The Kansas City Royals took huge measures this offseason to fix their number one on-field issue, the rotation. The addition of James Shields gave them a legitimate ace pitcher at the front of their rotation. The rebuilt rotation looks stronger but leaves the question open: Who’s number two?
Throughout 2012 the opinion around the Royals fanbase was very similar. Many people felt that the team was full of pitchers that projected as the fourth or fifth best pitcher in a rotation. There was no clear cut “ace” nor was there anyone that the fans felt confident in taking the mound to stop a losing streak. The team had major league quality pitching, it just was not elite.
Dayton Moore seemingly set out to fix that during the end of 2012 and into the offseason. A three year contract was reached with Jeremy Guthrie, who had pitched very well after joining the Royals during the second half of 2012, and trades were made for Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana. The fifth spot is up for grabs this spring and eventually Danny Duffy will join these four to round out the starting five.
Shields obviously will head line the starting rotation for the Royals and is the type of pitcher that would headline most rotations across baseball. Last year was a team full of rotation guys that projected as four and five starters, this year, it appears that the rotation may be full of guys that are top-three style pitchers.
Looking at the four starters that are set into the rotation this season, where will they rank at the end of 2013?
Wade Davis: Number Four
Davis has been a solid Major League pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. In four seasons he has proven to be a durable starter and a reliable relief pitcher. The Royals brought him in as insurance and an upgrade over the pitchers they currently had, but he was never projected to be near the top of the rotation. Davis will provide some inning-eating starts throughout the summer and be serviceable in his role, but ultimately will remain as a lower-rotation starter that may end up back in the bullpen before long if other pitchers are pitching well when Duffy returns.
Ervin Santana: Number Three
Santana is the pitcher that the Royals most hope can realize his potential. In eight seasons of starting pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana has won 16 or more games three times in his career. He has also lost 12 or more games three times as well. An up-and-down career has seen moments of brilliance and frustration for Santana. The Royals will hope that Dave Eiland can work with Santana on mechanical flaws in his delivery and help him regain his top-of-the-rotation form. Santana should be able to be the number three starter when the smoke clears, though Kansas City may be hoping he is better than that.
Jeremy Guthrie: Number Two
Looking at past performance of all three starters would rank Guthrie much lower in this conversation. However, in recent interviews Guthrie has talked very openly about a renewed confidence, a satisfaction with management and coaching and overcoming a mental block that he felt kept him for being a better pitcher in Colorado. He has spoken to the fact that Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher friendly environment and that he feels that he has one of the best defenses in the league behind him. The confidence shows in his statistics from last season, with nearly all of his stats showing best in his career type numbers. He is pitching to contact, keeping the ball in the park, and letting his defense do the work.
By the time the smoke clears on the 2013 season, the Royals will be looking at a rotation that will feature top-tier players at most of the slots. Jeremy Guthrie has every opportunity to become a great part of that rotation for the next three years.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
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