For the last couple of years the Royals biggest struggle has been glaringly obvious. The pitching has been what has kept the team out of most games. With a few strong starters, some games seem hopeful but there is not a solid, consistent, five pitcher rotation. Not to mention when there are strong starts the bullpen is shaky at best. This causes starters to be stretched way too long and make their pitching less effective later in the season. Without any real dependable relief pitching or a real closer it leads to the question, what should the front office do about it? The answer was to draft college pitchers. How are those prospects doing down on the farm?
First Round Draft Picks
Since 2014, even before winning it all, the Royals started drafting a pitcher in the first round. The most attention has been given to the pitchers that were drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft. The most notable draft picks being Foster Griffin in 2014. Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Daniel Lynch were also notable gets in the 2018 draft. Griffin is currently pitching with the Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers. Singer and Kowar are both pitching in the Double-A affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Natrurals. Finally Lynch is pitching with the High-A affiliate, the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
Pitching numbers for High-A
First let’s take a look at Daniel Lynch’s pitching down in Wilmington. He started the season pitching in the rookie leagues of Arizona and Burlington. He pitched three games in Arizona and two in Burlington. In Arizona, Lynch boasted a 1.00 ERA giving up 6 hits, and 1 earned run. He allowed 3 walks, struck out 12, and had a 1.000 WHIP. In Burlington, Lynch had a 4.00 ERA with 13 hits, and 4 runs. Lynch walked 3 batters, struck out 7, and had a 1.778 WHIP. Currently in Wilmington, Lynch has gone 4-2 in 14 games. He has a 3.36 ERA while giving up 72 hits, with 27 earned runs. He has walked 22 batters and struck out 71, with a 1.30 WHIP across 72.1 innings. With the way Lynch has been pitching, he will surely be pitching in Arkansas next year.
Recently promoted Pitchers
Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar have been the talk of minor league pitching this year for the Royals after their promotions from Wilmington to Northwest Arkansas. So far in Arkansas, Kowar has a 2-6 record, with a 3.28 ERA. Kowar has given up 66 hits, and 25 earned runs. He has walked 18 batters, has struck out 73, and boasts a 1.223 WHIP across 68.2 innings. He has pitched very well at both stops in the minors, and he should make it to the big club soon enough.
Brady Singer’s pitching phenomenal in his first stop in the minors this year. So much so, that he was promoted to Double-A. In Arkansas, he is currently 5-3 in 14 games. He has given up 74 hits, and 33 earned runs. He has walked 25, struck out 72, with a 1.291 WHIP in 83.2 innings. Both Singer and Kowar can be burned by the walls, but with time and development they will definitely be worth the wait.
Pitching in Triple-A
Foster Griffin has spent nearly an entire season in Triple-A Omaha. Griffin has had some of the most consistemt pitching on the Storm Chasers’ roster. So far on the season, Griffin has a 7-5 record in 23 games. He has a 5.35 ERA, which is not what one likes to see in a first round draft choice. Griffin has given up 125 hits to go along with 70 earned runs. He has walked 59 with 103 strikeouts in 117.2 innings.
The PCL is known to be very helpful for hitters, but Griffin has not helped himself with the lack of command. He does not necessarily have a dominate pitching style. Griffin does, however, have an effective one. He had nearly tied his season high in strikeouts this year. Foster Griffin could definitely make the case to make the big league club in the next year. In the event he does not make the roster he will more than likely be joined by Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar in the Triple-A rotation.
Why wait for good Pitching?
Kansas City Royals fans always want to win now. A fan of any team wants that. Every fan in Facebook groups or on Twitter have all agreed that the pitching is the team’s biggest weakness. It is incredibly easy for the fans to want to rush a good minor league pitcher up to the majors because of the belief it will fix the team’s woes. The problem is, it is not that simple. If a fielder is good but his hitting is weak against major league pitching adjustments can be made at the big league level much easier. Pitching is a little more difficult. Pitchers might have a great fastball but that is the easiest pitch for a hitter to pick up. So teams use the minor leagues as a time to develop a more diverse pitching plan. Pitchers can develop more difficult pitches. An impossible to pick up sinker or slider. That development is crucial in a pitcher and it is why we rarely see pitchers make a debut and light the league on fire.
While these first round draft picks have been pitching well, it is in the club’s best interest not to rush them. Especially when the team still has years of control built into the contracts. If the front office were to rush the pitching, the team still wouldn’t be a contender because the pitchers would still be less than effective and not fully developed. We all like to see home runs get smashed but not when it is your own pitching giving them up. Royals fans need to be patient and wait for these pitchers to be fully ready to join the major league club.
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Author Twitter: @cap_jrm