I’ve thought quite a bit about Buddy Bell over the first three weeks of the season and his famous quote about never saying it can’t get worse. Somehow, it just keeps getting worse for the Royals bullpen. At this point, something is going to have to change, and some of it might just come naturally while a good portion of it will likely have to come from personnel changes. Even knowing that, I wouldn’t be so sure it’s young guys who get the nod right away. I think the future of the Royals bullpen lies in names like Kevin Lenik, Richard Lovelady, Glenn Sparkman, Bryan Brickhouse and others, but I’m not sure the Royals are interested in rushing them to the big leagues because a bad team’s bullpen is struggling and I don’t think I disagree. Instead, it might be more veteran retreads before we get to the young guys who I think will make the Royals bullpen very good again very soon. Oh well.
- While the bullpen has been a pretty big disaster, it’s not quite as bad as it seems because of the three disastrous veterans out there. If that feels like a bit of a copout, it sort of is, but it’s also so drastic that I believe it’s worth looking at the numbers. The trio of Brandon Maurer, Blaine Boyer and Justin Grimm have combined to pitch 16 innings, allowing 32 hits, eight home runs and have struck out just 10 while walking 16. That’s good for a 19.13 ERA for the three of them. The rest of the bullpen, and this includes Kevin McCarthy’s rough start to the year, has gone 35 innings, allowed 26 hits, one home run and has 32 strikeouts compared to 11 walks with a 2.83 ERA. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills defending the rest of the bullpen, but these numbers are so drastically different that I don’t think it’ll take much for the Royals to fix their bullpen issue. They just have to be willing to actually cut bait with inventory because bad inventory is worthless. I keep looking at those numbers and marveling and honestly can’t believe they’re real. The good news here? No team can roster these guys for long if they continue this, even the Royals.
- I think we should really take a minute and appreciate how hot Mike Moustakas has been to start the season. The numbers are eye popping at .348/.368/.636. I know the RBI stat isn’t the best for evaluation purposes, but to have 13 at this point on a team struggling to score runs is really incredible, even though he is hitting behind Jon Jay (.377 OBP) and Whit Merrifield (.348 OBP). Even so, he’s having a ridiculous season so far, and he’s absolutely smoking the baseball. Among hitters with 30 or more at bats, Moustakas has hit the ball seventh hardest, with an average exit velocity of 94.6 MPH. His average distance hit is 10th in baseball with the same parameters at 215 feet and his average launch angle is 20°. Hitting the ball that hard at that angle is pretty darn impressive. One of the biggest differences between this year and last year is that he’s traded out some mid-range contact for a lot of hard contact. According to Fangraphs, his hard hit percentage is up over 50 percent. Last year, it was 31.9 percent. He’s fourth in baseball in that category among qualified hitters. That’ll even out eventually as nobody was even that close to 50 percent last year, but even so, it’s very encouraging. Add to it that he looks much healthier and seems to be moving well, and you have to be impressed with what he’s done this year.
- One thing I just can’t wrap my head around is how the Royals are handling Cheslor Cuthbert. I know he’s currently on pace for something like 475 plate appearance and that’s near the number that Ned Yost had mentioned for him before the season, but what we have to consider is that’s without competition for playing time from Jorge Bonifacio and to a lesser extent Alex Gordon. The Bonifacio suspension opened up DH at bats for him and my assumption was that he’d play basically every day. Instead, he found himself sitting against a lefty on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto in favor of Paulo Orlando and Abraham Almonte. You can make an argument that Cuthbert won’t be good enough to contribute to the next good Royals team and I’d buy it, but playing guys like Orlando, Almonte and Ryan Goins over him is infuriating. I understand Moustakas, Jon Jay and Lucas Duda playing because they’re good and have value, but there’s no reason for Cuthbert to not play every day. Soon enough, Gordon will be back and will require playing time for better or for worse, and Bonifacio will be, too. Then there’ll be a logjam that might not unjam until at least the trade deadline and maybe later. The numbers aren’t there yet, but he’s walking a good amount and not striking out much at all. That’s not necessarily a formula to guarantee he’ll be good but I would at least like to find out.
- One thing that intrigued me about a few prospects in the Royals system is that they have quite a few players who actually know the strike zone, which is a breath of fresh air. Guys like Khalil Lee and Nicky Lopez are the players we’ve heard about quite a bit, but there are others. I’ve mentioned Michael Gigliotti a few times in this space and he has a chance to be a plus OBP guy. And then there’s Rudy Martin, who I jokingly started following because I picked a random draft pick who had a nice debut and the more I see, the more I really like. He can work a walk, can really run and has a little pop. I believe Clint has made this comparison but with some development, he could be a better version of Jarrod Dyson. Add in Nick Pratto and some others who I’m sure I’m missing, and there’s actually some patience in this farm system. They won’t all pan out, but even if a couple do, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a couple more than have in quite a few years.