Because it's All-Star time in the baseball world, it's worth a deeper look at the only Royals player on the American League roster: closer Joakim Soria. While others made the case for David DeJesus or Jose Guillen or Billy Butler, the reality is that Soria got the official call and it's a hard one to argue with.
It's clear that Soria is good, but just how valuable is the Royals closer? How does he compare with other current closers of the game and ones who've come and gone? These are good questions to answer as we begin to consider the legacy that a pitcher like Soria is creating in the Royals uniform.
As we mentioned before, Soria is under club option for below market contract value for the next four years. This means that he most likely will remain in Kansas City for some time and it's very possible eight total seasons will be under his belt in a KC uniform before he could leave via free agency. Because of this, Soria stands to leave his mark on a team that's had some incredible relief pitchers in seasons past.
Soria has 89 saves through his first three years in the majors. Only two players have ever totaled more saves in that time: Kazuhiro Sasaki and Billy Koch. Sasaki was a high-profile international signing by the Mariners back in 2000 and Sasaki came into the league at age 32 and only lasted four total seasons after the league either figured him out or he just grew too old to throw well enough. Koch was a high talent/high risk pitcher who never had an ERA as low as Soria's career numbers, and while his save totals were higher, so was the walk rate, ERA, hits allowed, etc.
In other words, no young reliever has ever had quite the beginning to his his career as Joakim Soria. And this year, the trend only continues with the All-Star half-season under his belt and his career numbers in line to continue his dominance in other categories like strikeouts and ERA. Here's hoping the Royals overall performance gets better, but even if not, don't be surprised if Soria is the team's representative year after year in the big game.