Ranking MLB’s Starting Rotations: 20-16

17. Kansas City Royals

  • 1)RHP Yordano Ventura
  •  23 years old: 14-10, 3.20 ERA, 183 IP, 168 H, 65 ER, 14 HR, 69 BB, 159 K, 1.30 WHIP, 7.82 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 3.74 xFIP, 2.8 WAR, 1.53 GB/FB, .288BABIP
    • 47.6 percent ground balls, 2,985 pitches, 1,890 strikes.
    • 97.0 MPH FB (65.3), 87.5 MPH CH (15.2), 82.8 MPH CRV (14.5), 94.3 MPH CUT (5.0)
    • One of the hardest throwing pitchers in baseball, and one of the youngest, Ventura broke out last season, with 14 wins, a sixth place finish in Rookie of The Year voting, only 14 homers in 183 innings, and even won Game six of the World Series, pitching a seven-inning shutout. Everything about this guy says “future ace.” He’s got the stuff, had an extremely convincing rookie season, and even though the Royals will likely lose James Shields, I’m sure the Royals don’t feel so bad about their rotation with a guy like Ventura leading it. I’ll also add that “Big Game James” has a 5.46 career postseason ERA. After a 2014 season in which Ventura, despite his success, struggled a bit with walks (69) and wild pitches (11), I’d expect him to have worked a lot this offseason on sharpening his command. He seems primed to have an even better 2015 season.
  • 2)LHP Jason Vargas
  •  31 years old: 11-10, 3.71 ERA, 187 IP, 197 H, 77 ER, 19 HR, 41 BB, 128 K, 1.27 WHIP, 6.16 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 4.05 xFIP, 2.6 WAR, 0.99 GB/FB, .299BABIP
    • 38.7 percent fly balls, 3,003 pitches, 1,920 strikes.
    • 87.3 MPH FB (57.4), 80.4 MPH CH (30.5), 74.8 MPH CRV (12.1)
    • Signed to a four-year, $32 million deal before the 2014 season, Vargas will likely enter the 2015 season as the Royals number two starter. Mostly a fly ball pitcher, the approach tends to work in Kansas City, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks you’ll find across baseball. All in all, he had one of his best seasons last year, with a 3.71 ERA (career-low), only 19 homers (his fewest since 2009 in years where he’s pitched 180+ innings), and 3.12 strikeouts per walk (career-high). Nothing Vargas does blows you away, but he’s a dependable option in a staff.
  • 3)RHP Jeremy Guthrie
  • 35 years old: 13-11, 4.13 ERA, 202.2 IP, 215 H, 93 ER, 23 HR, 49 BB, 124 K, 1.30 WHIP, 5.51 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 4.33 xFIP, 1.5 WAR, 1.19 GB/FB, .294BABIP
    • 43.6 percent ground balls, 3,235 pitches, 2,092 strikes.
    • 91.7 MPH FB (53.5), 85.8 MPH CH (19.6), 85.9 MPH SL (18.3), 74.6 MPH CRV (8.5)
    • Guthrie was known as a first-round disappointment through 2006. Drafted 22nd overall by Cleveland in 2004, he didn’t really get established until 2007, with the Orioles, where he went 7-5 with a 3.70 ERA, but in July, he was second in WHIP, with a 7-3 record and 2.89 ERA. If on a better team, he would’ve gotten more R.O.Y. consideration. In five years with the O’s, he was 47-65 with a 4.12 ERA. If he was on the Orioles of today, his record would be far better. Any fan watching his games back then would know he was a much better pitcher than his numbers indicated. He also wasn’t helped pitching in Camden Yards, where he allowed 133 homers. After the 2011 season, he was traded to Colorado for starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom. He was even worse there, with a 6.35 ERA and 3-9 record. In July of that season, he was shipped to Kansas City for Jonathan Sanchez, and Guthrie has turned his career around, with a 33-26 record in 2 1/2 seasons. In my opinion, he’s a better top-of-the-rotation option than Vargas, and over the years, he’s become more of a ground ball pitcher.
  • 4)LHP Danny Duffy
  •  26 years old: 9-12, 2.53 ERA, 149.1 IP, 113 H, 42 ER, 12 HR, 53 BB, 113 K, 1.11 WHIP, 6.81 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 4.42 xFIP, 2.2 WAR, 0.78 GB/FB, .239BABIP
    • 46.0 percent fly balls, 2,429 pitches, 1,545 strikes.
    • 93.2 MPH FB (68.1), 77.8 MPH CRV (22.5), 82.9 MPH CH (9.4)
    • Another big part of the Royals future, Duffy had his first full season in 2014, posting an excellent 2.53 ERA in 25 starts and six relief appearances despite a 9-12 record. He only allowed 113 hits in nearly 150 innings, and despite some command issues, Duffy projects as one of the key cogs in the Royals future rotation, with guys like Ventura and Finnegan – a very talented young pitching core, to say the least. Duffy, like Vargas, gets a fair amount of fly balls, but Duffy, like Vargas, won’t allow too many homers (only 29 in 306 2/3 career innings) thanks to playing in Kansas City. At 26, Duffy is one of the better young pitchers in the game.
  • 5)RHP Edinson Volquez
  • 31 years old: 13-7, 3.04 ERA, 192.2 IP, 166 H, 65 ER, 16 HR, 71 BB, 140 K, 1.23 WHIP, 6.54 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 4.20 xFIP, 0.7 WAR, 1.53 GB/FB, .263BABIP
    • 50.4 percent ground balls, 2,977 pitches, 1,902 strikes.
    • 93.2 MPH FB (55.4), 79.8 MPH CRV (25.9), 84.6 MPH CH (18.7)
    • After a 2008 season where Volquez went 17-6, finishing fourth in Rookie of The Year voting only to Geovany Soto, Joey Votto, and Jair Jurrjens, that Volquez has been absent. From 2009-13, with the Padres, Dodgers, and Reds, Volquez went 33-35 with an ERA hovering around five, 314 walks in 574 innings, 4.9 walks/nine innings, and led the league in walks in 2012, and earned runs in 2013. Following a 2013 season in which he posted an ERA near six, he signed a one-year, $5M deal with Pittsburgh, where he had a bounce back year. He won 13 games, lost only seven, posted a 3.04 ERA, of course struggled with wildness (NL-leading 15 wild pitches, 71 walks), but still posted a 3.04 ERA, helping lead the Pirates to a wild-card playoff spot. He was even chosen to pitch in a Wild Card game, where he struggled mightily, but he was good enough throughout the season to be given the ball in a big game, a distinction he did not earn in the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013 campaigns. The Royals have gotten guys in the past like Guthrie and Vargas who have struggled elsewhere and turned it around in KC thanks to a good ‘pen, defense, and ballpark. I imagine they see similar future results in guys like Volquez and Medlen.
  • Other possible contributors:
    • RHP Kris Medlen
    •  29 years old:DNP in 2014 (15-12, 3.11 ERA, 197 IP in 2013)
      • Missed all of 2014, but one of the best when healthy.
      • 89 MPH FB, 82 MPH CH, 77 MPH CRV, 87 MPH CUT, 83 MPH SL
    • LHP Brandon Finnegan
    •  21 years old: 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP
      • Could require some seasoning, but looked like a guy with starter’s potential throughout the playoffs.
      • 93 MPH FB, 83 MPH CH, 81 MPH SL

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