The Kansas City Royals have a weird rotation. There are some interesting pieces for fantasy purposes and a pair of pitchers that should only be relied on in the most dire of circumstances. One of the interesting guys deserves to be considered among the fantasy elite while the other two could be riding buses to and from Omaha, posting competent results or walking the entire park.
James Shields sits at the top of the rotation and is one of the “pencil it in” guys. Fantasy GMs are basically pencilling in 200ish innings with around 200 K’s, ratios to anchor a staff and wins somewhere in the teens when they draft James Shields. There’s not much to see here other than a guy that is going to help a lot more than he’s going to hurt….unless you look at his 2010 statline. That’s the stuff of nightmares.
The rotation gets weird at the 2-3 slots. Right now, the Royals have journeymen Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas pitching behind Shields. Jeremy Guthrie is entering his age 35 season and he’s coming off a “lightning in a bottle”-year. Guthrie somehow managed to find his name in the win column 15 times in 2013. He also struck out only 12.3% of batters faced and posted a 4.04 ERA with a kinda gross 1.39 WHIP. There really isn’t much here other than a few empty W’s. He’s basically a guy who is capable of taking the ball every fifth day and not completely embarrassing himself or his family. He’s not someone who should occupy a spot on a fantasy roster.
Jason Vargas doesn’t throw as hard as Guthrie does, but the results have been basically the same. Vargas is entering his age 31 season and his career high K/9 is 7.21. That happened nine years and four organizations ago. He doesn’t pitch to contact so much as his pitches get hit. He was battered for a 21.3% LD % last year. He doesn’t miss bats and really won’t help with strikeout totals and his WHIP and ERA are dependent on how well the guys behind him are able to catch the ball after it comes rocketing off the bat of whichever hitter Vargas is about to be pummelled by.
The fourth slot is where the Royals rotation gets interesting again. Assuming Danny Duffy makes it through spring training without getting A. Hurt or B. Mercilessly battered he will likely break camp as the the Royals fourth starter. It was clear that Duffy was still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but he appeared to be basically the same guy. He struck out about a batter per inning (8.14 K/9), but walks were still an issue (5.18 BB/9). The skills are there even if the control has yet to manifest itself at the major league level. His 4.60 xFIP disagrees with his 1.85 actual ERA, but that’s in only 24 major league innings. It’s far too small a sample size to pass judgment.
Duffy was shut down at the end of the season when he experienced forearm tightness five starts into his comeback. His MRI came back clean and even he stated that he didn’t know why he wasn’t pitching. The Royals chose to be cautious with a guy who just battled back from TJS.
Duffy won’t and shouldn’t be drafted in a 10-12 size mixed league, but he’s a decent late round sleeper for a 15-team or AL-only league team looking for some cheap K’s.
The fifth slot in the Royals rotation is projected to be manned by either Wade Davis or Yordano Ventura. Fantasy GMs should be openly rooting for Ventura. It’s not too early to start printing “Choose Yordy!” t-shirts.
Davis was awesome as a reliever in 2012 for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was dealt to Kansas City before last season in the Shields trade. The Royals took an above average middle reliever and made him a bad starter. Davis’ posted solid strikeout numbers (7.58 K/9), but struggled with walks (3.86 BB/9) and was absolutely murdered on balls in play (.361 BABIP last year).
Davis owns a career BABIP of .297, so it’s reasonable to expect him to return at or below that number in 2014. He’s due for an adjustment after the statistical variance he endured last year, but his 27.5% LD % had more to do with his high BABIP than anything luck factor. Batters hit starter Wade Davis hard. It’s a surprise that the Royals don’t seem to realize that Davis is better off airing it out in the bullpen than throwing batting practice as a starter.
Yordano Ventura is much more interesting as a fifth starter for the Royals and is probably the better fit for the Royals rotation right now. In his age 22 season last year, Ventura threw across three levels. He dominated Double-A (11.55 K/9 in 57 2/3 innings as a starter with a 2.34 ERA), was competent in Triple-A (9.47 K/9 with a 3.74 ERA in 77 innings) and didn’t embarrass himself in the majors (6.46 K/9 with a 3.52 ERA in 15 1/3 innings). The interesting part is his four-seam and cut fastball. He averaged almost 99 MPH on his four-seam and averaged over 97 MPH on his cut fastball. Ventura is one of the hardest throwing pitchers walking the planet right now and he could help a lot of fantasy teams if the Royals decided to go with him as their fifth starter.
Ventura is another guy that shouldn’t be drafted in 10-12 team mixed leagues right now, but he’s worth a look in deeper leagues and AL-only and he needs to be on your radar in more shallow leagues. A fairly easy case could be made that Ventura has more upside than Danny Duffy at this point and he absolutely deserves to be taken ahead of him in applicable formats.