As we’re now in the middle of May, with nearly 1/4 of the league schedule played, the Royals occupy 3rd place in the AL Central standings. April was a month to remember for the Royals, as they had the best record in MLB at one point, finishing the opening month at 15-9. May has not been too kind so far, with the Royals placing tick marks in the W column 7 times so far.
During the early portion of the arduous 162-game schedule, the Royals have been lucky to avoid many injuries thus far, having only started 7 different starting pitchers. In addition, 8 batters have over 120 plate appearances. I wanted to take a few moments to take a look at the contributions of the rookie players they have utilized in the season campaign so far. Where applicable, we will use our Royals Top 50 rankings from earlier this year.
Daniel Lynch – Ranked #4
Pitching in the big leagues is hard, even for blue-chip pitching prospects designated as their team’s top pitcher in the minors. I think the ceiling of Asa Lacy is higher than Lynch, but I won’t quibble with anyone that has Lynch higher. To say it’s been a rude welcome for Lynch is an understatement. To date, Lynch has 3 starts, all of them coming against AL Central division foes Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit. He pitched well enough in his major league debut against the Indians with 3 earned runs across 4 2/3 frames. His next start against a very tough and powerful White Sox lineup was an unmitigated disaster. Lynch coughed up 8 earned runs and failed to get out of the 1st inning. Those are games that managers dread, as they are forced to turn to their bullpen for 8 innings. A recent start in Motown against a fairly pedestrian Tigers was only slightly better, with Lynch lasting 2 2/3 innings. He did not walk a batter in against Detroit, so we’ll take the small victories where we can. A positive takeaway for Lynch is that he threw strikes at a 67% percent clip during those outings. Lynch has been optioned back to Triple-A Omaha, where he can collect himself and continue to work on his arsenal.
Daniel Lynch is a lefty with “top-of-the-rotation stuff.”
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) May 16, 2021
Kris Bubic – Ranked #6
Having started exclusively for the Royals last year, Bubic has seen game action as only a reliever in 2021. Thus far he has pitched in low-leverage roles in long relief. He has done an excellent job in limiting runs, with a sparkling 1.42 ERA and 10 punch-outs through his 12 2/3 innings.
Josh Staumont – Ranked #7
Staumont has been excellent in the early going, with a 2.41 ERA through 18 2/3 IP. He has whiffed 20 batters, what 10 walks allowed. Hitters are having a hard time getting hits, with only 8 of them allowed so far. All of this has resulted in a .964 WHIP and an absolutely stunning .129 batting average against. We are getting a glimpse into who is the Royals’ closer of the future.
Kyle Isbel – Ranked #10
The Royals 3rd round draftee out of UNLV in 2018 broke camp with the big league club and wasted no time introducing himself to the Kansas City faithful. He tallied 3 hits with 2 RBI on Opening Day. Isbel’s stay would last 3 weeks before the Royals optioned him to Triple-A Omaha. Plate discipline was an issue for him, as he struck out 15 times to only 2 walks. He failed to hit a homer and only mustered one additional RBI through the next 11 games before being sent down.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 1, 2021
Carlos Hernandez – Ranked #12
A surprise early season addition, Carlos made the most of it by securing his first career win on a wild 14-10 Opening Day game versus the Rangers. He fanned 5 batters over 3 innings, while walking only 1. It’s safe to say that Carlos displayed his premium velocity and will be a welcome addition to the Royals bullpen later on this season.
Kelvin Gutierrez – Ranked #18
On May 14th, the Royals placed Hunter Dozier on the 7-day IL and recalled Mr. Gutierrez. There have been very few data points for him thus far, as he has only had 5 at-bats. He was able to garner 2 hits in those at-bats, both of them being singles with zero runs or RBI. In the field, Gutierrez handled the lone chance he saw hit his way. With Hanser Alberto getting the bulk of the starts at the hot corner while Dozier is out, I don’t envision Kelvin getting many more opportunities to display his talents. More time in Triple-A Omaha is likely in his near future.
Tyler Zuber – Ranked #32
Zuber has begun to solidify his role in the Royals bullpen, with 13 appearances so far for the Royals, almost exclusively in games in which the Royals are behind. Pitching in low-leverage situations, Zuber has been able to cut his walk rate nearly in half, from 20.2% to 11.3%. Unfortunately, the strikeout rates have also been lower with hard hit percentages also sharply higher. The combination of these things likely keep Zuber in the major league bullpen, but his role is far from guaranteed.
Sebastian Rivero – Ranked #38
After an early season injury to backup catcher Cam Gallagher, Rivero received an earlier-than-expected promotion to backup All-Star Salvador Perez. As Perez is more than capable at the plate and behind the dish, it was expected that Rivero would see little playing time. In only 2 games, he failed to register a hit through 6 at-bats. Make no mistake about it, Rivero is very very capable defensively, which is exactly the value the Royals seek from him. Any semblance of reasonable offensive production is just the icing on the cake.
It is important for the Royals to continue to bring up their prospects to see what they can do for the parent club. Despite the fantastic first month, the Royals are not serious contenders for the AL Central crown. That being the case, the more time that they can provide these young players, and others, the chance to prove they belong, the sooner the Royals will be a major player in the divisional race. I’d look for Bobby Witt Jr. and another SP or two (Alec Marsh and Jonathan Bowlan are throwing well) to be the next call-ups to Kauffman.