Royals manager Matt Quatraro provided some updates about the club’s players to Anne Rogers of MLB.com (X links). Right-hander Carlos Hernández will be shut down for a while due to shoulder soreness while left-handed pitching prospect Christian Chamberlain has a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Last week, it was reported that Hernández had been slowed by the shoulder issue but that the club was still hopeful of him getting six or seven Spring Training appearances before being ready for Opening Day. But per today’s updates, he did not respond well to his recent bullpen and required a cortisone injection. He’ll now be shut down for an undetermined amount of time that the Royals are hoping will be short.
Hernández, 27 next month, seemed to be in the middle of a breakout last year but faded down the stretch. Steve Adams of MLBTR profiled him in mid-July when Hernandez had a 3.86 earned run average, 28.5% strikeout rate and 7% walk rate for the year. But Hernández also had significantly dropped his curveball usage after a couple of rough outings to start the year and saw noticeable improvements. From mid-April to mid-July, he had a 3.12 ERA, 31% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to finish strong. From the start of August through the end of the season, he allowed 20 earned runs in 17 innings pitched, walking more batters than he struck out. That caused his season-long ERA to finish at an unimpressive 5.27. But his triple-digit fastball velocity and that strong stretch in the middle of last year made him an intriguing breakout candidate heading into 2024.
The shoulder issue could potentially put a damper on that, depending on how Hernández responds to treatment and ramping back up in a few weeks. The Royals have made a number of moves to alter their bullpen this winter, signing free agents Will Smith and Chris Stratton while also trading for Nick Anderson and John Schreiber. Those new guys, as well as incumbents like James McArthur and John McMillon, should give the Royals some cover if Hernández needs to miss some time.
As for Chamberlain, he’s likely looking at a long absence. Based on the reporting from Rogers, it seems like Tommy John surgery isn’t yet guaranteed but is certainly on the table. Now 24, Chamberlain was drafted by the Royals in 2020. Over the past three years, he has climbed through High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, logging a combined 109 1/3 innings over 81 appearances. He has struck out 31% of batters faced but also given out walks at a 19% clip, leading to a 5.60 ERA.
Last summer, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs listed Chamberlain as the club’s #19 prospect. The lefty would have been in the mix for a 2024 debut since he had already reached Triple-A but that seems unlikely now. If he does require Tommy John surgery, he would miss the entire 2024 season and likely the early portions of 2025 as well.