The Royals announced this afternoon they’ve signed right-hander Daniel Mengden to a minor league contract. He’s the second veteran hurler to join the organization on a non-roster deal in as many days, as they also added former Astros and Red Sox righty Brad Peacock.
Mengden has spent parts of five seasons in the majors, with the entirety of that time coming in an A’s uniform. The Texas A&M product broke into the big leagues in 2016, starting fourteen games down the stretch. He was tagged for a 6.50 ERA as a rookie, but Mengden found more success keeping runs off the board over the following seasons. He combined for 218 1/3 innings of 4.08 ERA ball over 42 outings (including 33 starts) from 2017-19.
Despite that run of decent results, Mengden annually posted below-average strikeout and ground-ball rates. He excelled at avoiding walks between 2017-18 but saw the free passes spike to a 10.4% mark over 59 2/3 frames in 2019. Mengden’s ERA sat at 4.83 that season, which has marked his last real look at the big league level. He worked just 12 1/3 innings over four outings in the shortened 2020 campaign before Oakland outrighted him off their 40-man roster that September.
Mengden elected minor league free agency and signed with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization last offseason. He proved a solid pickup, tossing 120 frames of 3.60 ERA ball with a 20.7% strikeout rate and a 7% walk percentage for the Gwangju-based club. The 29-year-old returns to affiliated ball in hopes of pitching his way back to the bigs with a Kansas City team that has a fair amount of talented young starters but not a whole lot of rotation certainty.
A .350 opponents’ batting average on balls in play was a big culprit behind Brady Singer posting a 4.91 ERA last season, but estimators (4.04 FIP, 4.30 SIERA) were more favorable. Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic are former top prospects, but both struggled in 2021. That was also the case for veterans Brad Keller and (to a lesser extent) Mike Minor, although both seem likely to get season-opening rotation roles based on their career resumes. Hard-throwing righty Carlos Hernández and another former top prospect, Jackson Kowar, also started games last season, while Angel Zerpa made his big league debut during the final week of the year. Kansas City no doubt plans to get most of those hurlers continued work, although the lack of big league track record for the majority of those arms could give Mengden a chance to pitch his way onto the big league roster with a solid Spring Training and/or start at Triple-A Omaha.