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Is Anyone* On The Royals Worth Drafting? (Part I)

* Anyone not named Billy Butler and Joakim Soria, obviously.

The Royals traded their two longest tenured players in separate deals this winter, first shipping David DeJesus to the Athletics before sending Zack Greinke to the Brewers in what probably qualifies as the winter’s biggest blockbuster. That has left the team’s roster pretty barren in terms of fantasy talent, at least outside of Butler and Soria. Let’s dig through the team’s 40-man roster and see if any of their notable pitchers are worth drafting in a standard 12-team league. We’ll cover the position players tomorrow.

Kyle Davies
Davies was a trendy sleeper pick two seasons ago after finishing 2008 with a 3.76 ERA (~4.05 FIP) in his final 14 starts of the season, but he’s pitched to just a 5.31 ERA (~4.86 FIP) in 306.2 IP since then, battling an oblique strain along the way. Davies’ strikeout rate has hugged the 6.00 K/9 mark for three seasons now, and his walk rate has been over 4.00 K/9 over the last two years. He’s homer prone (1.17 HR/9 career) and hittable (.285 AVG against, .319 BABIP), a bad combination. Davies is a sleeper no more. Verdict: No.

Luke Hochevar
I assume Hochevar takes over as Kansas City’s ace by default now. The first overall pick in 2006 can be brilliant at times, but so far those instances have been far too infrequent. He missed close to three months with an elbow sprain in 2010 but otherwise put up a rock solid 3.93 FIP (4.81 ERA) in 103 IP. The strikeout rate isn’t great (6.66 K/9 over the last two years) but he does make up for it by keeping walks down (3.04 BB/9 in the same span) and generating ground balls about 46% of the time. Replacing Yuniesky Betancourt with Alcides Escobar could help drag down his .320-ish BABIP over the last few years, perhaps helping him squeeze out of some more jams. Hochevar has not yielded the type of return the Royals’ expected when they took him so high in the draft, but he at least appears to be headed in the right direction. An ERA in the low-4.00’s with a WHIP around 1.30 is possible. Verdict: Yes, but only as a late round roll of the dice. Nothing more.

Jeremy Jeffress
One of the guys that came back in Greinke trade, Jeffress has a rocket launcher for a right arm and will bring his 100 mph heat to the back of Kansas City’s bullpen. Save opportunities are a pipe dream unless Soria gets hurt or traded, but in the meantime he should offer up plenty of strikeouts (no less than 10.4 K/9 in has last three years in the minors, and that includes time spent as a starter) and a halfway decent ERA and WHIP. Very few setup guys are worth carrying in a standard league, however. Verdict: No, unless Soria gets traded between now and draft day.

Vin Mazzaro
The prime piece in the DeJesus deal, Mazzaro’s struck me as more stuff than results in his brief big league career. His fastball routinely sits in the low-90’s and has touched the mid-90’s on occasion and his slider moves all over the place, but his strikeout rate is a forgettable 5.81 K/9 and he doesn’t make up for it by getting ground balls (41.2% career). His 4.27 ERA in 122.1 IP in 2010 masked a 5.13 FIP and a .289 BABIP, better indicators of what he can do going forward. Mazzaro is more interesting than Davies, but right now he’s not rosterable. Verdict: No.

Gil Meche
Once upon a time, Meche was a solid fantasy option, pitching to a 3.82 ERA (3.82 FIP!) with 7.16 K/9 and a 1.31 WHIP in over 420 innings from 2007-2008, but he’s been a mess of injuries in the two seasons since. He’s missed time with a back strain and various shoulder issues that have had him on the disabled list for 116 days total. Meche’s performance has suffered as a result of the injuries; he’s posted a 5.29 ERA (5.03 FIP) in 190.2 IP over the last two years, dropping down to just 6.42 K/9 and a 1.60 WHIP. He finished the 2010 season as a reliever, allowing just three runs and striking out 11 in 12 IP. I assume he’ll move back into the rotation if he’s healthy enough, but if not it’ll be the bullpen life for him. Verdict: No, but keep an eye on him during the season in case he decides to have a big contract year.

Sean O’Sullivan
O’Sullivan’s a rather generic pitch-to-contact guy with a pretty good changeup. His career stats in just 135.1 IP: 4.79 K/9, 6.0% swinging strikes, 39.2 GB%, 1.46 WHIP, 5.65 ERA (5.70 FIP). Yeah, pass. Verdict: No.

Robinson Tejeda
Tejada’s an interesting guy. His xFIP for the last three years are 4.46, 4.47, and 4.47. His ERA/FIP/xFIP line in 2009 (73.2 IP) was 3.54/3.60/4.47, and in 2010 61 IP) it was 3.54/3.59/4.47. Too bad they doing give out points for consistency. Tejeda’s strikeout rate the last two years has been fantastic (9.56 K/9), and he chopped more than two full walks off his rate from ’09-’10, getting it down to 3.84 BB/9. From what I’ve gathered from the Kansas City faithful, the team won’t use him as a starter next season, instead relegating him to middle relief work. Tejada might actually be next in line for save opps behind Soria, but otherwise he’s just a candidate for holds. Verdict: No, unless Soria gets traded between now and Opening Day.

* * *

Royals’ pitchers are at a disadvantage right from the get-go because they simply won’t win many games. The defense has improved this offseason and the bullpen features some nice power arms, but there’s still a lot of work to do. It’s just not a viable big league rotation yet. Luckily for them, lots and lots of big time prospects are on the way.

If you want submit fan projections for these guys, go here: Davies, Hochevar, Jeffress, Mazzaro, Meche, O’Sullivan, and Tejeda.