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The Royals' 2011 Rotation

Zack Greinke may not be happy with the Royals' direction, but he's probably going to anchor their rotation next year. The Royals will surround him with a combination of familiar major league arms and, potentially, unproven minor league pitching prospects.

First, the familiar major leaguers. Gil Meche is rehabbing as a reliever now and though he makes $12MM next year and has a history as a reliable starter he can't be expected to return to the rotation. He will pitch out of the bullpen to avoid surgery, so unless he comes to spring training feeling stronger than expected, he'll be in the 'pen. Luke Hochevar is also on the DL, but showed promise (6.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9) before an elbow strain sidelined him. Hochevar should join Greinke in the Royals' 2011 rotation.

After those three pitchers, there's much uncertainty. Bruce Chen has provided the Royals with serviceable innings as a swingman this year. They could bring him back in a similar capacity for 2011, but Chen doesn't change the Royals' long term plans.

Kyle Davies and Brian Bannister both go to arbitration for the third time this winter, but won't necessarily be tendered contracts. They have ERAs over 5.00 and will each make over $2MM next year if offered arbitration. Bannister is currently on the DL rehabbing from rotator cuff tendinitis and a strong September would go a long way toward preventing a non-tender.

Recent acquisition Sean O'Sullivan and former first-rounders Bryan Bullington and Philip Humber have all started games for the Royals this year, with varying degrees of success. Humber has looked good in 10.2 major league innings this year and he struck out four times as many batters as he walked at Triple A (though it was his fourth stint at the minors' highest level).

But the Royals' hopes rest in the minor leagues. They have standout position players - Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer in particular - and a group of exciting young arms. At this point, however, the Royals' pitching prospects don't seem likely to contribute much to the 2011 rotation.

Aaron Crow, Tim Melville and John Lamb are promising, but probably need more seasoning. Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer have each handled AA batters well, but neither has started more than five games at the level. Top prospect Mike Montgomery made a successful leap to AA this year, but the Royals are still monitoring his innings carefully and it would be unfair to expect him to debut in the majors before late 2011. Edgar Osuna isn't the prospect Montgomery is, but he has struck out three times as many hitters as he has walked in the upper minors and posted a season ERA of 4.17.

At this point, it appears that Greinke and Hochevar will figure prominently into the rotation while the organization's best prospects develop in the minor leagues. The Royals will likely look for some stabilizing inning eaters, whether that means bringing back some combination of Chen, Davies and Bannister, or signing a free agent.

 








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