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2022 Fantasy Baseball: Kansas City Royals Team Outlook

Player profiles, stats and analysis for Kansas City Royals hitters and pitchers.

Since the Royals won the World Series in 1985, they’ve made the playoffs only twice, with both instances resulting in a trip to the World Series (loss in 2014 and a win in 2015).

Last year Kansas City ranked 21st in ERA (4.65). Their bullpen had 33 wins, 25 losses and 37 saves with a 4.22 ERA (19th). The Royals continue to have weakness in their offense, leading to poor finishes in runs (686 – 24th) and home runs (163 – 27th). However, they led the majors in stolen bases (124).

The only free agent signing in mid-January was SP Taylor Clarke. The Royals lost SP Jakob Junis, RP Ervin Santana, RP Greg Holland and RP Jesse Hahn.

Kansas City received a monster year from C Salvador Perez, but his success doesn’t look repeatable. OF Whit Merrifield remains a top-tier player in their offense. The Royals expect 3B Bobby Witt to be a star early in his career. The wild card in the starting lineup is SS Adalberto Mondesi. Overall, Kansas City has enough depth and upside to rank closer to the league average in 2022.

Their developing young pitching staff didn’t materialize last year. With some major league experience in 2021, multiple arms should improve this season. However, The Royals still lack frontline starters, putting their pitching staff on a path to be up and down again.

I don‘t see the proper structure in the bullpen to push to an elite area. RP Scott Barlow and RP Josh Staumont have upside with a chance to be stable late in games.

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Starting Lineup

OF Whit Merrifield

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Over the past three years, Merrifield ranked 23rd (4.67), 13th (2.71), and 12th (6.23) by SIscore. His average hit rate (1.424) came in at his lowest level since earning a full-time starting job for the Royals. However, he has become a better hitter with runners on base over the last three seasons (RBI – 17, 20, and 19).

Merrifield beat his career average (15.8) in his strikeout rate (14.3) for the second straight year, but his contact batting average (.328) no longer supports a .300 batting average. He also takes minimal walks (5.6%).

After a productive first half (.270/50/8/47/24 over 352 at-bats), Merrifield lost his power stroke after the All-Star break (two home runs and 27 RBI) while hitting .285 over 312 at-bats with 47 runs and 16 stolen bases. His HR/FB rate (5.0) was a five-year low, along with weakness in his hard-hit rate (28.8 – 292nd) and barrel rate (3.5 – 275th).

Fantasy Outlook

In the early draft season in the NFBC, Merrifield is the 21st hitter off the board with an ADP (31). His recent resume supports his price point, but a lot of his production comes from volume of at-bats. He missed only four games over the past four seasons. At age 33, his floor in steals could fade quickly, and Merrifield doesn’t have the swing path to support a significant rise in home runs. He is an easy fade for me as I don’t view him as a stud player.

SS Adalberto Mondesi

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Mondesi continues to give away upside due to his high strikeout rate – 29.9 in his career) while also having a shallow walk rate (4.3). In the past, he overcame this shortfall thanks to a high contact batting average (.384, .385, and .376 from 2018 to 2020). Over 35 games last season, his average hit rate (1.966) pushed to difference-maker level if repeated.

Last year Mondesi missed 127 games with oblique and hamstring issues. His stats in 2021 projected over 550 at-bats come to 83 runs, 26 home runs, 96 RBI, and 65 stolen bases. Over 59 games in the Covid-19 shorted season, he ranked 10th by SIscore (3.66) for hitters.

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His fly-ball rate (43.0) jumped to a career-high, but 26.5% of his fly-balls results in infield flies. Mondesi also posted a new top in his HR/FB rate (17.6). He finished with growth in his launch angle (16.1), barrel rate (12.8) and hard-hit rate (44.2).

Fantasy Outlook

Packed with injury risk and impact speed, Mondesi will be a player many fantasy managers avoid in 2021 despite a much more favorable ADP (57). He fits the one-stop shopping mode for stolen bases, and 20-plus home runs are well within his reach. However, his approach isn’t ideal for hitting at the top of the batting order. Nevertheless, if Mondesi plays 150 games, he will be a top-10 player in fantasy value in roto formats. His reward clearly outweighs his risk, so don’t cross him off your cheat sheet just yet.

3B Bobby Witt Jr.

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Kansas City selected Witt second overall in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft. His bat looked dull over 37 games at rookie ball in 2019. However, a year away from baseball in the COVID-19 season treated him well as he developed into a star last season. He finished with almost the same stats at AA (.295/44/16/51/14 over 279 at-bats) and AAA (.285/55/17/46/46/15), telling me that Witt will hit the ground running in the majors.

His walk rate (9.0) in 2021 beat the league average while needing some work on his strikeout rate (23.2).

Fantasy Outlook

I have Witt listed at third base, but his future lies at shortstop. His defense projects well. In the latter half of January in the NFBC, he ranks 14th at shortstop by ADP (93). Witt has the most significant risk in batting average in his rookie season while almost certainly having a 20/20 floor in power and speed.

C Salvador Perez

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The quest for more power led to a spike in Perez’s strikeout rate (25.6) over the past three years. His average hit rate (1.994) was a career-high while showing growth in each of his previous four seasons. He has had a low walk rate (4.2) in his whole career.

Perez was a beast against left-handed pitching (.302 with 18 home runs and 36 RBI over 172 at-bats). His best production came over the final two months (.264/39/22/55 over 216 at-bats). He finished with the third-highest hard-hit rate (56.2) in baseball while setting a career-best in his HR/FB rate (26.4).

Fantasy Outlook

The Royals, without a doubt, will try to get Perez in the starting line as much as possible. He offered an insane edge in at-bats (620) for a career last year, helping his counting stats. His SIscore (5.56) ranked 18th for hitters. Perez is the 22nd batter drafted in the NFBC with an ADP of 33. Kansas City should be better offensively, so I wouldn’t dismiss a 35/100 season if given 550 at-bats. His batting average has more downside at this point in his career.

1B Carlos Santana

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Santana has one of the better approaches in baseball (strikeout rate – 15.3 and walk rate – 13.1), but his contact batting average has been insanely low in 2020 (.252) and 2021 (.261). In addition, he continues to post a shallow line drive rate (17.8) with a fading HR/FB rate (11.1). Santana only barreled the ball 6.8% of the time last season. His average hit rate (1.595) now sits closer to 15 home runs.

He struggled with right-handed pitching (.184 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI over 392 at-bats). After a nice start to last year in power (15/50 over 309 at-bats), Santana turned into a black hole in fantasy lineups after the All-Star break (.176 with four home runs and 19 RBI over 256 at-bats).

Fantasy Outlook

The excitement in Santana’s game left the building after the 2019 season. At age 35, I don’t expect more balls squared up. However, his ability to take walks gives him a chance to be a neutral player in runs. Santana now projects as only a DH option in deep formats based on his ADP (455) in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He is trending toward a 60/15/60 player with continued batting average risk.

OF Andrew Benintendi

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Benintendi ended up being a wasted draft pick in 2020 after stumbling out of the gate. His season ended in mid-August with a rib injury. He struggled to make contact (strikeout rate – 32.7) with no value with runners on base (one RBI in 37 chances).

A trade to the Royals led to him rising to 87th in SIscore (-0.42) last year for hitters despite missing a couple of weeks in June with a rib issue. A minor shoulder injury cost him about four games midsummer.

He finished with strength in his RBI rate (18) while being more challenging to strike out (18.0). However, Benintendi failed to match his previous success in his walk rate (6.7 – 10.5 in his career). His speed had regression, highlighted by his failure in success rate (47). He had never had an impactful HR/FB rate (10.5 – 9.5 in his career).

Fantasy Outlook

The Royals should hit Benintendi higher in the batting order, which hinges on the success of Witt and the play of Mondesi. His ADP (201) is tempting for a fantasy manager looking for a balanced player. Benintendi should have a floor of a .270/70/15/70/10 player while owning a higher ceiling in all areas.

OF Hunter Dozier

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In 2019, Dozier proved to be a great waiver wire find in deep leagues when he set career-highs in runs (75), home runs (26), RBI (84) and batting average (.279). He is a former first-round draft pick (eighth overall in 2013).

Dozier started 2020 with 16 missed games with a battle with COVID. When he returned to the starting lineup, his bat was inconsistent with fade in September (.165 over 79 at-bats with two home runs and four RBI).

Last year his demise in production continued. Dozier finished with weakness in his RBI rate (11) and contact batting average (.315), along with regression in his approach (strikeout rate – 28.4 and walk rate – 7.9). His only month of value came in September (.272 with six home runs and 17 RBI over 92 at-bats).

His swing path creates some loft (fly-ball rate – 42.5). Dozier has a sliding HR/FB rate (11.1).

Fantasy Outlook

Kansas City will allow him to win a starting job. However, his ADP (349) won’t excite, which matches his recent play. Dozier has the pedigree to rebound, but he looks to be only a gamble at this point of his career. His upside is 20 home runs while also having job loss risk.

2B Nicky Lopez

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Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .296 with 224 runs, 20 home runs, 133 RBI and 69 stolen bases over 1,368 at-bats.

In 2019, his season started with success at AAA (.353 with three home runs, 13 RBI and nine steals over 116 at-bats). Mondesi's injury created a starting opportunity for the Royals for 91 games (.240 with two home runs and 30 RBI over 379 at-bats). Lopez had no value in any fantasy format in 2020.

His bat showed a progression last season, thanks to success in his batting average (.300) and a dramatic improvement in stolen bases (22). However, Lopez continues to have one of the weakest average hit rates (1.262) in the majors, highlighted by his dismal barrel rate (0.7) and launch angle (2.8).

His strikeout rate (13.1) and walk rate (8.7) rated above the league average.

Lopez put himself on the speed map with a hit month in August (.317 and 10 steals over 104 at-bats). Over the last four months, he hit .326 with only two home runs and 34 RBI over 365 at-bats.

Fantasy Outlook

His ADP (221) seems like a chase for fantasy managers looking for an out in speed, but Lopez ranked 68th by SIscore (0.52) for hitters last season. His struggles to square up the baseball point to regression in batting average while being dead in the water in home runs and RBI. It’s all team structure, but I’m not a fan of giving away my early draft edge in power with a Judy bat.

OF Edward Olivares

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Over seven seasons in the minors, Olivares hit .279 with 371 runs, 67 home runs, 285 RBI and 115 steals over 2,080 at-bats. His highlight season came in 2019 at AA (.283 with 18 home runs, 77 RBI and 35 stolen bases over 488 at-bats). Last year, he showed that he could handle AAA pitching (.313/54/15/36/12 over 256 at-bats).

His strikeout rate (17.4) was favorable in the minors while having a below-par walk rate (7.1).

Olivares failed to make an impact over the past two seasons (.239/23/8/22/2) in his limited at-bats (197) in the majors.

Fantasy Outlook

The early fantasy market seems to be sleeping on Olivares based on his ADP (586) in the NFBC. He has well over 20/20 upside while not being dead in the water in batting average. It’s all about opportunity, which should be improved in 2022.

Bench Options

OF Michael Taylor

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The Nationals gave Taylor plenty of chances to prove his worth from 2015-18 when he hit .240 with 178 runs, 46 home runs, 160 RBI and 71 steals over 1,445 at-bats. In the end, his strikeout rate (31.2) over this span set the tone for a bench role.

In 2019 and 2020, Washington used him mainly as an injury replacement with one or two starts a week when their outfield was healthy. Taylor hit .222 over his last 180 at-bats with 21 runs, six home runs, 19 RBI and six steals. These stats projected over 540 at-bats would come to 63 runs, 18 home runs, 57 RBI and 18 stolen bases, which is far off from being a starting fantasy player.

Last year, the Royals had him on the field for 142 games, leading to a .244 batting average with 58 runs, 12 home runs, and 14 stolen bases over 483 at-bats. His strikeout rate (27.3) was the lowest of his career.

Fantasy Outlook

Taylor projects to start for Kansas City in centerfield. With an early slump, he could be bypassed on the depth chart. His ADP (430) puts him in the free-agent pool in 12-team formats. Possible 15/15 player with plenty of batting average risk.

Top Prospects

C MJ Melendez

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Kansas City added Melendez in the second round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft. He flashed power in 2018 at A Ball (.251 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI over 419 at-bats), but Melendez lost his way in 2019 at High A (.163/9/54 over 363 at-bats) due to a massive strikeout rate (39.3).

With a year off in 2020 after the shutdown of minor baseball, his bat reached a stud level over 448 at-bats between AA and AAA (.288 with 95 runs, 41 home runs and 102 RBI) last season. In addition, he posted an elite walk rate (14.1) with a much lower strikeout rate (21.7).

Fantasy Outlook

The Royals gave him at-bats at 3B, C and DH in 2021. The fast track of his bat puts him in the majors out of spring training if his approach carries over to this season. I heard a whisper out of Michigan that Kansas City wants to get him at-bats at multiple positions while expecting Melendez to be the backup catcher. His ADP (410) gives him bench value in 15-team leagues on draft day. Sneaky C2 option with a higher floor than most believe. He is almost a must-target in AL-only formats.

1B Nick Pratto

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Pratto has been on the same path as Melendez to the majors, and he also hit his power stride in 2021 between AA and AAA (.265 with 98 runs, 36 home runs, 98 RBI and 12 stolen bases). His strikeout rate (28.8) will be a problem early in his career, but he will take his share of walks (15.2). In addition, Pratto offers a bonus of speed at first base (61 stolen bases over 1,547 at-bats in the minors) despite only being an average runner.

In the MLB June Amateur Draft, the Royals grabbed him with the 14th overall pick in 2017. His defense grades well.

Fantasy Outlook

With 224 at-bats at AAA, Pratto will get a chance with Kansas City this season. Unfortunately, I expect more down days than excitement. In the early draft season, he’ll be found with pick 539 in the NFBC.

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Starting Pitching

SP Brady Singer

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Each fantasy baseball season, there will be depths of research, and many times the theory will be growth for young upside players after a successful rookie season. Singer looked the part of a breakout arm in 2021, but he lost his ability to get ahead in the count. Batters hit .281 against him with a poor walk rate (3.7). He pushed his strikeouts higher (9.2 per nine).

His season started with a 3.09 ERA over his first five starts with 26 strikeouts over 23.1 innings. Singer posted a 6.60 ERA over his next 30 innings with 29 strikeouts. He teased in his next seven games (3.62 ERA) despite risk in WHIP (1.608). Over his final 42.2 innings, Singer offered more risk than reward (5.70 ERA).

After getting drafted 18th overall in 2018, Singer dominated at High A (1.87 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 57.2 innings) while holding his own at AA (7-3 with a 3.47 ERA and 85 strikeouts over 90.2 innings).

Over his final two seasons in college, he went 21-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 243 strikeouts over 239 innings.

His average fastball (93.7) was a tick above his rookie season (93.0). Batters struggled to hit his slider (.235 BAA) and low-volume changeup (.214 BAA). Singer lost the feel and location with his sinker (.324 BAA).

Fantasy Outlook

His arm has a high ceiling, but Singer needs to throw more strikes and rely on the development of his changeup. His ADP (404) looks to be a buying opportunity, especially if his spring reports come back positive. Singer ended last year with a right arm issue.

SP Mike Minor

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Based on Minor’s WHIP (1.242), walk rate (2.3) and strikeout rate (8.5), He underperformed expectations in ERA (5.05). His battle with home runs (1.5 per nine) was part of his failure. In addition, Minor gave up 24 of his 26 long balls to right-handed batters.

He posted an ERA over 4.00 in each of the first five months (5.26, 4.19, 6.44, 5.28, 5.24). Minor made only two starts in September (two runs over 11 innings with seven strikeouts) due to a left shoulder injury.

His average fastball (91.0) came in 1.5 MPH lower than his last successful season in 2019 (3.59 ERA). He threw a four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball, but no pitch offered an edge.

Fantasy Outlook

Minor is a veteran arm that offers stretches of success. However, home runs have been a problem since 2018, leading to some disaster showings. Fantasy managers won’t fight for him based on his early ADP (458) in the NFBC.

SP Kris Bubic

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The Royals hit on a fourth starter in the 2018 draft class with Bubic. Kansas City added him in the first round (40th selection) after two successful seasons at Stanford (15-7 with a 2.71 ERA and 197 strikeouts over 176.1 innings). He finished his last year in college with strength in his strikeout rate (10.6) while still needing growth in his walk rate (3.3).

Bubic aced the 2019 season (11-5 with a 2.23 ERA and 185 strikeouts over 149.1 innings) while pitching at A Ball and High A.

In 2020, the jump from High A to the majors did leave some crooked numbers in ERA (4.32) and WHIP (1.480) while battling his first strike rate (48) and his command (4.0 walks per nine innings).

Last season, Bubic lacked consistency over his 29 games with the Royals. His ERA (4.43), WHIP (1.385), walk rate (4.1) and HR/9 rate (1.5) all rated in a disaster range. His season started with a 1.52 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 29.2 innings.

Over his next eight games, Bubic crushed fantasy teams (9.67 ERA, 2.48 WHIP and 12 home runs over 27 innings). Other than two disaster starts (12 runs and 23 baserunners over 5.2 innings), he teased over his final 14 games (3.68 ERA, .228 BAA and 66 strikeouts).

His average fastball (91.0) is below the league average, but batters only hit .214 vs. his four-seamer. Bubic had no success with his curveball (.338 BAA) and a mediocre changeup (.251 BAA).

Fantasy Outlook

A soft-tossing lefty with poor command (4.1 walks per nine) is a risky add to any fantasy pitching staff. Bubic has the minor-league resume to be a much better pitcher. Let’s ride him only one start at a time if he shows progress early in the year.

SP Carlos Hernandez

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Despite struggling over four seasons in the minors (12-15 with 4.55 ERA and 238 strikeouts over 225.2 innings), Hernandez outperformed his career path with the Royals. He went 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 85.2 innings. Batters only hit .223 against him.

His first-pitch strike rate (53) is a significant problem, highlighted by his poor command (4.1 walks per nine). In addition, he struggled against right-handed batters (.254 BAA) while struggling at home (4.89 ERA).

Hernandez has an elite fastball (97.2). Batters struggled to his four-seamer (.215 BAA), slider (.196 BAA) and split-finger fastball (.167 BAA). He struggled at times with his curveball (.263 BAA).

Fantasy Outlook

There is talent and upside in Hernandez's arm, but his questionable command will catch up to him over the long haul of the season. Some fantasy managers will buy into his fastball, but his WHIP risk will keep me away.

SP Brad Keller

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The short 2020 season treated Keller well, even with a couple of missed starts at the beginning of the year due to COVID-19. He finished with a 2.47 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 54.2 innings.

Last year, Keller had the best strikeout rate (8.3) of his career, but he lost his command (4.3 walks per nine). His season started with a 9.00 ERA in April while allowing 41 batters over 18 innings. He only had value in August (2.28 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 27.2 innings).

Keller finished with a bump in his fastball (94.2 MPH) while relying on a plus slider (.236 BAA). He induced a high number of ground balls (51.0) in his career, but his HR/FB rate (14.9) finished in a disaster range in 2021.

Fantasy Outlook

His arm can be sneaky and streaky, but Keller will be challenging to trust unless he throws more strikes. Over 104 games with the Royals, he has a 4.01 ERA but tons of risk in his WHIP (1.387). Only a gamble for now with no draft value, but don’t dismiss him if Keller shows improvement on the mound.

SP Jackson Kowar

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Kowar came into the pros a couple of steps behind Brady Singer in draft value and college resume (25-6 with a 3.53 ERA and 243 strikeouts over 255 innings) while also ranking behind him on the depth chart at Florida. His record (22-6) in 2017 and 2018 in college was impressive, but his walk rate (3.6) needed work while flashing some strikeout ability (8.6).

Over three seasons in the minors, Kowar posted a 3.49 ERA and 281 strikeouts over 255.1. He had success at AAA in 2021 (3.46 ERA and 12.8 strikeouts per nine), but his command (walk rate – 3.8) didn’t come along for the ride.

The Royals gave him eight starts in the majors, but Kowar lacked confidence at almost every turn (0-6 with an 11.27 ERA and 2.077 WHIP over 30.1 innings). As a result, he only had one start of value.

His average fastball (95.7) has plenty of velocity, but batters drilled his four-seam fastball (.347 BAA). Kowar mixed in a changeup (.286 BAA) and slider (.250 BAA).

Fantasy Outlook

A poor showing with Kansas City pushes well down the rankings for fantasy managers in 2022. However, Kowar has a live arm, and his previous resume suggests he will be winning major league arm. He is a must-follow, while his command will be the ticket to more success.

SP Daniel Lynch

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Based on his college resume (12-12 with 4.56 ERA and 186 strikeouts over 205.1), Lynch didn’t appear to offer first-round talent. However, his command made a massive forward in 2018 at Virginia, leading to a low walk rate (2.4) and an impressive strikeout rate (10.7). The Royals added him in the first round of the 2018 drafts with the 34th pick.

Over three seasons in the minors, he went 15-6 with a 3.43 ERA and 219 strikeouts over 204.2 innings. Lynch struggled at AAA (5.84 ERA) and the majors (5.69 ERA) in 2021. His command (walk rate – 4.1) was a problem with Kansas City, while home runs (19 over 125 innings) were a problem at two levels.

His average fastball (93.9) graded well, along with his slider (.173 BAA). Lynch struggled to locate his changeup (.368 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.359 BAA).

Fantasy Outlook

His struggles last year were partly due to him making the jump from High A in 2019 to AAA in 2021 (no minor league baseball in 2020). Lynch needs more development time, and his previous command should lead to a reasonable turnaround in his arm.

Bullpen Options

RP Scott Barlow

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The Royals finally gave Barlow a chance to close games in 2021. He converted 16 of 22 tries while posting a career-best ERA (2.42). His strikeout rate (11.4) has been closer-worthy over the past three years. Barlow showed growth in his walk rate (2.7) in 2020, but he threw fewer strikes last season (3.4 walks per nine).

His arm graded well over the first three months (1.91 ERA over 37.2 innings with 55 strikeouts, but he only picked up two saves. Over the next eight days, Barlow allowed six runs and nine baserunners over five innings. After the All-Star break, he went 3-0 with 12 saves and 31 strikeouts over 31.2 innings.

His average fastball (95.3) was a career-high while offering two plus pitches (slider – .223 and curveball – .143).

Fantasy Outlook

Barlow should have the early inside track for saves for Kansas City in 2022, but Josh Staumont looks to have a higher ceiling in strikeouts. His ADP is 181 in the NFBC. Coin flip that lands on his side more times than not.

RP Josh Staumont

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Staumont struggled as a starter in the minors in 2016 (4.23 ERA) and 2017 (5.56 ERA) while walking well over 7.0 batter per nine innings. In 2018, the Royals pushed him to the bullpen to hopefully shorten his pitching options to improve his command.

His ERA showed growth at AAA in 2018 (3.51) and 2019 (3.16), with strength in his strikeout rate (12.5 and 13.0). However, he still walked too many batters (6.4 per nine).

Over the past two seasons, Staumont flashed in the Royals’ bullpen, leading to a lower ERA (2.76) while striking out 10.7 per nine innings. He lowered his walk rate (3.7) in 2021, leading to him being tougher to hit (.183 BAA). Even with success in 2021 in ERA (2.88), Staumont had less value from May through August (4.15 ERA).

His AFB (96.7) regressed slightly, but all three of his pitches were challenging to hit (four-seam - .221 BAA, curveball – .154 BAA, and sinker – .129 BAA).

Fantasy Outlook

Staumont moved closer to closing full-time in 2021 while offering the foundation skill set to get batters out at a high level. However, any chance at saves starts with growth in his command. His ADP (462) puts him in the flier range. His spring training progress and news will influence his March draft value. 

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