As is the case with anyone in education, these past two couple of weeks at school have been an absolute challenge. Thus, it’s been difficult for me to even get on Twitter, let alone sit down and write a post for either Pitcher List or this blog.
With the long weekend coming up, I hope to get a few posts in, and maybe next week, I will get a little more time in the evening to write (and still have the energy to do so as well). But who knows. With how things are going with COVID, it may not be until February when I get more free time to write more than a post or two a week, at best.
Then again, baseball is firmly entrenched in a lockout, so I’m not really missing out on much I guess for now. After today’s meetings, it doesn’t seem like the lockout will be ending anytime soon:
But hey, let’s take a look at some Royals-related stories this week, which has been a slight positive in otherwise a dreary and tough week for baseball fans and people in general (especially here in Kansas City).
Royals sign reliever Arodys Vizcaino to a Minor League deal
No Major League team (including the Royals) can sign any Major League free agents due to the lockout. However, Minor League free agents are still free game, and Dayton Moore and the Royals front office today were able to sign a reliever who could possibly be a boost to the Royals bullpen in 2022, if healthy:
Arm and shoulder issues have limited Vizcaino to four innings at the Major League level since the 2019 season, but he presents an interesting profile, if healthy.
The Dominican-born pitcher possesses a fastball that clocks in the upper 90’s, as he averaged 97.6 MPH on his fastball in 2018 with the Braves in his last, full healthy season. Furthermore, in 2018, he seemed to be on the cusp of being Atlanta’s closer for the long-term future, as he saved 16 games and posted a 2.11 ERA in 39 games and 38.1 IP. He also generated a K rate of 25.3 percent and a K to BB rate of 15.8 percent that season, both solid numbers for a 28-year-old reliever at the time.
His stuff also looks impressive on tape, especially from that 16-save campaign. In the clip below, Vizcaino is able to get the Phillies’ Scott Kingery to whiff on a 96-mph sinker fastball back in September of 2018:
That being said, Vizcaino is far from a sure thing for 2022.
He hasn’t pitched at the Major League level since 2019, and he only pitched in four games in the Met’s Triple-A organization last year as he recovered from shoulder surgery. There probably wasn’t a huge demand for his services, especially after missing so much time due to injury, which explains why the Royals were able to sign him on a cheap, non-guaranteed Minor League deal.
On the other hand, the Royals have found success with bullpen reclamation projects in the Dayton Moore era, especially within the past few years. The Royals found success with Scott Barlow since 2019, who pretty much was a castoff from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization and ended up being the Royals’ best pitcher overall last year:
Additionally, Domingo Tapia was a resounding surprise for the Royals bullpen a season ago and did so as a 30-year-old without much of a track record of success at the Major League level prior to 2021.
Thus, it isn’t crazy to think that the Royals see something special in Vizcaino, and believe he could be another “Kansas City bullpen success story” in 2022. He has the potential to throw hard and strike out batters, and the Royals have had success channeling relievers who can do those two things the past couple of seasons, even if they may have some other glaring issues (i.e. control, command, giving up too many hits, etc).
Of course, we have seen Minor League contract guys fizzle out in Spring Training as well. Former Orioles setup man Brad Brach was brought to Spring Training a year ago, and he failed to make the Royals roster by the conclusion of Cactus League play. Vizcaino could follow that route, especially if he’s not fully healthy or unable to channel his stuff or command from the 2018 season.
Nonetheless, this acquisition isn’t a bad risk by Moore and Vizcaino should get a decent chance to prove he belongs in the Royals bullpen this Spring. If the Royals can get a “healthy” Vizcaino in 2022, they could have a middle-innings reliever who could not only eat innings for the Royals but do so on the cheap as well, not necessarily the worst thing considering baseball’s current financial landscape.
Fangraphs releases Royals’ 2022 ZiPS projections
Dan Szymborski is releasing his annual ZiPS projections on Fangraphs this month, and this week he unveiled his Royals projections for the upcoming season:
It’s an interesting graphic for sure. It seems like ZiPS is incredibly high on Bobby Witt, Jr., as they project him to have one of the highest fWAR totals of any Royals player position in 2022 (and that includes Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Andrew Benintendi, and Salvador Perez). That just goes to show how solid Witt’s Minor League campaign was in 2021, and how much potential he not only has for next season but long-term in Kansas City as well.
Now, do I think Witt will be that kind of play in his rookie year? Probably not, but I think the star potential is legitimate, even if he most likely will have his ups and downs in his MLB debut.
The pitching projections (especially starting pitching ones) may have been surprising to some Royals fans, as Mike Minor and Brad Keller were projected to have 2.0 fWAR seasons and Brady Singer was projected to have a 2.1 fWAR campaign.
In all honesty, Minor’s projection should not be seen as a surprise, as fWAR favors pitchers who can eat innings, limit walks, and generate a decent amount of strikeouts. Minor does all those three things well, and that showed in his 2.3 fWAR in 2021. It makes sense that ZiPS would project him to be the same kind of pitcher on that end, and that “better than one thinks” fWAR could make him an enticing trade target for other teams, even if those talks may not happen until after the season begins, due to the lockout.
Singer I think is due for a big year, and if he can make some slight adjustments in pitch usage, I think he could surpass that ZiPS projection next season. Keller is a bit of a bigger surprise, as I believe his line last year was more indicative of his skills as a pitcher at the Major League level. That being said, I do believe we will see Keller eat some more innings this year, which in turn will increase his value, even if it may not be much better than what he produced in 2021.
The most intriguing Royals projection to watch for this upcoming season will be Lopez, who had a career year in 2021. ZiPS projects him to be a 2.4 fWAR, which seems pretty optimistic considering how BABIP-fueled his breakout campaign was a season ago. I will probably do a deeper dive into Lopez (and other Royals’ ZiPS projections) in a separate post, but I just wanted to point out Lopez, as I didn’t expect his fWAR projection to be that high in this initial unveiling.
Kauffman becomes COVID testing site
COVID has ravaged Kansas City, much like most cities across the country. Schools are shutting down due to staff and students being affected; events are being canceled out of fear of spread; and it feels like things are as bad, if not worse, than a year ago, when the spread seemed out of control in the pre-vaccine COVID era. Yes, vaccines continue to be the best defense, but COVID has affected everyone in some way, regardless of vaccination status.
Thankfully, the Royals and the Truman Sports Complex stepped up big, as this week they opened up the Kauffman Stadium parking lot for COVID testing, much needed at a time when so many clinics in Kansas City are unable to accommodate the large demand for testing:
As a Royals fan and human being in general, it has been rough to see COVID not only ravage this nation in a variety of ways but also baseball receive a black eye due to the constant strife between owners and players during this lockout.
Thankfully, the Royals were able to get into the news for doing something positive during this “lockout” period. Hopefully, this action will help at least make a dent in the COVID issues that are currently affecting so many people in the Kansas City Metro.
We all want this virus to end, especially by Opening Day in April…
Maybe this is a small step toward that reality.
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports