In today's installment of reviewing/previewing the Kansas City Royals 40-man roster, we look at will be the likely starting rotation for the Kansas City Royals in 2011. Obviously the Royals will need to fill the void left by 2009 Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke. The Royals likely will turn to Luke Hochevar to be the ace of the staff. The 1st overall pick of the Royals in the 2006 draft, Hochevar carries a career mark of 19-32 with a 5.60 ERA. Last season Hochevar was 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts. Luke has shown flashes of being worthy of a first round pick, but the times have been too far and in between thus far in his career. If you want to look at the positive, Hochevar does have a career 48.7% groundball ratio, which with the help of an expected improved defense behind him could help to lower the ERA to the lower half of 4 this season if all things go well.
Another former first rounder in the 2011 Royals rotation will be lefty Jeff Francis. Francis signed via free agency with the Royals after spending the previous six seasons with the Colorado Rockies. Francis is a big 6'5" pitcher who last season had a 47% groundball ratio to go with a 4-6 record and 5.00 ERA. Francis had missed the 2009 season with injury. Francis' best season was 2007 when he lead the Rockies to the World Series. During that run he was 17-9 and sported a 4.22 ERA. Francis should bring some leadership to the Royals young core of pitchers both at the major league level and those coming up through the system as well. If nothing else, he is a solid big league starter who is at least capable of putting up respectable numbers.
Bruce Chen was the Royals 2010 Pitcher of the Year, in a season in which he put up a 12-7 ERA with a 4.17 ERA. After floating around from organization to organization for many years, Chen seemingly found a home with Kansas City bases on the numbers he put up last season, his second with the Royals. While Chen's number will probably be down from what he did last year, it will be interesting to track Chen's starts in 2011 and see if his production can be once again formidable.
Kyle Davies returns the Royals for what will be already his fifth season with the club. Last season Davies was 8-12 with a 5.34 ERA. On the positive he has been improving his groundball ratio and his home run rate was down to 7.9% last season. Thus far he has been a fringe starter at best, and must show he is capable of being a major league average fifth starter to keep his spot in the Royals rotation in 2011.
Much like Davies, Sean O'Sullivan is another starter that will be fighting to keep a job at the back end of the rotation. O'Sullivan didn't show much as a starter in 2010 after coming over from the Angels in the Alberto Callaspo trade, and will need to improve his numbers to show himself being worthy of a 2011 rotation spot. If he can post an ERA under 5, I'd be happy.
The other newcomer to the the Royals rotation will be Vin Mazzaro, a 24 year-old acquired during the offseason in exchange for fan favorite David DeJesus. In 24 appearances (18 starts) last season, Mazzaro was 6-8 with a 4.27 ERA in his second season with the Oakland Athletics. The right-hander was able to improve upon his groundball rate nearly four percent to 42.9% percent last season, and I will look to see if that number will raise even more than season as he adjusters to pitching in Kansas City.
Everett Teaford is the only other pitcher currently on the 40-man roster who I believe has a chance at joining the Royal rotation out of spring training, though I believe the rotation will likely be something like Hochevar-Chen-Francis-Mazzaro-Davies.
It looks pretty lean for the Royals in 2011 when it comes to the starting rotation, but the rotation will likely look different after the All-Star break when the Royals probably look to bring up some of the minor league talent for the first time. The potential is there for the Royals to have a record similar to last season, but the storylines will be how Hochevar handles being the "ace" of the staff, if Chen can follow up his 2010 season, and what Francis looks like coming back from injury and playing in the American League. I don't know enough about Mazzaro as of yet, so it will be fun to follow him more closely this season. I also am not expecting much from Davies or O'Sullivan, but it will be interesting to see if they can improve from their 2010 seasons.