Crystal ball: Royals rotation in 2014
AUG 10, 2012 10:09a ET
The loss of Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino to Tommy John surgeries depleted an already suspect rotation and crippled the team's chances to be competitive this season.
But as crazy as it may sound, the rotation may not be that far away from being a strength.
A year from now, and certainly in 2014, the Royals actually may have some tough choices regarding candidates for the rotation.
Come this time next year, Duffy may be pitching again in Double-A or Triple-A, preparing for a return to Kansas City. Paulino's surgery came later, and he may not be ready until 2014.
But if Duffy does make a fully recovery and gets back to the big leagues by next August or September, he would settle in with Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza to give the Royals at least a respectable trio of starters.
By then, the Royals may actually have to debate over the other two starters. Here are the candidates:
Bruce Chen: The Royals' opening day starter this year probably is, at best, a No. 4 or No. 5 on a good staff. If the Royals are ever going to be playoff competitive, he's a No. 5. But truthfully, the Royals have better candidates in the minors who may emerge by next year at this time.
Will Smith: A smart kid and a fast learner, Smith doesn't have eye-opening stuff. Yet. But he is developing a pretty good slider, and his size (6 feet 5, 240) suggests he might be able to add to his fastball, which right now is too straight, too slow (low 90s), and is his weakest pitch. But he is a fierce competitor. Don't rule him out.
Jeremy Guthrie: Royals fans got a glimpse Wednesday of what Guthrie was before he ventured to Colorado. Guthrie was dominant in shutting out the hot-hitting White Sox through eight innings. He throws strikes and eats innings, and would be a valuable No. 4 guy on a good staff. But he's a free-agent, coming off an $8 million salary. He'd be a good one-year or two-year fit here if the Royals can get creative with a contract offer.
John Lamb: Royals fans should get excited about his return from Tommy John surgery. He will be fully recovered by next season and let's not forget he was likely the team's top pitching prospect before he got hurt. He was dominant in the lower minors and was just starting to whip the Texas League in 2011 before getting hurt. The left-hander would be a fabulous 1-2 punch with Duffy.
Jake Odorizzi: Royals fans have been waiting patiently for his arrival. He has succeeded at every level in the minors and is handling Class AAA Omaha (8-2, 3.17 ERA) with relative ease. A front-end rotation guy if he makes the transition up here. A rotation with Duffy-Lamb-Odorizzi would give Royals fans something to cheer about.
Jordano Ventura: The right-hander played in the Future's Game this summer at Kauffman Stadium and gave fans a glimpse of his talent by hitting 100 mph consistently. Already has been promoted to Double-A. He was nicked in his last start for four runs, but he is an exciting prospect with electric stuff. A year from now, he could be putting the pressure on the Royals for a look at the big-league level. How about a rotation in 2014 that includes Duffy, Lamb, Odorizzi and Ventura?
J.C. Sulbaran: The right-hander was picked up from the Reds in the Jonathan Broxton trade, and has front-end rotation stuff. He is a strikeout-flyball-out pitcher who has fanned 113 hitters in 108 innings this season. Scouts compare Ventura to Pedro Martinez, and Sulbaran reminds some observers of Felix Hernandez. Can you see a rotation of Duffy, Lamb, Odorizzi, Ventura and Sulbaran some day?