Just wanted to write quick “Jottings” post tonight, with a focus on the Royals’ pitching, which has been a sore spot as of late.
On Tuesday though, the Royals got promising pitching performances in Omaha and Kansas City from Daniel Lynch and Mike Mayers, respectively. Furthermore, in the wake of the Hunter Dozier DFA, the Royals added a veteran reliever to the 40-man who could add some much-needed depth in the bullpen.
Daniel Lynch Has Best Rehab Start of the Year
It’s been a long road back for Lynch after he suffered a shoulder strain in Spring Training that put him on the 15-day IL to begin the 2023 season.
Over the past few weeks, Lynch has made his way through a rehab assignment that included stops in extended Spring Training in Surprise, Northwest Arkansas and Omaha. The hope from the Royals is that Lynch can not just be fully healthy, but build enough confidence in the Minors during this stint to give this group a much-needed boost when he rejoins the Royals rotation.
On Tuesday, against the St. Paul Saints in Minnesota, Lynch had the best start of his rehab campaign in the Minor Leagues this season.
After struggling with fastball velocity and spin and pitch efficiency in previous outings in Omaha, Lynch put it all together in six innings of shutout ball in St. Paul on Tuesday afternoon.
Heres’ a look at Lynch’s exit velocity allowed and strikes generated data from Tuesday’s start, via Baseball Savant:
As Royals fans can see, Lynhc produced a 43 percent CSW rate, highlighted by a 57 percent CSW on his changeup, 78 percent CSW on his knuckle curve, and 31 CSW rate on his slider. His four-seamer wasn’t that impressive with a 24 percent CSW rate, but it appeared that his other four pitches were able to work well off his four-seamer all night, as evidenced by his high CSW rate on his secondary pitches.
On a pitch velocity and spin rate end, Lynch also showed some positive progress, highlighted by an uptick in spin rate on all of the five pitches he threw on Tuesday against the Saints, which can be seen in the table below.
The velocity still needs a little work, as I’m not sure 93.2 MPH with limited spin will fare well against MLB hitters long-term.
However, the increase in spin is a positive sign that Lynch is making the necessary adjustments to prepare himself for his eventual callup to the Kansas City pitching staff in the next week or so.
Mike Mayers Makes Sensational Royals Debut Start
According to Baseball Savant, Mayers has only started in six of the 199 games he’s appeared in at the Major League level, prior to Tuesday’s outing. While he was primarily used a starter in Triple-A Omaha this year (eight starts; 34 IP with the Storm Chasers), he wasn’t finding a whole lot of success, as evidenced by his 6.88 ERA and 1.68 WHIP.
That said, the Royals were in a crunch on Tuesday, with Lynch needing at least one more rehab start, and Max Castillo already tapped out after going 4.2 innings against the White Sox on Sunday. Therefore, Matt Quatraro opted to go with Mayers to make the start, which was announced on Tuesday morning.
The decision proved to be a wise one, as Mayers absolutely dealt against Detroit in 4.2 innings of work against the Tigers.
It wasn’t just the fact that Mayers only allowed one walk and one run in nearly five innings of work on the mound on Tuesday evening at Kauffman Stadium. Rather, it was how dominating he was against the Tigers lineup, especially on a CSW end.
Mayers generated a whiff rate of 38 percent and a CSW rate of 37 percent on 84 pitches in his first Royals start of the 2023 season. Not only did he do that, but he also produced a sterling performance while throwing six different pitches, all with a usage rate over 10 percent.
That is a stark contrast to what Royals fans saw on Monday from Brady Singer, who only threw three pitches primarily in Monday’s loss, and has struggled to throw his third pitch with any kind of consistency this season.
I am not sure how long Quatraro and JJ Picollo will ride with Mayers in the rotation this season. Lynch is bound to return soon, and Anthony Veneziano was just recently promoted to Triple-A Omaha (with Noah Cameron promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas consequently as well).
From the outside, it seems like Mayers is likely just a temporary stopgap in the Kansas City rotation until Lynch is fully healthy and Veneziano gets enough innings against Triple-A hitting.
After all, Mayers is coming off a 2022 season in which he posted a 5.68 ERA in 24 appearances and 50.2 IP with the Angels. Furthermore, he didn’t have much free agent interest this offseason, which is why the Royals were able to sign him on a Minor League deal prior to Spring Training.
Nonetheless, Mayers gave the Royals what they needed on Tuesday and he deserves another start or two to prove that Tuesday’s outing against the Tigers was no fluke.
And if it is, well the Royals can option/DFA him no porblem. It wasn’t as if the Royals were going to depend on him in 2023 anyways.
Royals Add Wittgren to the 40-man Roster
With the pitching staff needing fresh arms, the Royals added journeyman reliever Nick Wittgren to the 40-man roster after optioning Castillo to Triple-A Omaha.
Wittgren has been one of the Storm Chasers’ best relievers this year, as evidenced by his 1.25 ERA, 2.79 FIP, and 3.17 K/BB ratio in 21.2 IP. He also has collected five saves this year, which leads all Omaha relievers, as of Tuesday.
A benefit in Wittgren’s favor is that he is familiar with this Royals coaching staff, as he was in Cleveland when Brian Sweeney was coaching there as an assistant. Wittgren is coming off a rough 2022 campaign in St. Louis, as he posted a 5.90 ERA in 29 innings pitched with the Cardinals before eventually getting released.
However, he he did post a 3.42 ERA in 2020 and a 2.89 ERA in 2019 in Cleveland as one of their highly-utilized setup men. So, Royals fans have to wonder if Sweeney and the Royals coaching staff can tap into what made Wittgren so successful during those two seasons.
I’m guessing Wittgren will replace Jose Cuas’ spot in the bullpen, with Cuas likely getting optioned when Lynch is ready to return from his rehab stint.
In order to be successful in Kansas City, Wittgren will have to limit the walks, something Cuas has done thus far with the Royals (3.71 K/BB ratio), and limit the long ball, something Cuas HAS NOT done (2.21 HR/9), according to Fangraphs.
If Wittgren can do those two things out of the bullpen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wittgren be a middle-innings staple for the Royals over the next couple of months (with the hope that he can perhaps be traded by the July Trade Deadline for a prospect or two).
Photo Credit: Joe Puetz/Getty Images
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