Kansas City is developing into an exciting team, although their offense looks to be outpacing their starting pitching. Once you get past their ace, the rest of the staff has questions that should be of concern to fantasy owners. We could be surprised, but on paper, things are not looking bright and sunny with regard to the rotation.

Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis

Kansas City Royals

AL Central



Projected Rotation








James Shields







Jeremy Guthrie







Jason Vargas







Bruce Chen







Yordano Ventura








Potential Rotation Alternatives








Danny Duffy







ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.

James Shields was brought in to serve as the ace of the Royals' staff, and he has not disappointed. That being said, losing better than a strikeout per nine innings and an increase in his walk rate, coupled with a drop in his groundball percentage are signs that bear watching. Perhaps throwing all those innings over the past seven seasons is having the effect of tiring out the 32 year old. I still consider him a top 20 starting pitcher, and his peripherals should continue to be usable, but it is worth keeping his trends from 2012 in mind when putting together your fantasy rotation.

Jeremy Guthrie does not strike out a ton of batters, but inducing groundballs helps to keep his ERA from blowing up to a massive degree. He does have a tendency to give up the long ball with a 1.39 HR/9 in 2013 hurting him. He will likely pitch 200+ innings again this season, and keep his team competitive, which can help him post wins in the double digits. He is a late round choice in a deep mixed league, or an AL-only starting pitching option based on scarcity of other options that can go every fifth day.

Another innings eater, Jason Vargas is a pitcher who tosses softly but deceptively. Never a good source for strikeouts, he also only induces grounders at a moderate rate. He will generally post an ERA just a tad north of 4.00, and because of workload, can deliver double digit wins in a normal season. The Royals signed the 31 year old to a 4 year contract this offseason, so they have some faith in his ability to produce, but then again, that is in real baseball, not fantasy. A streaming option at best, he is a pitcher you can leave to other owners without experiencing a ton of regret over missed opportunity.

Bruce Chen was an extremely effective reliever for the Royals in the first half of 2013, and then was moved back to the rotation where he was far less efficient. The Royals have decided to keep him in the rotation, which probably says more about their other starters than Chen's ability to function as a starter. With a mid-80s fastball and decent control, he does not exactly inspire confidence as a fourth starting pitcher, and with the loss of Luke Hochevar for the season, he may find his way back to the bullpen before long.

With an excellent spring performance, Yordano Ventura has been named the fifth starter for the Royals. He has put up a stellar 1.76 ERA and 15:1K/BB ratio in the 15.1 innings he has pitched in Arizona. He has the tools to succeed:  97.5 MPH fastball, moderate groundball inducing tendencies, and a better than strikeout per inning in all of his minor league stops. His stock is rising quickly, and you best keep your eyes open at the latter part of your drafts if you want to grab him for your team.

Danny Duffy lost out to Ventura and Chen, and will not make the back end of the Kansas City rotation to open the season. He is now competing for a chance to join the bullpen, or head back to Triple-A for some more work as a starter. He has been awful this spring, but could turn things around in middle relief as he continues to come back from his 2012 Tommy John surgery, and the arm tightness that forced the Royals to shut him down after only 5 starts in 2013. He boasts a decent 93-94 MPH fastball, and generates strikeouts at a good clip, but some guys take longer to recover from TJS, and Duffy may be among them.

The top and bottom of the Royals' rotation are good bets, with Ventura setting up as an exciting young prospect and Shields as the dependable, solid veteran. The middle slots in the rotation are best avoided in mixed leagues, although Guthrie and Vargas could have value in an AL-only league.

If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at ia@fantasyalarm.com. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.



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About Ivar G. Anderson

I have actively played fantasy sports since 2004, when I was roped into competing in an auto-pick football league on Yahoo. My devotion, and number of teams has continued to grow to the present. I began writing about fantasy sports for FantasyGameday in 2008, and was recruited to join the FantasyAlarm team in 2011, where I cover Starting Pitching on the baseball side of things, and publish a weekly IDP Report and NFL Weather Report weekly during the football season. I can be reached by e-mail at: ia@fantasyalarm.com and my Twitter handle is: @johnwhorfin

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