Broxton to Royals Bullpen, Crow to Starter

Yesterday, Jonathan Broxton signed a one year deal with the Royals. The most interesting part of the signing was that it came out of no where. The Royals were never mentioned as a possible suitor for the 27-year-old. The Royals bullpen was actually set for the 2012 season and, if anything, it already had a surplus of talent.

To put it nicely, Jonathan pitched badly in 2011. In the 14 games he threw before going on the DL for elbow surgery, he had a 1.11 K/BB. In the previous 5 seasons, it was between 2.6 and 4.0 K/BB. Also, he had a career high FIP of 5.63. A cause for the drop in production was a decline in his fastball speed as seen here:

Use his fastball speed in Spring Training as a barometer to see how he will do in 2012 (the Royals ST stadium is one with Pitch FX installed). If it ranges from 95 to 100 MPH, the man is back. If it is maxing out at 95 MPH or less, he may struggle.

Besides not knowing what his ability will be in 2012, his role is not known yet. Joakim Soria will be the closer for Kansas City as long as he is still on the team and healthy. Soria’s setup man should be Greg Holland. Holland and his 11.1 K/9 got the closing role when Soria was on the DL in 2011. Holland was actually the better pitcher of the 2 in 2011. Right now, it looks like Broxton will be the 7th inning guy at best.

The reliever that has been getting most of the coverage from the move is 2011 All Star Aaron Crow. The signing of Broxton has been mention as a way to facilitate a move of Aaron to the rotation. This is not the case. It was mentioned by Dayton at the end of the 2011 season that the Royals would try him as a starter in Spring Training in 2012.

The problem with moving Crow to the rotation is that he struggled as a starter in the minors. In 22 starts in AA, he had a 6.8 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9. If he pitched like that in 2012, he would be worse than the 2011 version of Kyle Davies (7.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9). Of all the qualified starters in 2011, none had a worse walk rate than 4.4 BB/9 (which was better than the 4.5 BB/9 he had as a reliever last season). Aaron only has 2 decent pitches, his fastball and slider, and he has problems throwing them for strikes. He will need to get the walks under control to be a decent starter.

The Jonathan Broxton signing in all reality has little, if any, significant fantasy impact. He will be at best a 7th inning setup man with an unknown ability to help with ERA or Ks. The move of Aaron Crow to the rotation is a complete non factor as he currently does not have the control to be a legitimate starter in the big leagues.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


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