The surest sign games are close to getting underway in Arizona and Florida: The Royals announced their starting spring rotation for the first week of games.
With pitching the currency of baseball, the Royals have a plethora of starting pitching (as well as relief arms) in camp. The overall quality of those options remains to be seen, but there figures to be a battle for the first five starters to crack the rotation. At least in the first couple weeks of the season. There figures to be plenty of movement throughout the next six months.
It may have been a bit of a surprise to learn Ned Yost tapped Kyle Zimmer to open Cactus League play on Wednesday. Upon reflection, this is the kind of move with foresight that makes total sense. The Royals are champing at the bit to get Zimmer some major league service time. We all know the injuries and setbacks the right-hander has experienced since being their first round draft selection in 2012. Strictly because of those pesky injuries, Zimmer has thrown only 207 professional innings since signing with the Royals. The Royals want their major league staff to have ample opportunity to view Zimmer up close to see what they have. It’s not about evaluating him to break camp with the team. It’s about the future. Does he have the stuff to compete if a big league call-up happened for him later in the season? By having Zimmer first, should the Royals decide to keep him in the big league camp for most of the summer, he will be more of a known commodity should that call to the majors eventually come. This is about developing a comfort level with Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland.
This is a positive development. The Royals wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think Zimmer could compete in Kansas City at some point this summer.
Before we move along, let’s revisit Baseball Prospectus’ evaluation of the 24 year old as part of their Top 11 Royals prospects. Zimmer checked in at number two:
When healthy, Zimmer will show as complete an arsenal as any prospect in the game, led by a four-seam fastball that will sit 92-95 mph with movement and touch higher. His bread and butter is a hammer curveball that he can locate for strikes, take out of the zone to generate swings-and-misses, or use to coax ground balls. Those two pitches alone would make him a quality prospect, but he also features an above-average slider that flashes plus with hard tilt, along with a solid-average change for good measure. He repeats his delivery, and he throws all four pitches for strikes to all parts of the plate.
That’s one helluva scouting report.
The next three arms in the rotation has a very regular season vibe. Edinson Volquez (who doesn’t want the Opening Day start) will pitch Thursday. He will be followed by Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy on Friday and Saturday respectively. Danny Duffy will get a turn in the Saturday game against the White Sox behind Kennedy.
As mentioned above Volquez is resisting getting the ball Opening Day. Ventura was the starter last year, but the Royals are obviously worried about how he handles being The Man. Do they think Ventura has learned lessons from over the last year and can take the ball and the number one starter responsibility? If they do, he’s your Sunday night starter against the Mets. If they don’t, there’s really no other option besides Volquez. So the Royals Cactus League rotation has a very regular season feel.
After your first three starters, things get a little muddled. Just a little. Chris Young gets the ball on Sunday and when the rotation turns over Kris Medlen will throw in a split-squad game on Monday against the Cubs, with Zimmer taking his turn for his second start on the same day against the A’s.
Speaking of the currency of baseball, if you’re interested in the minor league contract exchange rate, you’re in luck on Wednesday. David Huff, Peter Moylan, Brian Duensing, John Lannan, Ross Ohlendorf, and Chien-Ming Wang are all scheduled to get some work behind Zimmer.
Who’s ready to play ball?