Triple Play

The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Kansas City Royals!

AN INTRODUCTION

Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a brand-new series where three very cool dynasty baseball nerds- Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus, and Keaton O. DeRocher- bring to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly leading up to and through Opening Day!

Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Kansas City Royals. And, while we here at The Dynasty Guru are primarily baseball obsessed, we’ll also be touching on some music we’ve enjoyed from each team’s home state. Enjoy, and leave us your question and comments below!

Danny Duffy, P, 29, MLB

Analysis by Patrick Magnus

McDuff The Crime Dog

Danny Duffy is the ace of a rather lackluster staff. The recent World Series champions inspired a bullpen revolution, and then pretty much fell apart with what seems like no plan whatsoever.  Unless your definition of plan includes telling young men at their sexual peak that watching pornography is bad.  Duffy, unfortunately, stuck around, and will not be observing pornography until 2021.

The Duff Stuff

The above gif is why he is the opening day starter for the Royals. That’s Duffy’s peak performance where he struck out 16 Tampa Bay Rays. That kind of performance is why the Royals locked him up to a five year, $75 million extension.  A lefty with his kind of stuff shouldn’t be in the pen. Let’s break down Duffy’s arsenal.

Duffy’s fastball generally has above-average velocity, although 2017 saw it dip to its second lowest. It dropped rather dramatically toward the end of the season, and wouldn’t you know it: he required season-ending surgery, due to an elbow impingement.  More on how this injury may impact his future a bit later.

There’s a reason Duffy uses his curveball so rarely these days: it’s absolute garbage. Not only was the pitch ineffective, Duffy also blames it for his Tommy John surgery. He’s replaced his curve with a decent slider, and if you look at his pitch mix towards the end of the year you can see its rise in use during his best months, and then its decline right before the injury.

Double Duffed

Alright, let’s dig into this porn-free Opening Day starter. Why did the Royals drop $75 million on this guy? The initial look at Duffy’s stats is confusing. He quietly had the second best year of his career in 2017. The confusing thing when analyzing Duffy is that the more “predictive” measurements of his pitching ability are wonky. According to his ERA, xFIP, and SIERA Danny-boy had a worse year in 2017 than he did in 2016, but his FIP does not agree.

Year IP ERA FIP xFIP SIERA K/9 GB% HR/FB
2015 136.2 4.08 4.43 4.64 4.63 6.72 38.8% 9.9%
2016 179.2 3.51 3.83 3.79 3.53 9.42 36.4 13%
2017 146.1 3.81 3.46 4.39 4.31 8.00 39.5 7.6%

Looking at other indicators we see a decreased K/9, and I don’t like that. However, we also see a slight uptick in GB%, and a massive decrease in his home runs per flyball.

What’s going on here?

What the Duff?

2017 was a bit of a tale of two halves. Take a gander at his season splits

K-BB% FIP xFIP
First Half 11.1 3.77 4.67
Second Half 18.1 3.07 4.05

Well hey now, that second half pitcher doesn’t look half bad! So what’s up with the Jekyll-and-Hyde-the-nudie-magazines stats? In May he was placed on the 10 day DL with a strained oblique. I’m wondering how long the oblique was an issue before the DL stint, as he walked 25 batters in March/April and May, but then only walked 16 the rest of the year.

However, that wasn’t the end of Duffy’s injury concerns in 2017. He ended the year with an elbow impingement that required off-season surgery. 

Built Duff Tough?

Duffy had Tommy John surgery in 2012, and in 2017 he dealt with more elbow issues. I checked in with our injury guru Dr. Mike Tanner to see if you and I should be worried. Here’s the summary of our conversation

Impingement caused bone spurs/debree. They were removed, he’s good to go from a medical standpoint, but a high-injury risk. Not specifically TJ, but when you have this post-TJ other things start to fall apart” – Dr. Mike Tanner

From a medical standpoint, the Duffster is fine, but he is still a candidate for a second TJ (although the good doctor says its unlikely) and he remains a high injury risk. Dr. Tanner expects approximately 140 innings pitched this year. That’s very similar to 2017’s innings total, which gives me some optimism.  

eDuff is eDuff

The amount of time I have spent dissecting Danny Duffy has made me consider holding a seminar on the addiction of researching pitchers. I applaud the Royals for giving Duffy a shot in the rotation again. There is potential here for him to take a step forward, and they certainly don’t have a ton of other options. He has some bad issues getting right-handers out, but hopefully, those numbers continue to improve. This spring though, Duffy has not looked like a pitcher with much promise, pitching 8 IP, 7Ks, and 4BBs. Remember, though, that he’s coming back from surgery.

Even with the injuries and righties issues, the Duffster was a top-25 pitcher last year according to Fangraphs; if he stays healthy I believe he’s capable of finishing in that same range. Pitchers are all ticking time bombs these days, although the way they are being handled is improving. 200 Innings from any pitcher are no longer a lock due to the increased use of bullpen arms. Duffy might contribute just enough to be the Royals SP1, and your fantasy team’s SP2.

Patrick’s Artist Selection

Vagrant Records was a fun label for me in my awkward teenage years. I spent an embarrassing amount of time listening to The Get Up Kids. Every once and awhile I found myself having a nostalgic listening party with them and a variety of other bands in the emo genre. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but the dude’s voice is so good.

Josh Staumont, P, 24, Triple-A

Analysis by Adam Lawler

As my fellow co-writers have already highlighted, the Kansas City Royals are boring.  I am not going to lie to you, it was a labor of love to pull this piece together.  I can tell you why I picked Staumont going into this piece, but I am not sure if any of that holds water after it has been written.

Staumont has everything you look for in a pitcher.  His height (6’3”) and weight (210 lbs.) are right in the Goldilocks zone of durability and athleticism.  He carries a prospect pedigree, having been drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB draft.

This is his 80-grade fastball that touches 100 MPH with regularity:

This is his potential 70-grade curveball, which does things like this:

Staumont Curve

Why, then, does Josh Staumont not succeed at baseball?  Well, similar to my feelings towards writing about him, he lacks focus and consistency.  His windup is too busy (more on that soon) and he brings his arm across his body entirely too much.  This leads him to have a walk rate that’s almost higher than his ceiling. Seriously, while it’s fun to dream on his K/9 (13.05 in Double-A, 11.01 in Triple-A) there is an ugly truth hidden below those numbers.

In 2017, during his second stint in Double-A, Staumont put up a 5.1% K-BB. He was then promoted to Triple-A, where he had a modest improvement of 8.4%.  While batters in these leagues are typically eager to swing at the ball and lack pitch recognition, they were able to sit back and wait on Staumont to falter because his unwieldy delivery allows them to do so.  What happens when he gets to the majors and he starts dealing with true professionals?  I cringe thinking about it.

Is there hope? Might he pull himself out of the seemingly inevitable reliever tag?  Can he possibly harness his raw talent?  Maybe.  This spring Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reported that Staumont is ditching his windup and pitching solely from the stretch.  He seems committed to correcting his mechanics too.  The results are promising.  Just look at the weak contact he evoked from “polished hitter” and the apple of Bret Sayre’s eye, Keston Hiura.

Don’t @ me, Bret.

In the end, he’s only worth monitoring right now.  His ETA is this year, and maybe pitching from the stretch cures a lot of his ills. Hell, it’s worked for Alex Wood and Stephen Strasburg. If you’re looking for a potentially high-level closer and want to take a flier because you are rebuilding, it’s risk/reward. While the stuff is there, the stuff isn’t quite yet.

Adam’s Artist Selection

I’m going with TechN9ne.  At least it wasn’t Puddle of Mudd.

Jorge Soler, OF, 26, MLB

Analysis by Keaton O. DeRocher

Soler Flare

Jorge Soler burst onto the scene in 2012 as a 20-year-old Cuban signed by the Cubs. He wowed scouts with his raw power that showed plus value, and his ability to work counts and make pitchers work. Soler spent the first two seasons of pro-ball at Single-A, but then skyrocketed into the majors in 2014. He was ranked the 48th best prospect in the minors at the time of his call-up, and his brief success in his first cup of coffee with the Cubs lead many to believe Soler was a breakout waiting to happen.

Soler Eclipse

Why? The easy answer is that he struck out… a lot.

Season K% BB%
2012 (Minors) 12.8% 8.1%
2013 (Minors) 16.0% 8.9%
2014 (Minors) 20.3% 14.0%
2014 (Majors) 24.7% 6.20%
2015 (Majors) 30.0% 7.90%
2016 (Majors) 25.0% 11.70%

As Soler continued to progress, he just kept striking out. There were encouraging layers to his output, however: his walk walk-rate steadily increased each year, and so did his flyball rate, peaking in the mid-40s. His HR/FB rate in the high teens was also above average, showing that good things happened when he hit the ball in the air. It was just the getting the ball in the air in the first place that seemed to be the issue.

Soler Pleure

Many people believed that the trade from the Cubs to the Royals would set Soler free: receiving the playing time and the leash he needed would bring it all together in 2017 and this would finally be his break-out season.

Soler began the year injured (strained oblique) and was sent to Triple-A upon his recovery. His numbers in Triple-A, however, were not a disappointment. Soler slashed .267/.388/.564 with 24 homers and paired that with a K% of 25.1 and a BB% of 15.3 in the PCL.

Once again, the transition to the majors was a bumpy one. Appearing in 35 games for the Royals in 2017, Soler was only able to muster a .144/.244/.258 slash line with 2 homers.

Soler Winds Changing?

Is Soler destined to live out his playing days as the dreaded Quad-A player: just can’t hack the majors but has shown the ability conquer the minors? I don’t think so. Believe it or not, there are actually still more encouraging numbers in Soler’s profile.  

Season Exit Velo Launch Angle
2015 91.6 11
2016 89.8 17
2017 89 19

His average exit velocity has consistently been above average, and his launch angle has reached elite levels the past two seasons. This data, coupled with his walk rate and flyball rates, show that there is plenty of excitement and potential left in his bat if he can just make the necessary contact for it to play. Maybe even more encouraging is Soler’s own admission of this very fact.

Soler has been working on an approach at the plate specifically to make more contact and let his natural ability take over. This, to me, rings louder than the typical underperforming player comes to camp “in the best shape of his life” storyline we get every spring. The mental aspect of improving approach is is more than just dropping/adding weight and/or muscle. With the suspension of Emilio Bonifacio, the path to playing time is now completely wide open. Finally, this may be the year the raw tools of Soler are molded into tangible results on the field. If the price is right, he’s worth the flyer this year.

Keaton’s Artist Selection

 

Keaton’s Bonus Artist Selection

MC Solaar – Solaar Pleure: For those who are not into french hip-hop and didn’t get the reference from above, Solaar Pleure translates to Solaar Cries, which was fitting for Soler’s 2017 season and is also the name of a pretty good song.

AUTHORS’ PLUGS!

Follow us on Twitter for baseball, jokes, Keaton’s trolling, and other very cool opinions!

Adam Lawler: @thestatcastera
Keaton O. DeRocher: @TheSpokenKeats
Patrick Magnus: @TheGreenMagnus

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Previously Covered Teams

The Author

Patrick Magnus

Patrick Magnus

Baseball Dad, husband, TDG podcast talking head, educator, Vermonter, Shenzhener, and completely baseball obsessed.
Living, working, and writing in Shenzhen, China. Hear my thoughts on the TDG Podcast, and follow me on Twitter @TheGreenMagnus

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