Meet Mr. Player to be Named Later.
With Elliot Johnson, the Royals and Rays have completed the December 9th trade that saw the Royals give up Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi (plus two others) for James Shields and Wade Davis.
Johnson, who will be 29 on opening day, is known more for his versatility on the field than his presence at the plate. Although he’s spent most of his time at shortstop (154 games), he’s logged time at second base (23), third base (7), left field (4), center field (2), right field (1), and first base (1).
A switch-hitter, Johnson took part in 123 games last season for Tampa Bay – managing a .242/.304/.350 slash with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 6 HR, and 33 RBI in 297 official ABs. He also managed to swipe 18 bases in 24 total chances.
In parts of three big league seasons (200 games), Johnson has managed a .223/.283/.338 line with 31 XBH (17 doubles, 4 triples, 10 HR) and 24 stolen bases. He has a career K:BB ratio of 3.79.
For his career, he is a much better batting left-handed (.252) than right-handed (.183), so a possible platoon with Chris Getz is out of the question.
Elliot would make a great utility-man for the Royals, as he has the ability to hold his own defensively at just about every position outside of pitcher and catcher. That, coupled with the the fact that he’s a switch-hitter who is a smart base runner, make him all the more valuable to a team short on impact role players.
To make room for Johnson on the 40-man roster, the team shifted starter Felipe Paulino to the 60-day DL. Paulino is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will likely be out until after the All-Star break.
It’s finally happened.
The Royals and Dayton Moore have done something drastic. Something bold. Something that borders on the edge of sanity.
And something that they absolutely had to do.
Last night, right around 10 pm CT, the Royals acquired starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis along with a player to be named or cash from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for uber-prospect and Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
What the Royals get:
- James Shields RHP (age 30, 7 seasons, 87-73, 19 complete games, 3.89 ERA, 3.68 K/BB, 1.223 WHIP, 17 WAR)
- “Big Game” James has been the anchor of the Rays’ rotation throughout his seven years with the big league team. While many would not consider him an “ace”, Shields definitely has the track record to be the leader of nearly any big league pitching staff, as well as the numbers to back it up. Since his first full season back in 2007, he’s never pitched less than 200 innings (averaging 227 IP per season) and averages just under 200 K per season. He’s never spent any time on the DL, as his pitching motion is relatively natural and fluid for him. His fastball sits in the low-90s; but his changeup, thrown in the low 80s, is his one of the best in baseball. He also throws an above average cutter and a decent curveball. As it stands, the Royals currently have control of James for 2013 ($10.25 million) and 2014 ($12 million team option). He’s the type of pitcher that the Royals both covet and desperately need. In 2011, he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. In 2012, he was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA and a 2.2 WAR. Over the past two seasons, only one pitcher has pitched more innings (477) than James Shields: Justin Verlander.
- Wade Davis RHP (age 27, 4 seasons, 28-22, 3.94 ERA, 2.04 K/BB, 1.315 WHIP, 2.0 WAR)
- Although he spent all of 2012 coming out of the bullpen, the Royals undoubtedly plan to use Wade Davis in the rotation. Before shifting to the
bullpen, Davis was 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA and finished 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting back in 2009. In 2012, he made 54 appearances out of the bullpen, spanning across 70.1 innings, ammassing a 2.43 ERA, a 3.00 K/BB ratio, and a 1.4 WAR. He throws a low-mid 90s fastball (both four-seam and two-seam) and a spike curveball, as well as a slider and changeup. The Royals will have control of Davis through 2017 (’13: $2.8 million; ’14: $4.8 million; ’15: $7 million team option; ’16: $8 million team option; ’17: $10 million team option).
- Although he spent all of 2012 coming out of the bullpen, the Royals undoubtedly plan to use Wade Davis in the rotation. Before shifting to the
- PTBNL or Cash
What the Rays get:
- Wil Myers OF
- Jake Odorizzi RHP
- Mike Montgomery LHP
- Patrick Leonard 3B
The Royals knew going into the offseason that, if they were going to acquire a top of the rotation starting pitcher, they were going to have to pay dearly for it. Afterall, one cannot acquire talent with out surrendering talent in return.
The Rays gained two of the top prospects in baseball in Myers and Odorizzi. Mike Montgomery’s well-documented struggles in 2011 and 2012 earned him a change of scenery. Patrick Leonard is a nice prospect, but the jury is still out on his potential.
Wil Myers will forever be remembered in Royals baseball lore as a ghost – only heard from but never seen in terms of the big league level. He’s the one that got away. He’s the one that said it’s not me, it’s you.
Jake Odorizzi will be remembered as “the key piece” in the Zack Greinke trade two years ago. A pitcher that proved himself in the minors, only to get two late-September starts for the Royals that left a lot to be desired. But, nonetheless, his comparisons to Zack Greinke will be enough for Royals fans to clammor about giving him up.
Mike Montgomery has struggled mightily over the past two seasons and has been basically given up on by the KC faithful.
Pat Leonard is still a relatively unknown prospect and is basically a throw-in by the Royals. He has some projectable power and will settle in at one of the four corner positions.
This trade signals that Dayton Moore and the Royals are looking for wins now.
The Royals are now at a time when the big league team needs to start producing wins on the field. Starting pitching has been this team’s Achilles heel for years. The Royals haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985.
27 years for those needing further perspective.
They’ve had one winning season this century.
Dayton Moore’s reputation and future with the Royals will be determined by this trade. It is undoubtedly the biggest and boldest move he’s made during his tenure here in Kansas City. He’s taking this risk knowing full well that it could flop.
But it also could be the push that this team needs to contend in the AL Central.
This is the type of move that Royals fans have been waiting for. Are they generally happy with the price they paid for a “non-ace” pitcher plus another capable starter? No. But that comes with this city’s love for unproven commodities. Kansas City baseball fans have fallen in love with “potential” and are personally hurt to see Wil Myers go.
But this is a move that was going to happen. The writing has been on the wall for the past two offseasons. This was the time to strike. It may be considered a reach by some. But only time will tell who won this trade.
The Royals are going all-in for 2013.
Dayton Moore has officially checked out of the Winter Meetings in Nashville and is on his way back to Kansas City. While nothing of major significance took place for the Royals, groundwork for free agents and trade partners have been laid out. The Royals checked in on R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jon Lester, Derek Holland, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, and probably another 20 names that we were never made aware of.
Aiming for Anibal
Zack Greinke is still a free agent, meaning that Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, and basically every other available starting pitcher with top-of-the-rotation potential are still free agents as well.
Anibal Sanchez has been the Royals’ top free agent target throughout the Winter Meetings, but they’ll need to act fast after Greinke starts the domino effect if they want him on board. Many of the teams outside of the Greinke market, along with whoever loses the Battle for Zack (either the Dodgers or Rangers), have Anibal Sanchez at the top of their wish list.
It’s safe to say, Anibal isn’t going to come cheap.
Historically, the Royals have generally had to overpay free agents in order for them to come to Kansas City (ex: Meche- 5 years, $55 million; Guillen- 3 years, $36 million). Suffice it to say, Sanchez, or any other top free agent for that matter, won’t be here unless the Royals practically outbid everyone else.
Cross your fingers.
The Price Isn’t Right… Yet
The Royals are no longer discussing R.A. Dickey-for-Wil Myers with the Mets. But they did engage in some dialogue with them about possibly dealing Wil Myers for LHP Jon Niese and RHP prospect Zack Wheeler. Outside of Dickey and Johan Santana, Niese and Wheeler are probably the two most coveted pitchers within the Mets organization. If they were strictly talking Myers for them straight-up, Dayton was likely laughed out of the room. But Myers-plus could be interesting.
The Royals other major trade front still lies in Tampa Bay. The Rays are said to be wanting Myers + prospects for starter James Shields, which the Royals balked at. Shields is dominant and would automatically become the Royals’ ace.
And the Rays know that.
For them, it makes sense to hold on to Shields until the free agent market pieces begin to fall into place. Whoever loses out on Greinke/Sanchez/Lohse could turn their eyes toward Tampa, turning regular talks into a free-for-all.
Keeping Tabs on Dempster
Even though he turned down the Royals 2-year, $26 million offer, the Royals are still keeping tabs on righty Ryan Dempster. Given his age (35), the Royals think a two-year deal for $13 million a year is more than sufficient.
Adding a third year to the deal would peak Dempster’s interest and could be enough to sign him, but it doesn’t make sense for the Royals to pay $13 million to a 38 year old pitcher with a declining skill-set.
Regardless, he’ll be worth keeping an eye on – especially after Zack Greinke is off the market.
Mega Trade Talks Cooling
All of yesterday seemed to be spent speculating on a four-team mega trade between the Rangers/Rays, Diamond backs, Indians, and Royals/Mariners, with the main focus being Arizona trading Justin Upton for a starting shortstop – possibly Asdrubal Cabrera or Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar.
As of now, with the Gaylord Opryhouse Hotel in Nashville nearing emptiness, talks have cooled.
The whole deal is shrouded in mystery. Were the Royals/Mariners/Rays actually included in talks? Was it all speculation?
The Rangers covet Justin Upton, and if they don’t re-up Josh Hamilton, he’s their guy. Deals are still on the table, but it isn’t for certain exactly which, or even how many, teams are involved.
Rule 5 Draft
Baseball’s Rule 5 Draft took place in Nashville this morning. The Royals didn’t lose any players in the major league portion, but lost five players in the minor league portion of the draft.
- Triple A Phase
- Padres: Diego Goris 3B, Federico Castandeda RHP
- Pirates: Ethan Hollingsworth RHP
- Phillies: Brendan Lafferty LHP
- Reds: Ryan Dennick LHP
The Royals opted to pass on all of their selections, as taking a player in the Major League Phase would have required them to open a spot on their already full 40-man roster. They would also have to keep said player on their 25-man roster for all of 2013 if they didn’t want to risk losing the player to their former team for $25,ooo. All players selected in the Major League Phase requires the selecting team to pay $50,000 to the team the player was previously on.
Happy Holland Days
The Texas Rangers are going all-out in their efforts to land free agent Zack Greinke.
In an effort to clear payroll and a spot in the starting rotation, they are fielding calls on left-hander Derek Holland.Only 26 years old, the Rangers signed him to a 5-year, $28 million extension this March, making him extremely valuable to both the Rangers and a potential trade partner. He wouldn’t command Wil Myers, but would have to bring top prospects like Jake Odorizzi or John Lamb back to Texas in return. In 2012, Holland went 12-7 in 27 starts with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with a 7:3 K:BB ratio – good for a WAR of 1.7. The Brewers and Twins are also calling Texas GM Jon Daniels about the lefty.
Super Trade in the Works?
The Rangers are also trying desperately add Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton in exchange for a starting shortstop, but Texas is unwilling to surrender either one of Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, leading them to explore a mulit-team deal, in which the Royals are said to be included in. The other team said to be included is the Cleveland Indians, who are shopping shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and could be dealt to Arizona in this scenario.
Of course, all of this is barring whther or not Josh Hamilton re-signs with the Rangers. If Hamilton goes back to Texas, this deal is likely off the table.
Here’s how it could shake down as of right now:
- Rangers get: OF Justin Upton + other(s)
- Dbacks get: SS Asdrubal Cabrera + other(s)
- Indians get: RHP Trevor Bauer/LHP Tyler Skaggs + other(s)
- Royals get: LHP Derek Holland + other(s)
Is this deal likely to happen? Probably not. Trades like this generally fall apart due to the number of teams involved. The Royals would have to give up a number of prospects if everything goes through, being as they aren’t currently open to dealing an everyday player or Wil Myers in almost any trade.
There are other reports that the Rays are in on the deal with the Rangers making their way out of it. In that scenario, the Royals could wind-up with either James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson.
Royals, among others are in on Shaun Marcum. He had a 3.70 ERA last season for the Brewers, but was only able to make 21 starts before missing the rest of the season due to an elbow issue.
Free agent pitchers with elbow issues are likely going to sign incentive laden one-year deals. Given the fact that Marcum will be 31 by the time the 2013 season rolls around, the Royals could get him on the cheap if he really wants to pitch in Kansas City – which is his hometown incase you haven’t heard that before from everyone who writes about the Royals for the past six months.
Teams are wary of Marcum because his fastball velocity, which usually sits anywhere between 86-89 mph, has dipped down to around 81-83 mph. He underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2008, and there is the fear that he may require undergoing the procedure for a second time.
Let’s Stay in Touch
Although they likely won’t be able to afford either one of them, the Royals are reportedly keeping in touch with free agent RHPs Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.
Both Sanchez and Loshe are seeking mulit-year deals in excess of $15 million per season. Until Zack Greinke decides where he wants to pitch for the next 5+ years, it’s unlikely that either Sanchez or Loshe sign a deal. Greinke is going to set the market for free agent starting pitchers this offseason and will likely drive up the price of many of the remaining available top starters.
The Royals are also keeping tabs on RHP Ryan Dempster. It’s been reported that they offered Dempster a two-year, $26 million contract last week, only to have Dempster turn it down because he’s looking for a three year deal. Right now, Dayton Moore is unwilling to give the extra year that Dempster is holding out for. The Brewers and Red Sox are also showing interest.
Not Even Close
That’s how former Royals closer Joakim Soria characterizes the Royals offer to him.
Incase you haven’t heard, Soria and the Texas Rangers have agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal.
Soria knows that the Royals have a great bullpen and acknowledges that the team has greater needs right now. He went on to thank the fans and organization for the six years he spent here.
Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, taking place this year in Nashville, is possibly the most exciting/frantic/nerve-racking four day period of the offseason. General managers, scouts, and agents alike will be calling, texting, and talking one another’s ear off in hopes of finding the right fit- to either make a trade or sign a free agent.
When it comes to the Royals and Dayton Moore, there are no questions as to what the Royals want, who they’re willing to part with, and how roughly how much money they have to make a deal happen. The Royals want relatively young, controllable, cost-effective starting pitching; are willing to listen to offers involving practically any player outside of Salvador Perez, and have a “soft cap” of around $70 million for 2013.
Starting pitching is going to set the price this winter, whether it be through the free agent or trade market. Zack Greinke is looking to become the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history, Anibal Sanchez is said to be looking for a multi-year contract worth roughly $15-20 million per year, Scott Feldman landed a one-year, $6 million deal, and two-years, $26 million wasn’t enough for the Royals to land Ryan Dempster (not yet, at least).
So who do the Royals deem worthy of pursuit?
So far, we’ve heard about the Royals interest in a few of the game’s better starting pitchers: James Shields (Rays), Jon Lester (Red Sox) and R.A. Dickey (Mets).
James Shields has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in baseball over the past three or so seasons, but he’s owed $11 million in 2013 and has a $12 million team option for 2014. So barring an extension, he’d be hitting the free agent market after 2014. He also turns 32 later this month. In return, the Rays are looking for immediate offensive production and have been asking about top prospect Wil Myers and DH Billy Butler. The Rays are also said to be open to dealing Jeremy Hellickson in a potential deal and would listen on lefties David Price and Matt Moore.
Jon Lester, who is coming off a down season (9-14, 4.82 ERA), is in the same boat as Shields: he’ll be making roughly $12 million in 2013 and has a team option of $13 million for 2014 (which can be voided by Lester if he finishes first or second in Cy Young voting). He’ll be 29 in January. The Red Sox are in a transition period, where they intend to compete while restructruring their roster. Of course, they too would like to add Wil Myers’ bat to their lineup, but could use help at nearly every position outside of second base and center field.
R.A. Dickey, who is 38 years young, is coming off a career year where he went 20-6 with a 3.73 ERA en route to winning the NL Cy Young award. While R.A. would immediately become the Royals’ ace, he won’t be had for next to nothing. The Mets are likely trying to command a significant haul for Dickey. Given his age, they’re going to have a hard time doing so. The Mets are said to be looking for a catcher, outfielders, and bullpen arms. The Royals won’t dangle Perez, nor would they Wil Myers. I could see them building a deal around Aaron Crow + prospect help however.
The team is still reportedly interested in right-hander Bud Norris of the Astros. He’s young (27), controllable (first-time arbitration this offseason), relatively inexpensive, would not cost the team much in terms of big league talent, nor would he command a top prospect like Myers.
Other rumored trade partners are the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. Both organizations are said to have serious interest in Billy Butler. The Mariners have the starting pitching depth (Jason Vargas, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, Brandon Maurer) along with secondary players (possibly 2B Dustin Ackley or SS/2B Nick Franklin) to spin a deal for the 26-year old slugger. Outside The Orioles on the other hand don’t really have enough pitching depth that they would be able to pull from in order to land Butler.
I’m not high on trading Butler for prospects unless the Royals are able to land another starting pitcher – either through trade
In contrast, with Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, and Jeff Francoeur all officially on board for next season, the Dayton Moore will be looking to ship one or all of them in order to free up payroll. Hochevar is on schedule for around $4 million through arbitration, Chen is due $4.5 million this season, while Frenchy is due $7.5 million.
Finding takers for Hoch and Chen, although difficult, would presumably be easier to do than finding a taker for Frenchy. But if the Royals were able to move any of said contracts, it could severely impact their ability to attain starting pitching, allowing them to potentially go after free agents like Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Loshe, Ryan Dempster, or Edwin Jackson.
Other free agents the Royals are considering that possibly fall within their price range: Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum, Jair Jurrjens, Brett Myers, Carlos Villanueva, and Jeff Karstens. None of the aforementioned pitchers would demand a large multi-year deal, which fits perfectly within the realm of what Dayton Moore is trying to do.
The Royals are also reportedly seeking a veteran infielder who can play shortstop. Apparently they don’t think current utility guys Tony Abreu and Irving Falu fit the bill defensively at short, going so far as to say that if Alcides Escobar were to miss significant playing time they’d likely promote either Christian Colon or Alex McClure from the minors to fill the position. Veterans free agents like Ronny Cedeno, Alex Gonzalez, and Ryan Theriot all profile for the role.
- Joakim Soria, who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, has agreed to a two-year deal reportedly worth $8-9 million with the Texas Rangers. He’ll still be rehabing when Opening Day 2013 comes around, but when he comes back he’ll serve as the set-up man for closer Joe Nathan. The Angels, Red Sox, and Reds were also reportedly in on Soria.
- Mitch Maier has officially agreed to a minor-league contract with the Boston Red Sox.
- The Dodgers, Angels, and Rangers are said to the top contenders for the services of one Donald Zackary Greinke. Zack is said to possibly command as much as 7-years and $185 million on the open market. The Braves have been rumored to have interest in him as well.
First off, don’t buy into this at all.
Not right now, at least.
This is what happens when the first blockbuster deal of the offseason takes place. The trade happens, and then boom – every team looking for roster help/salary relief is looking to spin a major multi-player deal.
But this idea may actually have some merit.
In an article by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Ken states that rival execuitves believe the Royals have a line of suitors if and when they’re ready to pull the trigger on a potential trade.
Dayton Moore’s contract expires after the 2014 season. Now although he likely is far, far away from being on the dreaded hot seat, we’re entering year seven of “The Process”. There is no doubt that this organization is in tremendously better shape than when he took over in 2006. The farm system has bascially completed a worst-to-first turn around and his aggressive draft approach is beginning to bear fruit at the big league level. But his trade history has been disastrous and his prized free-agent acquisitions (Gil Meche, Jose Guillen) haven’t panned out like the team has wished. On the other hand, he has shown a legitimate knack for signing low-cost, high-reward free agents (Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Podsednik, Jonathan Broxton) who he has been able to flip for multiple parts (Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur being the most notable exceptions).
The time for Dayton’s work in the office to translate into wins on the field is here, and his window could be closing – albeit it slowly.
Rosenthal notes that the Seattle Mariners “covet” DH/1B Billy Butler. The Mariners possess one of baseball’s top collections of minor league starting pitchers: RHPs Taijuan Walker (age 20, AA) and LHPs Danny Hultzen (age 22, AAA) and James Paxton (age 24, AA) – the latter of whom the Royals have been reportedly scouting in the Arizona Fall League. Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America cited all three of them within the Mariners top 10 organizational prospects (1. Walker; 3. Hultzen; 4. Paxton).
Billy is coming off a season where he had a career high in homeruns and RBI and has been the Royals’ most consistent offensive performer since his arrival back in 2007. If the Royals were to surrender Butler in a deal, it has to work out. Eric Hosmer suffered through a miserable sophomore slump. Alex Gordon got off to a terrible start before finishing strong. Mike Moustakas had streaks of greatness to go along with numerous cold streaks. Salvador Perez, though impressive, has yet to show he can hit at a high level for an entire season. Lorenzo Cain showed flashes of pull-power but couldn’t manage to stay healthy. Alcides Escobar could be a reliable no.2 hitter. Jeff Francoeur is inept and may be out of a job. Will Myers is unproven. And whoever takes the second base job will likely hit in the bottom-third of the order. All in all, giving up Butler creates some real instability in a lineup that, for the most part, has a lot to prove in 2013. But the DH position can be filled with low-cost platoon options like the A’s (platoon of Johnny Gomes and Seth Smith) and Yankees did (Raul Ibanez, Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones).
But is acquiring unproven starting pitching really in the best interest of the Royals? Afterall, the organization is full of young pitching talent that has yet to see anything above Triple-A level talent. If the Royals were going to deal Big Bill to the M’s, they would have to acquire someone along the lines of Jason Vargas in the deal – clearly not a centerpiece player to any deal involving Billy Butler, but would definitely help the team for 2013 and beyond – along with at least one of their top, big league ready pitching prospects.
In other rumors, the Tampa Bay Rays really like OF Wil Myers.
Although I am no proponent for it, trading Wil Myers+other prospects would definitely land the top-of-the-rotation guy the Royals are looking for. And the Rays definitely have a number of arms the could be open to dealing. Names like James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and even 2012 Cy Young award winner David Price have been mentioned before when it comes to potential trades with the Royals.
In my mind, if the Rays offer you any one of these names in a potential deal, no matter who you have to give up outside of Sal Perez, you make the deal.
Corner outfielders can be replaced, but finding a dependable top of the line starting pitcher is like winning the lottery. On your birthday.
Don’t get me wrong. Wil Myers may be the best hitter to come out of the Hosmer/Moustakas/Myers trio. But if you have the chance to land any one of these guys, Dayton Moore is obligated to pull the trigger. Ask anyone around baseball and they’ll tell you that all the Royals need to compete in the AL Central is competent starting pitching.
Ken also notes that the Astros could be a potential trade partner for the Royals when it comes to starting pitching, noting that they could possibly be willing to part with either Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell. On their end, the Royals would likely have to give up a few prospects, but nothing of great significance.
Out of these three scenarios, I would personally like to see a deal with the Rays happen. The Royals would have to give up their uber-prospect in Myers, but you can’t put a price on quality starting pitching. The small market Rays are in a very unique situation: they have four potential no. 1 starters in their rotation whose salaries will increase as they years go by, top prospects in Chris Archer and Alex Cobb waiting in the wings should a spot open up, and a sever lack of impact hitters outside of Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.
Say the Royals part with Myers + Giavotella/Colon + pitching prospect for any one of Price, Hellickson, Moore, or Shields (preferably in that order), do you think that would be enough to get a deal done?
But that’s an old question.
As Royals fans, we’ve all been here before. You know what I’m talking about – Good Luke, Bad Luke, and Awful-Goodfornothing Luke. He’s a polarizing figure, really. We’ve seen stretches, usually three or four starts, where Hoch just absolutely stinks. He’ll lose command of his breaking pitches, his fastball will get straight, and the opposing team gap-doubles him into a pulp.
And then we see stretches where Hoch just has everything figured out. His two-seamer will bite in and out of the zone and his curveball falls off the table – allowing him to work his secondary pitches in there with ease. That’s when Luke is really dominant.
For right now, Hochevar is currently in his dominant stretch.
Last night, Luke and the Royals’ defense completely shutdown the Rays lineup. It was his fourth career complete game and his second career shutout. Luke was able to get the Rays to scatter seven singles throughout the night, and only got into one sticky situation when the Rays got two-straight singles to leadoff their half of the 5th inning. Hoch countered by striking out the next three hitters, which happened to be the top of the Rays’ lineup, to end the threat and the inning.
In has last three starts, he’s 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and has 19 K’s to just 6 BB.
- 6/14: Milwaukee: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 5 K’s, 1 BB, 11 Groundballs, 87 pitches (ND)
- 6/19: @Houston: 7.2 IP, 5H, 0 R (0 ER), 6 K’s, 4 BB, 11 Groundballs, 93 pitches
- 6/25: Tampa Bay: 9.0 IP, 7 H. 0 R (0 ER), 8 K’s, 1 BB, 11 Groundballs, 113 pitches
In these three starts, Luke was nothing short of dominating. He saw his W-L record improve from 3-7 to 5-7 and his ERA drop from 6.57 to 5.07 (still not great, but encouraging).
One thing to keep in mind: the lineups Luke has gone up against during this red-hot three-game stretch aren’t exactly Murderer’s Row. Milwaukee (23rd), Houston (19th), and Tampa Bay (27th) all rank in the bottom half of baseball in batting average. Not to take anything away from him, but it needs to be known.
I’m ecstatic for Luke and the Royals, but until Hochevar proves to me that this is for real and that he’s finally figured out how to be an effective starting pitcher, I’ll take this hot streak with a grain of salt.
Keep it up, Luke.