“Reporter Jottings”: Bubic to Get TJ; Fermin Called Up; Bounce-Back Road Trip?

The Royals begin a 10-game road trip which begins with a three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels and ends with a four-game series in Minnesota against the Twins (there is a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks sandwiched in between there).

Honestly, this road trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

Not only are the Royals 4-15 for the season thus far, but they are 1-12 at Kauffman Stadium this season. It’s incredible that I’ve been in attendance for the Royals’ lone win at the K this year, which came against the Blue Jays when Jose Berrios was on the mound for Toronto.

Even though this has been a rough week for the Royals, there has been some interesting Royals-related news, in both bad and encouraging ways. Let’s look at what those stories are in this edition of the “Reporter Jottings.”

Kris Bubic is to Miss the Rest of 2023 Due to Tommy John

Bubic has been one of the Royals’ starting pitching revelations this year, as evidenced by two solid starts against Toronto and San Francisco in which he combined to strike out 13 and only walk one in 11 innings of work.

Unfortunately, things went south for Bubic in his third start of the year against the Braves at Kauffman Stadium.

According to Statcast data, Bubic give up 10 hits and five runs in five innings of work and saw some significant decline in his pitch velocity across the board. In addition, the former Stanford product complained of forearm tightness in his postgame interview.

A few days later, it turned out that the tightness in his arm hinted that Bubic needed reconstruction in his left arm. As a result, Bubic is scheduled to get Tommy John surgery, which will put him out of pitching for 12-14 months.

The Royals pitching staff is thin as it is, especially with Daniel Lynch already on the IL to begin the season.

Zack Greinke and Jordan Lyles have proven they can eat innings, and Brad Keller has shown improvements when hitters are chasing his breaking stuff (which wasn’t the case in his last outing; it’ll be interesting to see if the lack of chases continues in his next start). On the other hand, Brady Singer has struggled to begin the season, and one has to wonder if 2022 was just a fluke, or if it’s just a bad start to begin the 2023 season.

Nonetheless, while the Royal wasn’t “depending” on Bubic by any means (any team rarely “relies” on their fifth starter), losing him so early in the year is such a huge blow.

Lynch, who was an early candidate to win a starting pitcher position prior to his injury, is already out. Furthermore, the Royals haven’t seen a whole lot of positive results from arms in Omaha, as Jon Heasley, Max Castillo, and Jackson Kowar, all pitchers who saw time at the MLB level in 2022, have gotten off to slow starts out of the game in Triple-A.

For now, the Royals opted to go with a Taylor Clarke “Opener” and Ryan Yarbrough “piggyback” option and that was on full display on Friday night against the Angels at Angels Stadium, highlighted by Clarke striking out international superstar Shohei Ohtani.

With Bubic receiving Tommy John, it would not be surprising to see Bubic moved to the 60-Day IL as a result.

And if that should be the case, it should only be a matter of time before Lynch returns to the rotation, or Heasley, Castillo, or Kowar get another shot, which won’t result in any kind of demotion, with Bubic moving to the long-term injured list for 2023.

Fermin Called Up with Reyes on Paternity Leave

The Royals made a roster move today, calling up catcher Freddy Fermin with Franmil Reyes welcoming a new member to his family on Friday:

This is the second time this season that a Royals player went on paternity leave, as Kyle Isbel went on leave in this area not too long ago. It wasn’t a long-term assignment, as Isbel was back by the next series.

I am not sure how long Reyes will be out for the Royals. That said, the promotion of Fermin is intriguing for all kinds of reasons.

First off, Fermin is absolutely mashing in Omaha to start off the year. He is hitting .293 with three home runs and a wRC+ of 149, according to Fangraphs. He is also producing some 90+ MPH average exit velocity on batted balls so far in Triple-A, and that kind of batted-ball contact skills would be welcome in Kansas City, especially amidst the offense’s struggles to begin the 2023 season.

The interesting part of the Fermin situation is this:

What does this mean for MJ Melendez and his defensive outlook (which I have talked about before on this blog)?

Melendez has been solid in right field to being the year, as he has produced a +1 OAA and 3 percent success rate added so far this year, according to Statcast metrics. Those are solid marks and signs that Melendez is growing in his ability and instincts in the outfield, which can be seen in plays like this one below.

MJ moving to the outfield full-time may be worth starting sooner rather than later. MJ has improved his framing considerably from his rookie season in 2022, according to Statcast Data. That said, it’s obvious that he has a better chance to be a Gold Glove in the outfield than behind the plate as a catcher.

It will be intriguing to see how long Fermin will stay up in Kansas City, especially since Nick Pratto didn’t last long with the Royals while filling for Isbel on paternity leave.

Nonetheless, Royals fans shouldn’t count out Fermin, especially if he can bring some much-needed offenses off the bench for this Royals lineup in the coming weeks.

Can Royals Save Face on this Roadtrip?

The Royals are not in a good position to begin the year, as they are 11 games under .500 and are currently losing 2-0 to the Los Angels, as of the bottom of the 8th inning. The Royals have primarily struggled at home to begin the 2023 season, as the club has lost 12 of their first 13 home games this season.

I am not sure what’s contributing to the Royals’ struggles at the K to begin the 2023 season.

Are the young players simply pressing and trying to do too much, especially among the Royals faithful? Are they perhaps feeling the pressure of being expected to carry this Royals lineup not just for 2023, but beyond this season as well?

Add those two crucial factors with the slow starts of young Royals hitters and some rough batted-ball luck for a variety of different hitters, and it makes sense why the Royals rank as one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, as of April 21st.

Will being away from Kauffman make a difference? Is it too much to ask from the Kansas City hitters to push them to focus on their at-bats and play in the field rather than the enormous expectations they’re shouldering from a restless fanbase at Kauffman Stadium night after night?

I guess Royals fans will see over the next two weeks until they return back to Kansas City and Kauffman Stadium in May.

Photo Credit:  Ed Zurga/Getty Images


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