Royals' bullpen long on talent

By Steve Sell
August 26, 2015

If the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen was a garage, it would contain a Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes.

Kansas City manager Ned Yost has an embarrassment of riches and for much of the year everybody’s role has been well defined.

But as the dog days of summer are taking their toll physically, Yost is starting to realize that when the playoffs roll around, he may have to go with the hot hand.

The “H-D-H” formula was the norm during the first half of the season, but Yost has strayed from it in recent days. Before, Kelvin Herrera would work the seventh inning, Wade Davis the eighth and Greg Holland was the closer.

But Holland has struggled with injuries and now there are whispers of a sore or tired arm given the loss of velocity. He’s hardly been Mr. Automatic this year, unlike last year when he converted all but two saves. He’s 28 out of 32 this year, but has worked very few clean innings and often has walked the tightrope, only to escape. His ERA is a bloated 3.55 (high by his standards) and he’s walked 23 in 38 innings as he’s had command issues at times. He has a somewhat odd delivery and can easily get out of synch.

Davis, on the other hand, is 12 of 13 in save chances and has walked only 15 in 52 innings while fanning 60. He’s clearly the best option now as he runs it up there at 97 or 98 miles per hour and possesses a crackling curve.

Herrera made the All-Star team this season, but as I have written in the past I found that selection by Yost as somewhat odd as he hasn’t been nearly as dominant as 2014. He’s still got solid numbers, but has at times has allowed inherited runners to score.

I think we need to take a long look at “H-D-H” because I have a feeling this will be the last year we see the trio together. Given the Royals’ payroll situation for next year, they can’t afford to bring everybody back unless David Glass decides to open the checkbook. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Holland dealt, as a closer’s shelf life generally is about that of an NFL player, about four years at the max unless you’re a Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. With so many power arms in baseball, teams can take a failed starter who throws it 97 or 98 and make him a star reliever — Davis is the perfect example.

I believe at some point the Royals may do that with Yordano Ventura as his career advances. Once he develops a consistent curveball, he could be a devastating closer.

The Royals are fortunate in that they’ve got more than “H-D-H.” They’ve squeezed out probably the last good year from Ryan Madson, while Franklin Morales has been an upgrade over the wild Tim Collins, out this year with Tommy John surgery. Luke Hochevar is starting to be used in more high-stress situations after being the odd-man out during the early part of the season as he recovered from Tommy John. He’s another reliever who I believe will be on the move after this year because he’s being paid $5 million to mop up.

About every other team is envious of the Royals’ reservoir of relievers. These things are cyclical, but for now the Royals are in an “up” cycle that should last for years to come.