TDG’s Triple Play: Kansas City Royals!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Brady Singer, Age: 24, Position: SP
Analysis by: Paul Monte
And I’m free, free fallin’
It was just three years ago that most mock drafts had Brady Singer off the board as the second pitcher behind Auburn standout Casey Mize. There was a point before the draft where some even thought he would be drafted first overall. It had to be a shock for Singer as the draft unfolded and he dropped to 18th and the Kansas City Royals. There were 5 High school pitchers, another college arm, and an NFL quarterback drafted before he saw his name called.
Most loved the pick by the Royals as they drafted a pitcher who came from a college baseball powerhouse who was going to be ready to make his debut in the big leagues rather quickly. Fantasy analysts did not have the same view on Singer that the draft analysts shared as he was primarily a fastball/slider pitcher and there was a concern of a future in the bullpen. Those who thought that Singer’s minor league career would be short-lived were correct. He started 2019 in High-A and moved up to Double-A after just 10 games. Double-A was a bit stiffer competition, but he was able to hold his own as he hurled a combined 148.1 innings with 138 strikeouts and 39 walks with an ERA under 3.
I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
2020 was delayed but when it did start in late July it started with the rookie in the starting rotation. He debuted in the second game of the season by beating the Indians and striking out seven in five innings. The Royals kept a tight leash on him and he did not pitch six innings until mid-September when he again beat Cleveland by striking out eight and giving up one hit in eight shutout innings. All in, 2020 was a big success as he finished the year a 4.06 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 64.1 innings. The debut was not enough to push him that far up the 2021 NFBC ADP (93rd pitcher taken) but his dynasty value did take a nice jump. He debuted at 127 in the Dynasty Guru Starting Pitcher rankings in 2019, moved up five spots to 122 in 2020, and moved up 32 spots to 90th in the 2021 version of the rankings. The jump was based on his 2020 performance, proving that he could pitch in the big leagues, but it would still require improvement to his change-up to give him a viable third pitch. He threw it just 4.7% of the time in 2020 and has used it less in 2021 so far at just 4%. He has increased his sinker while cutting back on the slider and the results improved. The increase in sinkers has helped him cut down on the home runs allowed and lower his ERA while improving his K/9 which is over 9 for the first time in his professional career at 9.31, but his groundball rate has dropped to under 50%.
Don’t do me like that
The lack of progression in the change-up means that the projection still tops out as a middle of the rotation arm. Yes, it would be nice for your first-round pick to turn into an ace, but there is plenty of value in a mid-rotation arm that won’t tank your ratios. He has given up 5 runs twice in his 21 career starts and has managed to go 6-8 on a rebuilding team. This type of profile is the basis of a solid fantasy pitching rotation and at just 24-years-old with no major injury history. These guys are often overlooked for the arm with higher upside and much more risk. If you fill your rotation with those types of pitchers it will be boom or bust, most likely the latter.
Andrew Benintendi, Age: 26, Position: OF
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
ANDY WENT TO PIECES
Imagine how ridiculous the idea of Benintendi opening the 2021 season as a member of the Royals would have sounded two years ago. He was a 24-year-old on the cusp of superstardom for the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. They would never let him get away, nor would dynasty managers who had already enjoyed two years of solid five-category production. Surely the best was yet to come for Benny.
But a disappointing 2019, followed by a brief but disastrous 2020, led to his unceremonious exile to Kansas City. Greatness no longer seems imminent, but is there hope for a revival?
Benintendi does not pack huge power, despite the nickname “Benny Biceps”. He’s just 5’9 and 180 pounds. His best-ever exit velocity of 109.5 MPH and his career average mark of 88.4 are both rather ordinary for an MLB hitter. His 20 home runs in 2017 were promising, but he’s been moving in the wrong direction ever since. Through the first quarter of 2021, he has just three homers and a lousy .090 isolated power.
Kansas City is a worse fantasy situation than Boston in terms of both park and lineup, but one upside of the move is that the Royals like stealing bases. They’re currently second in the league in swipes despite the absence of perhaps the best base thief in the game, Adalberto Mondesi. Benintendi already has six this season, putting him on course to get back to the 20-steal days of his early career. Great news, right?
Not so fast. As in, Benintendi’s not so fast anymore. His sprint speed of 27.5 is down about a foot per second from his best running days. He’s been caught stealing on four of his 10 attempts, and if he doesn’t improve his success rate he may not get the green light much longer.
HOW DOES YOUR GORDON GROW?
Benintendi replaced long-time lineup fixture Alex Gordon as the Royals’ left fielder. Gordon spent his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, earning eight gold gloves and helping the team win a World Series. Benintendi has many of the same skills, and Royals fans would love a Gordon clone.
Fantasy managers might be less enthused by this comparison. Gordon was better in real baseball than roto, with his value coming from defense and on-base percentage rather than gaudy counting statistics. I see similar things in Benintendi’s future. He should produce home run and steal totals in the teens with a helpful average and OBP. That’s still a pretty useful fantasy player, just not the star it seemed he might become.
Asa Lacy, Age: 21, Position: SP, Level: High-A
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
For those that noticed my Twitter handle above (@SABRtoothTigers), you may have deduced that I am a Detroit Tigers fan. While my loyalty has not been rewarded with a winning ballclub lately, I have had the excitement of welcoming very high draft picks into the organization, including the number 1 overall pick in 2020 Spencer Torkelson. As exciting of a hitter as he is, he was not my preference for that selection. In my opinion, the best player in the draft last year was college pitcher Asa Lacy. Lefty starters with 4 plus pitches might come with more risk than a mashing corner infielder, but also usually come with a higher ceiling.
Lacy has a fastball with above average velocity and movement. He has a slider with above average velocity and movement. He has a curveball with above average velocity and movement. He has a changeup that many scouts thought was his best secondary offering as an amateur. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a really good repertoire. But I will! This is really good!
With his high three-quarters arm slot coming slightly across his body, his delivery is very similar to another lefty with great stuff: Robbie Ray. Depending on what season you’re looking at, that could be a pretty favorable comparison. Ray’s vice will be Lacy’s developmental focus: control. Ray changed his delivery last season to try and improve his command with horrible results. He has reverted back to his classic delivery this year and is so far turning in the best performance of his career. This is the blueprint for Lacy: trust your stuff. There’s a difference between “honing” and “tinkering.” He has already cleaned up his delivery some by minimizing his head movement, and he should be able to keep moving in the right direction with a Royals organization that has done a good job with its pitchers recently.
Aggie Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number
Just a couple of days away from his 22nd birthday, Lacy is one of the older prospects in the High-A league he’s been assigned to from the start of his first minor league season out of Texas A&M. Kansas City GM Dayton Moore has said right from the start of Spring Training this year that they would ease their new pitcher into regular work, and that has been the case so far. In 3 starts, he has only completed 9 innings. Part of that has been according to plan, but part of that has also been the on field performance. In those 9 innings, he has racked up a whopping 15 strikeouts, but also issues 13 walks.
It would appear that Ray may be a good comp beyond just their deliveries. Lacy has superior raw talent to Ray as a prospect. MLB Pipeline rates him with 50 grade command (above average) to go along with that pitch mix. If he can achieve that level, or even exceed it, we could be looking at a potential ace in the big leagues by the end of next year. If he can’t corral his occasional wildness, Lacy still has a floor of a high strikeout pitcher who might hurt your ratios. With pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium as the home park that he will graduate into, Asa Lacy is a good bet to make.
PREVIOUSLY COVERED TEAMS
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