The Royals got off to a good start against the White Sox at home at Kauffman, as they beat the South Siders 12-5, which was a season-high for Kansas City in terms of runs scored in a game this season.
Their win was highlighted by an eight-run inning off of White Sox ace Dylan Cease and the White Sox bullpen in the bottom of the sixth which saw the Royals bat through the lineup, which made it difficult in my scorebook for the game (though I will certainly undergo that difficulty when it leads to a Royals win).
In this edition of the “Jottings”, I wanted to highlight my discussion with Chrystal O’Keefe of the “Visiting Dugout” podcast which is partnered with South Side Sox, the White Sox’s SB Nation blog. In addition, I look at the Royals’ latest pitching acquisition from the Phillies organization (and who the Royals let go to make that happen), and also analyze a pitcher that the Reds designated for assignment today who could add some intriguing depth to this Royals bullpen.
Without further delay, let’s move on to these Royals-related “Jottings”.
Talking Royals-White Sox Outlooks on “Visiting Dugout”
I was approached by a fellow Pitcher List colleague Chrystal about appearing on the “Visiting Dugout” podcast about a month ago and I was eager to do so, mainly because I enjoy the banter between another White Sox fan. I don’t know what it is. Over the past couple of years, I would say that I have connected with the White Sox fanbase more than any other one in the “baseball content creator” world.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes, especially since the relationship between the White Sox and Royals hasn’t always been an “affable” one (as I have written about in the past in one of my first posts for this site).
In this podcast, Chrystal and I not only talk about the Royals-White Sox series at the K, but also how the season has gone for the Royals, my perspective on Andrew Benintendi, and what the outlook could be for both the Royals and White Sox in the American League Central this season.
You can check out the podcast information in the Tweet below:
Check out the great work that Chrystal is doing with the “Visiting Dugout” podcast, and don’t be shy to check out South Side Sox, which produces a lot of great writing and podcasts pertinent to the White Sox. I know that may not sound “enticing” to Royals fans, especially those still holding bad blood with Tim Anderson regarding his beef with Brad Keller back in 2019.
That said, it’s always good for Royals fans to understand how “other” baseball fans are doing in order to keep “perspective” (constantly comparing the Royals to the NFL Chiefs is a fruitless and pointless endeavor).
Safe to say, White Sox and Royals fans have a lot more in common than Kansas City fans may like to think, especially at this point in the season as both teams are struggling under new managers.
Royals Acquire McArthur From the Phillies; Designate Reyes For Assignment
In a surprising move on Monday before the Royals’ opening contest of the four-game series against the White Sox, the Royals announced that they made a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The move is not a surprising one considering the Royals’ lack of quality pitching depth currently at both the Major League level and in Triple-A Omaha.
Not only is Kris Bubic out for the remainder of the season, but Ryan Yarbrough is on the shelf after taking a 106 MPH line drive off the face in Sunday’s contest against the Oakland Athletics. The line drive not only took Yarbrough out of the game immediately but also put him in the hospital and IL.
Thankfully, Yarbrough seems to be recovering well as he did not need surgery and will be entering concussion protocol.
Max Castillo was called up to Kansas City as a response to the Yarbrough injury, and he performed well in 2.2 innings of mop-up duty against the White Sox on Monday night. That being said, the Royals are in need of arms from Omaha that can provide length in the middle innings, especially if the starting pitching doesn’t improve anytime soon.
In the trade, the Royals receive McArthur from the Phillies, who was pitching in Triple-A with the Leigh Valley IronPigs primarily this season.
A 12th-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft out of the University of Mississippi, McArthur’s ERA this season in Triple-A doesn’t look hot at 7.31 in five appearances (four starts) and 16.1 IP. However, he is producing a 2.14 K/BB ratio and a GB/FB ratio of 1.11 (highlighted by a 42.9 percent GB rate).
In many ways, McArthur fits that “Guardians” mold: He doesn’t have impressive stuff, but he throws strikes and can keep the ball on the ground. He also sports decent strikeout numbers as well, as he is sporting a K percentage of 20 percent this season, and had a 25 percent K rate last season in Double-A Reading.
Here are some highlights of his pitching in Reading a season ago, and notice that he shows a decent fastball and curveball, which could make him useful in a long relief role at the Major League level either this season or in 2024.
And here are some highlights of McArthur pitching in Minor League Spring Training for the Phillies a season ago, when his prospect stock was a whole lot higher.
McArthur will start in Triple-A Omaha, which makes sense considering the Storm Chasers’ pitching issues at that level this season (no one beyond Austin Cox or Nick Wittgren has done well). If he does well, he could see some time in KC in a month or two, especially since he was added to the 40-man roster.
In exchange for McArthur, the Royals directly lost Junior Marin, a 19-year-old corner outfielder from Venezuela, who’s been a Top-50 Royals prospect or fringe Top-30 one, depending on which resource one uses.
Marin had a solid season in 2021 as he hit .380 in 111 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League. He followed that solid foreign rookie league campaign with a .315 batting average in 103 plate appearances in the Arizona Complex League.
Here’s a look at Marin getting some at-bats in Arizona last season.
The batting average from both campaigns looks nice, but Marin carries a considerable amount of risk as a prospect, even for a 19-year-old.
His power declined significantly last season, as he only posted a slugging percentage of .413 after a .696 mark in the DSL (even though the ACL is more hitter-friendly). Furthermore, his strikeouts jumped from 19 to 31 in eight fewer plate appearances in Arizona (and likewise, his walks dropped from 16 to 9 over the same sample).
Considering those red flags, and a body that won’t age well (unless something changes dramatically with his weight or diet plan), it makes sense why the Royals were willing to part with Marin, despite his gaudy numbers in the foreign and domestic rookie leagues the past two seasons.
Marin wasn’t the only move the Royals made to clear space on the 40-man roster. The Royals also parted ways with Franmil Reyes, who was posting a wRC+ of 36 in 65 plate appearances with the Royals before being demoted to Triple-A Omaha last week.
At the time, I liked the Reyes signing, as I thought he was a low-cost, high-reward kind of player who could provide some nice pop in the lineup if he could return to his 2021 form. Unfortunately, Reyes racked up the K’s once again at dramatic rates for a second-straight season, as he was striking out 36.9 percent of the time this year in Kansas City.
Considering the Royals’ “free-swinging” issues in the current lineup, and his defensive limitations, it made sense for the Royals to part ways, especially with Nick Pratto picking up the slack in the middle of the order where Reyes was hitting previously.
Pratto is currently hitting .357 entering Tuesday night’s game, and he has shown a much more refined approach since his rookie season in 2022.
Reyes wasn’t a bad move at the time. He only cost the Royals a modicum of money, since he was a Minor League invite in Spring Training.
Thankfully though, JJ Picollo didn’t waste any time and moved on from Reyes sooner rather than later.
Reds DFA Pitcher Luis Cessa; Could He Boost Royals Bullpen?
The Cincinnati Reds, also in the rebuilding process like the Royals, made an interesting move today as they DFA’d pitcher Luis Cessa to make room for fellow pitcher Ben Lively from Triple-A Louisville.
Cessa was a former heralded pitching prospect in a Yankees system known for developing pitching depth in their farm system. In 2021 with the Yankees and Reds, he posted a 2.51 ERA, 2.84 K/BB ratio, and 0.9 fWAR in 64.1 IP with the Reds and Yankees combined (he was traded to the Reds midseason).
The Yankees and Reds primarily utilized the Mexican-born pitcher as a reliever in 2021, but starting in 2022, the Reds started to transition Cessa to more of a “spot starter role”.
He made 10 starts in 2022 (46 appearances overall) and six starts this season. Unfortunately, results did not follow in the new role, as he posted a 4.57 ERA last season and a 9.00 ERA in 26 innings of work before being designated for assignment by the Reds.
It’s a long shot that the Royals to sign Cessa, especially since he is owed $2.65 million if the Royals claim him. However, if he clears waivers, is fully released, and if the Royals are able to sign him perhaps on a Minor League deal with the opportunity to join the MLB roster later in the year? Well, Picollo and the Royals front office would certainly welcome that, especially since Cessa has a career K/BB ratio of 2.35 and a career GB rate of 46.3 percent.
Soren Petro said it best when it came to the Royals’ process of trying to be more like the “Tampa Bay Rays” as an organization under Picollo:
Acquiring Cessa would feel like a “Rays-like” move, especially if Brian Sweeney and the pitching coaches can help him recapture that magic from 2021 (though a lot would have to do with improving his fastball velocity, which is way down in 2023, according to Savant).
Furthermore, it would be a move that could possibly boost their bullpen/pitching staff at the Major League level in the short-term. That is much needed for this year as top pitching prospects in the lower levels continue to develop in 2023 (with the hope that they are ready at some point in 2024).
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