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Looking Ahead: 2011 Rotation

What was looked at a strength coming into 2010 turned into a weakness very quickly as the starting pitching did a bit of a disappearing act. It started with Meche’s struggles and then ballooned into a rotation-wide issue. When Bruce Chen is clearly your second best starter, you have some issues as a team. When Bruce Chen is almost as good on many nights as your Cy Young Award winning ace, you have serious, serious problems. The minors are full of pitching prospects, but they aren’t quite as close as the infield prospects are, though, any one of them could easily emerge in 2011 as a quality sidekick for Greinke.

Zack Greinke: Speaking of Zack, here’s one of the guys who, as long as he’s not traded, will be a part of the rotation. He’ll get the nod on Opening Day and will be the key to the rotation turning things around in 2011. We’ve discussed his 2010 season and how it maybe wasn’t quite so bad, but he still has to be better if the Royals want 2011 to be a successful campaign.

My best guess is that he will rebound nicely and put up an excellent season. I’m looking for 16-20 wins and a 3.20 ERA or better. I’m still not convinced he didn’t get tired toward the end of the season as the innings from the past couple of years began to pile up on him. As I mentioned in my Greinke post a few days ago, I think he’ll be in better condition this season. As much as public perception is that he gave up, the man is a competitor and has to understand that if he wants to get traded, the best way to go about is to pitch lights out.

Luke Hochevar: To me, he’s the definite number two starter on this team and 2011 is put up or shut up time. The story of Hochevar is well documented, and we’re hoping that Aaron Crow doesn’t repeat the story, but time will tell on that issue. I’m sure you’ve all heard the story about the time when Ned Yost left Hochevar in to get out of trouble against the White Sox and how well Hoch pitched after that. I think that’s for real. I’m not sure Hochevar will ever be an ace, but I think he’ll be a good number two starter and a great number three. His sinker can be devastating and he’s shown flashes of brilliance. I think his ceiling is that of Matt Garza, but I think we’d all be okay with Garza in our rotation.

Bruce Chen: I think the Royals will re-sign him. He seems to like it in Kansas City and seems to want to be here. The only concern I see is that Dayton may be tempted to give him a second year and guarantee too much money to a guy of Bruce Chen’s ilk. If your number five starter is Bruce Chen, then you’re probably in decent shape. If he’s your number three then you better hope you have a good offense. Chen isn’t getting any better, but he’s serviceable and for a couple million he’ll work nicely. The other plus to Chen is that he can slide into the bullpen if any of the prospects come knocking on the door.

Kyle Davies: I think he’ll be brought back. I’m not thrilled about that, but I think he will be. He’s almost a lock for a few bad starts, a few great starts and a few very nondescript starts. I just hope that if the price is too high in arbitration that the Royals say their goodbyes and turn elsewhere for pitching help. I’m still interested what a stint in the bullpen would do for Davies, but I fear that his control would be even more of a detriment there than in the rotation. Unless he breaks out, 2011 should be his last year in Royal blue.

Everett Teaford: I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the time is now for Teaford. He’s going to be 27 and he’s started to put things together. 2011 is a big time evaluation year for the Royals, and I’d like to see Teaford on the roster in some capacity. I’d prefer it be as a starter to see what he can do. Like Chen, when the higher touted prospects come, he can be shifted to the bullpen if need be and probably not miss a beat. He probably won’t be anything more than a back of the rotation starter, but good teams need five guys who can take the ball and be effective. Now is the time to find out if Teaford fits.

Sean O’Sullivan: Yeah, I know that he’s the sixth, but teams don’t make it with five starters anymore. I’d love it if the Royals tried something that other teams are afraid to do. They won’t, but how great would it be if O’Sullivan and Teaford started based on the matchups? On rotation turns where one doesn’t start, they go to the bullpen. Think about it. Facing a team like the White Sox who are pretty right-handed heavy and you have your choice of O’Sullivan or Teaford. It’d give the Royals the best chance to win. Plus, I’d really like to see O’Sullivan in the bullpen. If his fastball could pump up an extra mph or two, he might be a solid reliever.

Looking ahead to some of the prospects who we might see in 2011:
Aaron Crow
Danny Duffy
Chris Dwyer
John Lamb
Mike Montgomery

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