The guys we know will return. Luke Hochevar will heal from his sprain. Gil Meche will come back as well. And the Royals rotation will level out again, for better or worse, back to "normal." So what happens at that point with guys like Anthony Lerew? Does it really matter how well he does (or not)? To some degree, I'm sure it makes a difference. But normally these quad-A prospects hold the fort until the real guys heal up.
The 27-year-old former Brave (see the Dayton Moore connection) is still waiting for his first real shot at the major leagues. A few prior looks went by in a flash, and Lerew has always held the potential to do something on the major league level (as evidenced by the Top 100 Prospect ratings from Baseball America in 2005 and 2006). Certainly that warrants long enough of a look on a team like the Royals to find out what is in house.
What could Lerew offer? Well, the first start against the Astros was a pleasant surprise. Going six strong innings, he allowed three hits and struck out seven, allowing only two runs.His fastball consistently hit at 94 or 95 on several occasions. His final inning only took 9 pitches to get through, showing signs that he could have kept going if he needed to.
Lerew did get a couple outings at the end of last season to showcase his wares and really did little to set himself apart. The ERA of 4.05 from last season is a bit misleading considering he allowed four homeruns in 13 total innings, walking eight in that span as well. Those are horrible peripherals that would only raise the ERA quite a bit as the season wore on.
Still the minor league stats show that something there is worth mining for. This season in Omaha, KC's AAA affiliate, he's 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 14 games (including 11 starts). He's only allowed three homers in 73 innings, which is key for Lerew to succeed at any level, but especially if he's used to leaving his fastball over the plate. And after Tommy John surgery which cost him the 2007 season, the guy is probably still finding his way -- at least to some degree.
The Royals will find out a bit more what they with today's start against the Nationals, but again, it's another weaker National League line-up they are facing this time around, so the jury will still be out, no matter what happens today. But Lerew is a guy who deserves a shot (given his incredibly high prospect ranking pre-TJ surgery) and what better team to give him this chance to stick around than the Royals who could use an unexpected boost.