And here we are. The end of the line for the Kansas City Royals Spring Training Preview series. It’s fitting, then, that today we look at the men who will be tasked with finishing the games.
Last year, the Royals were abysmal in the final innings.
Rk Tm Save%
1 MIN 80.00
2 LAD 79.37
3 DET 74.19
29 KC 53.03
30 CLE 51.06
Kansas City blew 31 saves in 2006, more than any other team in baseball.
If the team had been able to convert saves at the league average rate, they would have added another eight wins, and while that still would have left them well out of the playoff chase, it would also have kept every single team preview this year from leading off with the “KC has lost 100 games or more in four of the last five years” stat.
Granted, it’s a moral victory, but one worth achieving.
Since these guys don’t play as many innings in a game (and since there are so damn many of them), they get shorter player profiles.
0-0, 10.80, 2.90
Don’t let the stat line scare you. Those numbers were compiled over just ten innings last season. Dotel has only thrown 25.3 innings in the major leagues the last two seasons due to injury (that is the stat that should scare you).
Throwing out last year, Dotel hasn’t had an ERA+ lower than 123 since 2000. If he’s truly mended, he should be a stable force at the end of ball games this year.
1-4, 4.14, 1.51
Wellemeyer put up a 3.63 ERA in 57 innings after the Royals picked him up off of waivers last year. He’s always had strong strike-out-to-walk ratios in the minors, but that has yet to translate to the major league level.
If he can give away a few less free passes this season, he will have been a steal for Dayton Moore.
After the Royals made Soria the second pick in the Rule V draft this off season, he responded by pitching a perfect game in the Mexican Pacific League.
Solid stats are hard to come by for Soria, who has spent most of his time on the disabled list or pitching in the MPL, but according to this Wikipedia entry, he was 9-0 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts last season, striking out over a man an inning.
4-6, 5.14, 1.48
Gobble has always been a finesse pitcher with decent control. Last year, he led the team in strikeouts, a stat that probably says more about the Royals than himself.
He also led the team in wild fluctuations in performance month to month.
Mth G ERA
Apr 10 6.75
May 9 3.00
Jun 12 2.25
Jul 5 6.85 (5 starts)
Aug 12 1.64
Sep 12 12.00
Only turning 25 this season, Gobble still has a chance to decide who he wants to be... the ace from August, or the September schmuck.
1-3, 4.40, 1.24
Peralta spent a long time in the Angels farm system, putting up good K/BB ratios and decent ERAs. Unfortunately for him, the Angels have been loaded with talent in their relief corps, so he was waived and picked up by the Royals.
He was solid if unspectacular with the team last year and is one of many arms that will have a shot at a set up role going into this season.
0-1, 6.75, 1.50
A high strike out guy, Braun was moving up through the Royals farm system nicely until he lost 2005 to injury. Last season, he put up ERAs of 2.21 in AA and 2.16 in AAA.
The numbers above are from his cup of coffee call up in September last year and are skewed by a particularly bad outing against Detroit.
1-1, 4.52, 1.54
Does that name sound familiar, Royals fans? It’s because Ray pitched 11.3 innings for the team in 1999.
Since that time, he’s bounced around the minors as organizational filler for the Giants, Brewers, White Sox and Braves.
Dayton Moore has brought him to Kansas City because he saw something he liked in Ray while he was with the Atlanta organization.
0-0, 4.72, 1.50
Nunez was jumped from AA to the big league club in 2005 after showing a few flashes of brilliance for the Wichita Wranglers. Those flashes turned out to be the “in a pan” kind and he struggled with the Royals that year.
Last season, he came up briefly in the summer, posted some promising stats, and spent the rest of the year progressing from AA to AAA, where he posted a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings with Omaha.
Turning 24 this season, Nunez still has a chance to grow into a fine MLB pitcher.
A solid pitcher in the minors for several organizations, Bale could never make his big league opportunities stick and wound up pitching in Japan the past three years.
His walk rates have been declining along with his ERAs while in Japan, so he may have finally figured something out in the Far East.
1-2, 3.89, 1.30
A solid relief pitcher, Riske was signed in the off season to give the Royals at least two guys in the bullpen with proven major league success (Dotel being the other).
He pitched 3.7 innings of scoreless baseball in the 2001 postseason while with Cleveland, so he’s got way better clutch stats than A-Rod if the team can make it past the regular season.
1-1, 4.43, 1.37
Another one of those guys who was on track to become an MLB regular until injuries derailed him in 2000 and 2003.
Last year was the first time Nelson saw sufficient action at the major league level. After a strong start to the season (1.11 ERA in his first 22 games), he tired towards the end of the year, posting an ERA of 8.41 in his last 21 appearances.
The feast or famine nature of Nelson’s season pretty much sums up the entire Royals squad going into camp this year. Every player on the roster has had moments in their career in which they looked like a superstar on the verge of breaking out, and most of them have had soul-crushing reality checks.
Over the next month and a half, Buddy Bell and his staff will need to do their best at sorting out the true talents of each player and assembling a team that can produce results, not just hope for them.