lead and Kowar didn’t get the win, but the stuff he was throwing at big league hitters was filthy and he consistently got some ugly swings against Cleveland’s lineup. I’ve said for a long time that I thought he was the best of the pitchers the Royals drafted in 2018. I’m not sure who will wind up better in the long run, he or Lynch, but the 98 mph fastball he was blowing by guys last night has me feeling pretty good about his future chances.

Cal Eldred, you got to go!

Kowar’s recent return to the big leagues brings up something of a common theme we’ve seen from Royals pitchers this year. They struggle, they get sent down to work with MiLB pitching coaches, they come back up, they have flashes of success. I don’t even know if all of this is Cal Edlred’s fault, but the fact that Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar came up from the minor leagues and looked THAT bad early on this summer is an indictment on whatever help they were getting at the big league level. Even if Cal Eldred wasn’t the cause of these issues, he sure wasn’t around to be a part of the solution. Guys should be able to come up and get help in the big leagues. You shouldn’t have to ship them out to get help. I couldn’t stop thinking about this last night during Kowar’s start. Here is what Wikipedia has down as job history for Cal Eldred:

  • College Baseball Analyst for the Big Ten Network
  • Special Assistant to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak
  • Royals Pitching Coach

I get it, the guy pitched in the big leagues for a long time. He even made a couple of appearances in the bullpen during the 2004 World Series for St. Louis. I don’t know at this point what evidence we have to suggest that he’s been so good at his job he just gets to keep it without the results. Based on his prior job resume, I’d argue it was a reach to bring him in in the first place. By all accounts, Cal Eldred seems to be a great guy. There’s obviously a reason the Royals felt like they could bring him in, but I just don’t understand on what basis you can justify bringing him back next season. The game has changed. The way pitching has evolved demands a new look at how we coach pitchers in season. I’m not even suggesting that Cal Eldred is incapable of doing any of these things. I just don’t know what evidence we have to suggest that he has. Here’s a quick look at how the Royals pitching staff has compared to the league since Eldred’s hiring in 2018:

2021
– 21st in ERA
– 22nd in FIP
– 23rd in K-BB%
– 25th in Hard%

2020*
– 12th in ERA
– 18th in FIP
– 15th in K-BB%
– 22nd in Hard%

2019
– 27th in ERA
– 26th in FIP
– 30th in K-BB%
– 23rd in Hard%

2018
– 29th in ERA
– 26th in FIP
– 29th in K-BB%
– 28th in Hard%

I’m willing to forget about 2018. First year on the job and that team was horrible. 2019 was a little better, I guess, but still nothing good. 2020 showed signs of actual promise in what was obviously a year that would have deserved an asterisk for better or worse. But here we are in 2021 and the team’s pitching staff is marginally better than it was with a significantly better cast of arms. This pitching staff is more talented than a bottom 7-8 staff in baseball. You invested a ton of resources to acquire these arms and you legitimately have four Gold Glove-caliber defenders in your lineup every day. Nicky Lopez might win a Gold Glove at SS. Whit Merrifield is probably going to win one at 2B. Michael A. Taylor deserves one in CF. And Salvy. I have a sneaking suspicion the Royals will give Eldred one more go round in 2022, but you better be DAMN sure he’s the man for the job. There is way too much at stake for him to be even mediocre. Much of the focus has been on the MiLB hitters and filling the void in CF this offseason, but just as high on the priority list of things to figure out better be who is going to be working with your young arms in 2022.

Photo Credits: Minda Haas Kuhlmann (@minda33)

One thought on “MiLM 9/2/21: Kowar looks sharp in return to MLB

  1. Totally agree with you on Cal Eldred. When your relationship with the manager is the #1 factor you have going for you to keep your job at major league level, YOU GOT TO GO (said with the Hudler accent). The track record of no/little success when KC is betting the next season of success on young pitcher is not a good match. KC can do better if it wants to get better. Another transactionally challenged decision for GMDM.

    BWJ is having a minor league for the ages in KC history – when he is done with this month, his total numbers will be spectacular! At the highest levels also. The hype machine will be running full steam this offseason but Witt is like Mahomes that way = it doesn’t seem to bother him.

    So pleased for Kowar and his start last night. Condemning of KC for either promoting him too soon when they thought he was ready, not preparing him adequately when he was here, or not making proper adjustments when he was failing. Total fail on KCR for his early faceplant. That start gave me hope for 2022. We forget how young they are.

    Saw that Emshoff and Bates got promoted to Quad City recently. I’m glad that KC continued to promote players through this month. Tresh on Columbia also. Garza going to 1B for Columbia has been good move. I like college guys from SEC and strong D1 conferences.

    Liked by 1 person

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