Grading the Royals first half

MooreYost

So far in 2017, as the offense goes, so do the Royals.

The Royals had the second-best rotation ERA through the month of April (3.38), but it didn’t matter, thanks to miserable offense (ranking last in runs (2.7), and hitting (.210/.270/.336) and OPS .605), scoring 63 runs in their first 23 games tied for a franchise record (worst). They ended the month on a 9-game losing streak, dropping them to 7-16. Seven games later, they were at their low mark of the season, 10-20, and were still scoring a league-worst 2.73 runs per game. The .333 win percentage paced to a 54-108 season.

Fifty-one games later, the Royals are now at 41-40 – an 82-80 pace. Not good enough o reach the playoffs, but from where they were, it is impressive. The 31-20 mark since the 10-20 record paces out over the course of a season as 100 wins. The Royals have maintained it for two months now. If they sustained it the rest of the way, the .620 win percentage over the final 81 games would equal a 50-31 mark. That’s 91-71. That likely has them in the playoffs.

The turnaround for the Royal starts with their bats. Over the last 51 games, the Royals have scored 254 runs (4.98 per game), and despite the starting pitching (4.92 ERA since May 8) taking a step back (3.88 ERA since May 8, 10th best in baseball; 1.44 WHIP (24th after a 1.53 WHIP after ranking 27th in both ERA (5.67) and WHIP (1.58) through April), the Royals are one-game above .500 for the third time this season, and are sitting just three games back in the AL Central.

What has spearheaded the offensive resurgence? Is it as simple as everyone hitting at the same time? Is it an offense that wasn’t as bad as the numbers, waking up? Is it the power of the DONG?

Let’s take a look.

First 30 games: .208/.270/.329/.600 (last/last/last/last), 27 HR (29th (of 30)), 2.7 runs per game (last), 230 K (6th best), 78 BB (27th)

Since (51 Games): .274/.321/.461/.782 (2nd//23rd/7th), 71 HR (13th), 4.98 runs (8th), 376 K (4th), 123 walks (last).

The Royals have been a Top 10 offense, maybe better, in the league for nearly two months now. Despite the offensive surge, the Royals still rank in the bottom third to fourth of the league in all the categories .251/.302/.414/.716 (19th/29th/22nd/25th), 4.2 runs (26th) and 193 walks (last), other than HR (98), where they rank 16th and strikeouts (484), where they rank fourth (fewest) – thanks to the horrific April/first 30 games.

In the power department, the Royals are averaging 1.2 DONGS per game, good for a pace of 196, which would shatter the franchise record (168), and just two off our prediction of 198 (http://kcsportsnation.com/2017/04/projecting-the-2017-kansas-city-royals/):

“Oh, and we project this team to make 198 trips to DONG TOWN this year, which will easily shatter the team homerun record by 32. So, there’s that. May be safe to take the under on that…”

Or, maybe not.

As for individual players …the 51-game stretch comparison with the first 30 games is just as astounding.

Whit Merrifield

Season: .286/.323/.452, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 28 R, 11 SB, 13 BB, 34 K

Through May 7 (first 30 games): .193/.254/.333/.587, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K (only played in 15 games)

Since (47 games): .315/.345/.489, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 10 SB, 9 BB, 23 K

Pace: .286/.323/.452, 12 HR, 62 RBI, 56 R, 22 SB, 26 BB, 64 K

Projection: .250/.292/.354, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 8 SB, 30 R, 48 K, 13 BB

Merrifield already has a career-high in HR, so I guess all those eggs have started to pay off, although he has not hit one since May 28. He’s basically been the everyday 2B since the Raul Mondesi demotion, and struggled initially, bottoming out at .193 on May 7 after a 0-3 day; but followed with a 19-game hitting streak and has been hitting ever since. AS long as he keeps producing, you would think the job is his. He is the only Royal really running right now. With three stolen bases yesterday, he now ranks ninth in the American League.

Grade: A-

RF Jorge Bonifacio

Season: .247/.318/.447, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 33 R, 0 SB, 22 BB, 63 K

Through May 7 (debuted 4/21): .239/.300/.370, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 14 K

Since (47 games, 44 starts): .249/.323/.467, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 18 BB, 49 K

Pace: 247/.318/.447, 22 HR, 54 RBI, 66 R, 0 SB, 44 BB, 126 K

Projection: N/A

Like Merrifield, Boni started the season in the minors and is at the top of the order. His average is a bit down from earlier, but he has great AB and is on pace for a 20 HR season as a rookie, something only four others have ever done in Kansas City.

He still looks awkward as hell defensively, but he makes most of the plays.

Bonifacio had a a great spring, but wasn’t on our radar despite having a career year in Omaha last year (.277/.351/.461, 19 HR, 86 RBI), as he was passed up…again, when the Royals traded for Jorge Soler. When Paulo Orlando was demoted, he got his chance, and he has forced their hand, by exceeding expectations thus far. Therefore we give him a B+.

CF Lorenzo Cain

Season: .286/.359/.449, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 45 R, 15 SB, 32 BB, 55 K

Through May 7 (29 games): .269/.387/.375/.762, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 19 BB, 20 K

Since (49 games): .295/.341/.489, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 14 BB, 35 K, 8 SB

Pace: .286/.359/.449, 20 HR, 54 RBI, 90 R, 30 SB, 64 BB, 110 K

Projection: .290/.337/.424, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 85 R, 24 SB, 41 BB, 123 K

After finishing third in the AL MVP race in 2015, Cain took a step back in 2016, where the familiar theme of injuries (hamstring and thumb) came back to strike Cain, who played just 103 games – the fewest since 2011. On the wrong side of 30 and never playing more than 140 games, it would be naïve to expect LoCain to play a full slate of games in 2017, but he has started all but three games so far and played every game in June (28 games) for the first time in his career. I stand by my take that Cain’s peak is Torii Hunter-light, as shown 2015. The question entering this season, is could he do it again? Initially, the answer was a resounding no, as May came to an end, Cain was  having a lackluster season with numbers (.257/.346/.358, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 19 R, 12 SB) that didn’t meet most other 3-hitters in the league. But, thanks to a MONSTER June (.333/.377/.626 – yes a .1.003 OPS; with 8 HR, 17 RBI, 24 R, 2 SB), he played himself into All-Star consideration (he could replace Mike Trout) and is on pace for a 20/30 season – both which would be career-highs. Cain hit all eight of his June HR in the first 13 games of the month, but produced still produced a month that should have him in consideration for AL Player of the Month. Once ranking first in the league in stolen bases, he has just three since May 18 (two on June 17), but still ranks fifth in the league.

Grade: B+

Eric Hosmer

Season: .307/.365/.479, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R, 3 SB, 29 BB, 54 K

Through May 7 (30 games): .268/.331/.384/.715, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 11 BB, 17 K

Since (51 games): .330/.350/.533, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 19 BB, 37 K

Pace: .307/.365/.479, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 88 R, 6 SB, 58 BB, 108 K

Projection: 286/.339/.448, 24 HR, 99 RBI, 83 R, 5 SB, 54 BB, 131

Eric Hosmer has been an absolute stud during the Royals turnaround and played himself into All-Star consideration as a result. Sporting the 10th-best batting average in the AL and a .906 OPS since the calendar turned June, Hosmer was positioned to start the All-Star Game in consecutive years, but went from a 70,000 vote lead to 500,000 down, because Canada. When he wasn’t voted in, it was going to be tough for him to make it because of the All-Star numbers game as Yonder Alonso was a shoe-in to make it as the A’s representative.

He’ll likely fall short of last year’s run production, and our projection, but it has been a solid year for Hosmer.

Grade: B+

C Salvador Perez

Season: .290/.318/.525, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 35 R, 10 BB, 55 K

Through May 7 (28 games): .245/.268/.462/.730, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 4 BB, 21 K

Since (46 games, 44 starts): .318/.350/.565, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 7 BB, 34 K

Pace: .290/.318/.525, 32 HR, 102 RBI, 70 R, 20 BB, 110 K

Projection: .250/.284/.441, 24 HR, 69 RBI, 58 R, 1 SB, 20 BB, 129 K

Perez, easily in the midst of his best first half and pacing for a career-year, hit his way into his fourth straight All-Star Game start (fifth overall). He isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as he slugged .631 in June.

Throwing out runners – although most have been on the pitchers and not him – have been an issue this year and because he still doesn’t walk enough, we couldn’t bring ourselves to give an A, so B+.

3B Mike Moustakas

Season: .270/.306/.547, 22 HR, 49 RBI, 40 R, 15 BB, 52 K

Through May 7 (28 games): .250/.283/.491/.774, 7 HR, 12 RBI, 5 BB, 23 K

Since (45 games): .282/.330/.580, 15 HR, 37 RBI, 12 BB, 29 K

Pace: .270/.306/.547, 44 HR, 98 RBI, 80 R, 30 BB, 104 K

Projection: 268/.329/.462, 31 HR, 85 RBI, 65 R, 1 SB, 78 K, 39 BB

BALBONI WATCH: MOOSE has been pacing at or above Balboni’s pace (36) for the season. Moustakas seems to have abandon his 2015 breakout season approach, where he dedicated himself to going opposite field to beat the shift, but he’s putting the ball over the wall. He ranks fifth in the AL in DONGS and 10th in MLB, has tied the Royals first-half record (Jermaine Dye) and his career-high – with 81 games left, despite sitting against MOST lefties. A Final 5 nominee for the second time in his career, he will compete in the HR Derby down in Miami, becoming the third Royal (Bo Jackson and Danny Tartabull) to compete in the Derby.

Grade: A

Brandon Moss

Season: .193/.3263/.392, 10 HR, 16 RBI, 21 R, 17 BB, 68 K

Through May 7 (22 games): .153/.244/.319/.593, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 28 K

Since (33 games, 27 starts): .221/.277/.442, 6 HR, 9 RBI, 8 BB, 40 K

Pace: 193/.3263/.392, 20 HR, 32 RBI, 42 R, 34 BB, 136 K

Projection: .231/.313/.440, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 67 R, 1 SB, 40 BB, 193 K

After a homerless June with just seven hits, Moss hit a HR and had five hits in July 1’s double header. He’s been dreadful at the plate, but is still on pace for 20 HR, but only 32 RBI, as all but one his RBI are via the HR. He has the ability to get hot, as he hit 5 homers in an eight game stretch in late May. The Royals will need him to do it again. But, at this point, he isn’t even playing against all right-handed pitchers now. If Moss can increase his average, even by 30 points, and maintain his HR pace, it’ll be about what we expected for Moss. The Royals paid him to hit HR. They also paid him to drive in runs and hit above the Mendoza line.

Grade: D

Alcides Escobar

Season: .230/.248/.316, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 32 R, 2 SB, 6 BB, 61 K

Through May 7 (30 games): .183/.220/.250/.470, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 21 K

Since (51 games): .254/.262/.349, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 2 BB, 40 K

Pace: .230/.248/.316, 4 HR, 52 RBI, 64 R, 4 SB, 12 BB, 122 K

Projection: .251/.287/.301, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 57 RBI, 15 SB, 26 BB, 97 K

We can argue all day long until our faces are Royals Blue if Alcides Escobar SHOULD hit leadoff and if he has any real effect on the team winning. But, with a team struggling at 10-20, Ned Yost did it – he moved him back to the leadoff spot, trying to tap into whatever was left of Esky Magic. The results? The Royals went 13-13. However, Escobar still wasn’t hitting (.176/.188/.204). On June 5 he moved to the 8-hole, and has been hitting, since (.337/.343/.505, both HR, 14 RBI, both SB). Since this move, the Royals are 18-8. So…Esky Magic?

Remember when Escobar told reporters he was going to hit 15 bombs this year? He finally gave up trying that, and has took off at the plate. Despite averaging 25 swipes a year as a Royal, he only has two thus far, again proving his legs have slowed, and his glove, while still really good, is not what it used to be. He’s simply a diminishing player; but his recent hot stretch is promising and avoids him having a failing grade.

#EverydayEsky

Grade: D+

Alex Gordon

Season: .196/.292/.294, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 25 R, 1 SB, 25 BB, 55 K

Through May 7 (29 games): .171/.269/.219, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 10 BB, 23 L

Since (43 games, 42 starts): .214/.309/.350/, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 17 BB, 5 HBP, 32 K

Pace: .196/.292/.294, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 50 R, 2 SB, 50 BB, 110 K

Projection: .263/.350/.406, 21 HR, 63 RBI, 74 R, 10 SB, 70 BB, 173 K

Alex Gordon still looks broken at the plate, but he did show signs of life in June, where he hit 3 of his 4 HR, and he has drove in nine runs over the last five games. His SLUG for the season is embarrassing, but it has been better over the last 51 games. At least he still gets on base (an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his AVG) and is playing good defense, avoiding a failing grade. Royals need Alex Gordon to return to being Alex Gordon…if that’s possible.

Grade: D

OF Jorge Soler

Season: .187/.282/.333, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 10 BB, 25 K

Pace: .187/.282/.333, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 20 BB, 50 K

Projection: .259/.324./.426, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 60 R, 2 SB, 41 BB, 125 K

So far, Soler has failed to live up to expectations, but he is still under control for four more years after this one, and his ceiling is still high. The slow start to his season can be attributed to his last start due to injury (oblique). He destroyed the ball down in Omaha after a demotion (.324/.453/.637 in 137 plate appearances), and has received plenty of playing time upon his return, hitting another MAMMOTH no-doubter HR. In his two HR’s he has hit this season, you can see the incredible power potential. But, the Royals will need a lot more out of the big Cuban – the return piece for Wade Davis.

Grade: F

3B Cheslor Cuthbert

Season: .196/.221/.272, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, 25 K

Through May 7 (13 games, 10 starts): .143/.189/.257, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 K

Since (20 games, 13 starts): .228/.241/.281, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 15 K

Pace: .196/.221/.272, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 8 R, 6 BB, 50 K

Projection: .265/.312/.404, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 31 R, 2 SB, 20 BB, 62 K

With a lack of playing time – essentially against southpaw’s, it’s been a lost year for Cuthbert, because options. He hit a HR in his first start of the season down in Houston, and hasn’t hit one since. His walk/strikeout rate is horrendous. Let’s hope it doesn’t stunt his development. Because, he is in line for a major role in 2018.

Grade: D

C Drew Butera

Season: .232/.254/.377, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 2 BB, 12 K

Through May 7 (29 games): .171/.269/.219, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 10 BB, 23 L

Since (22 games, 13 starts): .265/.294/.449, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K

Pace: .232/.254/.377, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 14 R, 4 BB, 24 K

Projection: .250/.301/.399, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 21 R, 0 SB, 10 BB, 44 K

Butera is about what you expect for a backup catcher. He handles the staff (he is essentially Jason Hammel’s personal catcher, now) and can hit a little – but is streaky.

Grade: C+

Incomplete’s: OF Paulo Orlando, 2B Raul Mondesi, IF Ramon Torres, OF Billy Burns, OF Terrance Gore

***

On the mound, it has been an up and down season. The bullpen was a hot mess to open the season, then evened out, while the rotation was sick, before falling back to Earth.

Overall, the Royals rank in the bottom half of the league in almost everything meaningful: 21st in opponents average (.257) and K/9 (7.8), 20th in WHIP (137), 19th in K/BB (2.3), ranking just above the middle in ERA (4.26), at 13th and have allowed the fourth fewest HR (89).

If you break it down by unit, the rotation, in addition to having the 10th best ERA in baseball, while ranking 10th in quality starts (39), while being the fourth best at limiting the long ball and ranking in the middle-of-the-pack in nearly everything else. They’ve been OK, and the ace Danny Duffy returns tomorrow, while the All-Star Jason Vargas is pitching his balls off. Ian Kennedy has turned the corner after a rough stretch after his DL stint. Jason Hammel is pitching his best ball of the season. As for the bullpen, it’s been much better since April, as shown earlier.

SP Danny Duffy

Current: 11 GS, 68.2 IP, 4-4, 3.54 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 54 K, 25 BB

Pace: 22 GS, 136.2 IP, 8-8, 3.54 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 108 K, 50 BB

Projection: 33 GS, 195 IP, 14-7, 3.26 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 191 K, 55 BB

Danny Duffy returns from the DL on Tuesday, against King Felix, and will start again on Sunday against the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. His return came about 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule, and is at a perfect time for the Royals, as the back end of the rotation carousel has worn thin. The Royals will need Danny Duffy to be Danny Duffy if they want to contend for the playoffs in 2017.

Grade: B (because injury)

SP Jason Vargas

Current: 16 GS, 101.1 IP, 12-3, 2.22 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 74 K, 24 BB

Pace: 32 GS, 202.2 IP, 24-6, 2.22 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 148 K, 48 BB

Projection: 27 GS, 125 IP 7-7, 4.36 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 93 K, 44 BB

Vargas, in the midst of a career-year, is heading to the All-Star Game for the first time as a 34-year old (12th season). And, his resume is as good as any other starting pitcher in the American League. He is tied with Kershaw for the most wins in MLB, has 12 quality starts, has won seven straight starts and has seven starts of one run or less. He has the best ERA in the AL, his win percentage (.800) ranks second, WHIP seventh and ranks 10th in innings while his opponents OPS (.347) is the sixth best in baseball.

Grade: A

SP Ian Kennedy

Current: 14 GS, 74.1 IP, 2-6, 4.72 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 5 QS, 62 K, 33 BB

Pace: 28 GS, 148.2 IP, 4-10, 4.72 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10 QS, 124 K, 66 BB

Projection: 33 GS, 186.2 IP, 12-11, 4.02 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 185 K, 64

Tonight’s starter, Kennedy is aiming for his third straight win after losing his first five decisions. The team has won his last four starts, and he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his last start. Homers allowed continue to be a problem for Kennedy (1.9 HR/9), who has allowed a homer in 11 straight starts. His relies on his 4-seam fastball, and despite not going deep in games due to inefficient pitch counts, he ranks 10th in the AL in fewest walks (33).

Grade: C

SP Jason Hammel

Current: 16 GS, 88.2 IP, 4-7, 5.08 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7 QS, 70 K, 29 BB

Pace: 32 GS, 177.1 IP, 8-14, 5.08 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 14 QS, 140 K, 58 BB

Projection: 31 GS, 171 IP, 12-10, 4.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 147 K, 50 BB

Hammel was trending in the right direction (3-0, 2.51 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 7.0 K/9), over his prior five starts before Saturday’s poor showing (seven runs – six earned – on nine hits and two walks while striking out five batters through 5.1).

He has a ways to go to meet our projections and his three-year average (3.68 with a 1.16 WHIP).

Grade: C-

SP Nate Karns

Current: 9 G, 8 GS, 45.1 IP, 2-2, 4.17 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3 QS, 51 K, 13 BB

Pace: 18 G, 16 GS, 90.2 IP, 4-4, 4.17 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6 QS, 102 K, 26 BB

Projection: 27 GS, 142 IP, 8-5, 4.30 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 130 K, 54 BB

Karns, the return piece in the Jarrod Dyson trade, got off to a brutal start in April, then struck out 29 over 17.1 innings in three starts with a 2.07 ERA before exiting early (5 innings) on May 19 in Minnesota with forearm tightness, hit the DL. Once expected to miss just a couple starts, he was transferred to the 60-Day DL and has yet to start a rehab stint. The Royals will need him to fill out to rotation for the stretch run, or make a move to get a legit MLB starter.

Grade: C

SP Jake Junis

Current: 8 G, 6 GS, 35 IP, 2-2, 5.66 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 2 QS, 28 K, 16 BB

Pace: 16 GS, 12 GS, 70 IP, 4-4, 5.66 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 4 GS, 56 K, 32 BB

Projection: N/A

Junis entered the Royals radar last year, and you heard his name in spring as a guy who maybe had a future in the Royals bullpen. He’s had three stints in KC so far in 2017. AS a starter, he has not fared well: 6.00 ERA a 26:12 K/BB ratio in 33 innings. He has been hurt by the long ball – 9 of them in his last five starts.

Grade: D+

RP Kelvin Herrera

Current: 34 G, 33 IP, 1-2, 18/20 SV, 4.64 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 32 K, 7 BB

Pace: 68 G, 66 IP, 2-4, 36/40 SV, 4.64 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 64 K, 14 BB

Projection: 62 G, 63.2 IP, 1-4, 2.69 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 33 SV, 73 K, 15 BB

It’s been a weird season for Herrera. When it’s a save opportunity, he gets it done, converting 90% of his chances with a 2.29 ERA, 1.068 WHIP 20 K/3 BB

But, when it’s not…NOT GOOD (1-2, 8.10 ERA, 1,650 ERA).

Grade: B-

RP Joakim Soria

Current: 36 G, 34 IP, 4-2, 3.44 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 11 HLD, 46 K, 13 BB

Pace: 72 G, 8-4, 3.44 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 22 HLD, 92 K, 26 BB

Projection: 70 G, 66 IP, 3-4, 3.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 4 SV, 28 HLD, 65 K, 24 BB

Soria was the whipping boy last year, and rightfully so as he finished the season with career highs in ERA (4.05), FIP (4.36) and WHIP (1.46), and he needed extra rest between appearances as the season winded down, all while Yost continued to use him in a setup role, despite his struggles. I said time and time again that he would be much better in 2017, and so far, so good. He has had a few hiccups, but ranks 10th in the AL with 11 holds and has 46 K in only 34 innings.

Jack is Back!

Grade: B+

RP Mike Minor

Current: 32 G, 40.1 IP, 4-1, 8 HLD, 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 42 K, 11 BB

Pace: 64 G, 80.2 IP, 8-2, 16 HLD, 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 84 K, 22 BB

Projection: 60 G, 60.1 IP, 2-3, 1 SV, 2 HLD, 3.66 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 52 K, 22 BB

Signed by the Royals to a two-year deal last February, there were hopes that after rehabbing, he could join the staff mid-season and maybe help the rotation down the stretch, but he never made it to the 25-man roster, mustering a 6.23 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A Omaha before being shutdown for the season. He struggled with walks (4.4 BB/9) and was susceptible to the long ball (1.82 HR/9) during his time in the Pacific Coast League. In an attempt to protect him and get something out of him, the 29-year-old is re-inventing himself as a relief pitcher, and so far, the results are fantastic.

He’s is sort of a jack of all trades this year for the Royals bullpen taking on many roles, if its what the Royals need.

Grade: A

RP Peter Moylan

Current: 37 G, 27 IP, 0-0, 9 HLD, 6.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 26 K, 13 BB

Pace: 74 G, 54 IP, 0-0, 18 HLD, 6.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 52 K, 26 BB

Projection: 55 G, 47 IP, 3-2, 3.30 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 33 K, 18 BB

2016 was somewhat of a resurrection year for the submarine-style Australian reliever. Moylan, who was a dependable option for Yos tin 2016, appeared in 50 games throughout the season, third highest in the Kansas City bullpen, finishing 2-0 to go along with his 3.43 ERA and 1.30 WHIP despite relatively low strikeout (6.85 K/9) and walk (3.22 BB/9) rates. His 47 innings pitched were his highest since 2010, as he appeared in just 29 innings from 2011 to 2015 and he breaks camp with the big club for the first time since 2011. He averages just 90.1 mph with his fastball to go along with his low strikeout totals, but his success comes primarily due to his strong 2.96 groundball to flyball ratio. He did not appear in many high-leverage situations for the Royals, recording seven holds on the season with no saves. After making the 25-man after coming to camp on a minor league deal, Moylan has been the righty specialist for Yost, rarely getting a clean inning and facing a batter or two. It’s been a weird season for him, as he has had 30 scoreless outings, but has allowed five runs twice. Ignore the 6.06 ERA, Moylan has been good this year; ranks second on the team with nine holds.

Grade: B

RP Matt Strahm

Current: 24 G, 3 GS, 34.2 IP, 2-5, 5 HLD

Pace: N/A

Projection: 62 G, 7 GS, 96 IP, 6-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 1 SV, 14 HLD, 112 K, 35 BB

Strahm splashed onto the scene in 2016 with power stuff. Among relievers that threw 20-plus innings last year, he ranked fifth in ERA (1.23), eighth in FIP (2.06) and 16th in strikeout rate (34.1%). The move to the bullpen certainly allowed his stuff to play up, as he was comfortably sitting in the mid-90s and touching 97 mph with his fastball in relief after sitting at 91-92 mph as a starter. Not surprisingly, his changeup and curveball both play quite nicely off 95 from the left side. His floor has been established as a shutdown setup man. His ceiling? Think Danny Duffy.

That said, he has disappointed in 2017, and now after any injury, we might not see him again until 2018, as he was moved to the 60-Day DL with a likely torn patella. Strahm was demoted back in April after he posted a 47.50 ERA and walked six batters in just five innings. He returned 12 days later and was a much different pitcher, posting a 2.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP with a 1-1 record over 14 games before moving to the rotation.

Grade: C

RP Scott Alexander

Current: 21 G, 31.1 IP, 1-2, 2.01 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2 HLD, 26 K, 11 BB

Pace: 42 G, 62.2 IP, 2-4, 2.01 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 4 HLD, 52 K, 22 BB

Projection: N/A

Alexander is starting to draw comparison’s to Baltimore’s Zach Britton with his heavy use of his sinker – throwing the pitch 92% of the time. The result are promising, as he is able to face either right or left handers due to its effectiveness.

Grade: B

RP Travis Woold

Current: 26 G, 1 GS, 32.2 IP, 1-2, 6.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 1 HLD, 24 K, 19 BB

Pace: 52 G, 2 GS, 65.1 IP, 2-4, 6.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2 HLD, 48 K, 38 BB

Projection: 61 G, 56.2 IP, 3-2, 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 1 SV, 4 HLD, 52 K, 22 BB

At face value, Wood’s 2.95 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 2016 look strong, but there are reasons to believe he may experience some regression in 2017, as he held a relatively low strikeout rate of 6.93 K/9 and high 3.54 BB/9 walk rate to go along with 1.2 home runs allowed per nine innings. And we’ve seen that. But, he’s been great as of late, as he made his first start of the season yesterday in his most recent appearance, stretching a scoreless streak to 13.1 IP, before allowing two runs in the fifth inning, seeing his ERA lower from 9.31 to 6.06.

Grade: D+

RP Chris Young

Current: 14 G, 2 GS, 30 IP, 0-0, 7.50 ERA, 2.03 WHIP, 22 K, 14 BB

Projection: 45 G, 71 IP, 4-3, 4.87 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 1 SV, 0 HLD, 61 K, 30 BB

Much like Bruce Chen did, Young fell off the starting pitching cliff last year as a troubling GB/FB ratio and lack of velocity finally caught up to him, as he put up a 6.19 ERA and 1.66 WHIP on the season. The 6-10 right-hander finished the season on the DL after undergoing surgery on his bilateral core and right-side adductor in mid-October. He allowed a startling 2.8 home runs per nine innings due to his .70 GB/FB ratio and severe lack of velocity, hitting an average of about 88 on the radar gun with his fastball. The 37-year-old improved his numbers as a relief pitcher, finishing with a 4.13 ERA in 23 appearances, contrasting starkly with his 7.39 ERA in 13 starts. He didn’t fare any better this year, allowing runs in nine of his 14 outings.

In his last 155 innings, Young has a 5.75 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, and 41 DONGS allowed.

Grade: F

Incomplete’s: SP Eric Skoglund, RP Neftali Feliz, RP Kevin McCarthy, RP Al Alburquerque, RP Miguel Almonte

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