The Kansas City Royals left the closer role up for grabs during the 2020 regular season. Ian Kennedy, Greg Holland, and Trevor Rosenthal filled in that role last season, however, in 2021, none of those guys are currently on the roster.
With the closer role up for grabs, it should be an interesting battle with several candidates looking to claim this role during spring training. The Royals could go with a young arm who made his debut in 2020 or they could go with a “veteran” who has been on the roster for the last few seasons. As K.C. approaches the new season, this question will linger over the club. Here are the candidates for the Royals’ closer role.
RHP Jesse Hahn
Jesse Hahn had a silent 2020 campaign, in which he was very successful. Hahn appeared in 18 games out of the bullpen. During those games, Hahn had a 0.52 ERA and only allowed four hits in his 17.1 innings pitched. He also recorded three saves late into the 2020 season which shows he has the potential to be a closer on this team.
Hahn had a bounce-back season compared to the 2019 season. He had a 13.50 ERA while only appearing in six games. Hahn made strides in 2020 and showed he can be an asset out of the bullpen in some way for the Royals.
RHP Tyler Zuber
Tyler Zuber made his major-league debut in 2020 and found success right out of the gate. Zuber appeared in 23 games and threw 22 innings of work and ended the season with a 4.09 ERA. However, Zuber did not have any saves during the season. Zuber is only 25 and was one of the biggest surprises in 2020 for Kansas City.
In those 22 innings, Zuber had 30 strikeouts along the way and continued to get hitters out. If the Royals want to go with a young option as their closer and solidify him as their closer of the future, K.C. may go this route.
RHP Kyle Zimmer
Kyle Zimmer has battled injury after injury while coming up through the Royals’ organization. He made the opening day roster in 2019 after a great showing in spring training. However, Zimmer struggled during his rookie season and had an ERA over 10.00.
Despite this, Zimmer appeared in 16 games and had an ERA of 1.57 in 2020. The best thing Zimmer did was cut down on his walks. He pitched more innings in 2020 and had only 10 walks to show for it. If the former first-round pick can continue this trend, he may be the Royals closer come 2021.
RHP Scott Barlow
Scott Barlow was the most used reliever by manager Mike Matheny in 2020. Barlow was called upon in 32 games. During those 32 games, Barlow had a 4.20 ERA and collected two saves toward the end of the season. Barlow earned the trust of the Royals coaching staff after struggling early in the season. Despite this, Barlow was used the most by Kansas City and he proved he can be an option for shutting down games.
RHP Josh Staumont
Josh Staumont seems to be the heavy favorite in winning the closer battle for the Royals. Staumont was nearly untouchable at times during the 2020 season. In the 26 games he appeared in, Staumont pitched just under 26 innings and collected 37 strikeouts, with many of these strikeouts being off his 100 mph fastball.
This is Josh Staumont’s job to lose at the moment. Staumont delivered in every way possible during 2020 and showed he can be the next flamethrowing arm to shut down games. If the Royals go this route, expect Staumont to keep this role for the entire 2021 season.
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