2020 Fantasy Baseball: Kansas City Royals Team Outlook

Shawn Childs

Kansas City Royals

The Royals made the playoffs three times over the previous 36 seasons. Each season they made it to the postseason, they appeared in the World Series. Over their 51-year history, Kansas City made the postseason nine times with two World Series titles (1985 and 2015). Since their last title, they’ve missed the playoffs in each of the past four years while picking up only 58 and 59 wins over the past two seasons.

Kansas City ranked 26th in runs (691), 28th in home runs (162), and 26th in RBI (655) while batting .247. The Royals have issues as well on the pitching side (5.20 ERA – 27th) while delivering 37 saves. 

In the offseason, they signed Maikel Franco to take over at third base and IF Matt Reynolds for bench depth. Kansas City acquired SP Chance Adams in a minor league deal with the Yankees.

The road to the playoffs may not be that far off based on the talent of their starting pitchers in the minors. The Royals have a couple of pieces to their offense with underlying power. A 70-win season would be a lot to ask for in 2020.

Despite setting career highs in games (162), at-bats (681), and hits (206), Merrifield took a massive step back in steals (20 – 45 in 2018) with some regression in his approach at the plate (strikeout rate – 17.1 and walk rate – 6.1). Even so, he still scored the most runs (105) of his career while improving on his 2018 stats in home runs (16) and RBI (74). 

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Merrifield had growth in power versus left-handed pitching (.280 with eight HRs and 28 RBI over 193 at-bats). After an excellent start before the All-Star break (.306 with 11 HRs, 44 RBI, and 13 SBs over 382 at-bats), his production dropped over the second half of the year (.298 with five HRs, 30 RBI, and seven SBs over 299 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (8.7) doesn’t project high in power, and he owns a weak hard-hit rate (28.9). His final stats ranked 23rd in SIscore rankings compared to 11th in 2018. 

This season, Merrifield has an ADP of 49 as the 35th hitter off the board. Volume of at-bats has been his friend in 2018 and 2019. His skill set points to a 15/30 type of player with help in batting average in runs.

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Over the first two months of the season, Mondesi was on pace for an impact year. He hit .288 with 35 runs, six home runs, 42 RBI, and 20 steals over 226 at-bats. His path projected over 550 at-bats would come to 85 runs, 15 home runs, 102 RBI, and 49 steals. After a quiet 18 days in June (.203 with no HRs, two RBI, and seven SBs over 64 at-bats), he landed on the injured list for two weeks with a groin injury. Mondesi returned for 11 more games in July before suffering a left shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. Even so, he did play in 20 games in September (.250 with two HRs, ten RBI, and 12 SBs over 80 at-bats).

His strikeout rate (29.8) is much too high, with a weak walk rate (4.3). Mondesi overachieved in RBI rate (21) while repeating his 2018 value in his contact batting average (.384 and .385). He has a low fly-ball rate (33.9) while his HR/FB rate (9.3) came in well below his short success in 2018 (19.7). 

The Royals expect him to be ready for opening day, but shoulder injuries tend to restrict a rebound in power. Mondesi has an ADP of 38 in the early draft season. A possible difference-maker in speed with value in runs. His batting average still has plenty of risk until he cleans up his approach. Trending toward an 80/15/65/60 player, but a fantasy owner needs to build in some batting average cover with the rest of their offensive roster.

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The Royals slipped Dozier into the starting lineup on opening day. It took him until the 10th game of the season to draw attention from fantasy owners. His season started with three hits over 27 at-bats with one home run and three RBI. Over his next 25 games, he hit .411 with 18 runs, eight home runs, and 18 RBI. 

Dozier landed on the injured list in late May with a side issue. He held value after the All-Star break (.276 with 13 HRs and 39 RBI over 275 at-bats). He had almost the same value against righties (.279) as he did against lefties (.281). Dozier finished with a similar CTBA (.389) as he showed in the minors from 2016 to 2018 (.397, .404, and .400). His walk rate (9.4) was decent but he still needs to improve his strikeout rate (25.3). He is a career .261 hitter in the minors with 55 HRs, 264 RBI, and 29 SBs over 1,921 at-bats. 

Dozier ranked 97th in hard-hit rate (42.6) while adding loft to his swing (fly-ball rate – 43.9) with improvement in his HR/FB rate (15.6). I believe in his power, but there will be regression in his batting average. His ADP (188) paints a pricey picture even with a .260/25/80 season. 

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Soler turned into a power beast (48 HRs and 117 RBI) in 2018 while staying healthy for the whole season. He set career-highs in games (162) and strikeouts (178), which led to the American League high in both areas. Before last year, Soler never received over 366 at-bats in the majors. He finished with about the same walk rate (10.8) as his previous two seasons, while his strikeout rate (26.2) remains well about the league average (21.5). 

After the All-Star break, his game reached a whole new level (.299 with 25 HRs and 58 RBI over 251 at-bats) with growth in his approach (walk rate – 14.8 and strikeout rate – 23.0). Soler won the AL home run title with 21 home runs over his final 202 at-bats. He finished with a step up in his HR/FB rate (28.1 – 20.5 in his career). His CTBA (.380) matched 2018 with improvement in his AVH (2.147) and his RBI rate (17). 

Soler has an ADP of 89 as the 59th hitter off the board. He finished 25th in SIscore rankings in 2018 while looking poised to have a new floor of .270 with 35 home runs and 95 RBI. 

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In 2018, Perez missed the first three weeks of the season with a left knee injury. He overcame his missed time by seeing more games at DH (30) to keep him in the lineup on more nights. Perez posted identical production in HRs (27) and RBI (80), but his CTBA (.299) was the lowest of his career. His AVH (1.867) was a career-high while remaining in a range to deliver 30-plus home runs with 550 at-bats. His walk rate (3.1) remains low, and he failed to match his career resume (16.0) in his strikeout rate (19.9) for the third straight year. 

Perez repeated his fly ball rate (45.0) for the fourth straight season with no major jump in his HR/FB rate (14.8). Even with success in power, his runs fell into the liability column for the seventh straight season. Late in the year, he battled a left thumb injury that required surgery in late September. Over his last five full years, Perez had over 500 at-bats in four seasons, which is an edge for the catching position. Unfortunately, he’ll have more competition for at-bats at DH. Pretty much a 25/75 player with batting average and run risk despite the probability of receiving 500 at-bats. Last year, he missed the whole season with a right elbow injury that required surgery. Viable target based on his ADP (183).

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The Phillies lost interest in Franco in 2019, which came after three production seasons (.250 with 71 HRs and 232 RBI over 1,589 at-bats). His bat had success in April (.252 with seven HRs and 22 RBI over 103 at-bats), but a slump in May (.215 with one HR and eight RBI over 88 at-bats) led to minimal playing time after the All-Star break (.250 with four HRs and 15 RBI over 120 at-bats) and a trip back to AAA (.175 with two HRs and six RBI over 40 at-bats). Franco has a low strikeout rate (14.3) with a career-best in his walk rate (8.4). His HR/FB rate (12.8) is trending down, and he has a league average hard-hit rate (38.1). Franco has an average hit rate (1.747) high enough to deliver 30-plus home runs, but his CTBA (.277) suggests minimal upside in batting average. For him to take a step forward on offense, he needs to hit the ball harder rather than have a defensive approach when behind in the count. With an ADP of 441, Franco should be a viable DH option in deep leagues. With 550 at-bats, his floor should be a 75/25/75 season. I don’t view him as a major liability in batting average.

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Despite being a donation for fantasy owners for the previous four seasons, Gordon flashed early in 2019. He hit .299 over his first 147 at-bats with 27 runs, eight home runs, and 33 RBI. The temptation to start him on fantasy teams was short-lived as Gordon lacked follow-through over his final 409 at-bats (.254 with 50 runs, five home runs, and 43 RBI). His strikeout rate (15.8) was the best of his career while coming in with a league average walk rate (8.1). He had neutral value vs. righties (.273 with ten HRs and 54 RBI over 403 at-bats). Over the final four months, Gordon only had one home run per month, which is highlighted by his poor stats after the All-Star break (.254 with three HRs and 21 RBI over 236 at-bats). He finished with a ground ball swing (46.2 percent) more weakness in his HR/FB rate (9.2). The Royals should sign him to a minimal contract in January. Only a waiver wire player who needs a bump of OJ in his swing. 

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Over six seasons in the minors, O’Hearn hit .272 with 104 home runs, 353 RBI, and 16 steals over 2,187 at-bats. He has over 20 home runs in each of his last five years between the minors and the majors. His walk rate (10.7) projects to be above the league average while needing to shave off some of his strikeouts (25.1 percent – 26.8 with the Royals in his career). His AVH (1.891) grades well while pointing to 35-plus home runs if given a chance at starting at-bats for a full season. O’Hearn finished with a much lower CTBA (.279) in the majors while struggling with runners on base (RBI rate – 11). He looked dead in the water vs. lefthanded pitching (.170 with one HR, three RBI, and 20 Ks over 53 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (43.7 – 78th) graded well. O’Hearn has a weaker swing path in 2019 (ground ball rate – 46.3 and fly-ball rate – 35.9) with regression as well in his HR/FB rate (16.9 – 25.0 in 2018). Pretty much a low average power hitting with a platoon role. With 450 at-bats, I could see 25 home runs with 65 RBI. 

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Lopez comes to the majors with a good approach (strikeout rate – 8.8 and walk rate – 10.6) while lacking a power swing. 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 HRs, 13 RBI, and nine SBs over 116 at-bats). An injury to Alberto Mondesi created a starting opportunity for the Royals for 91 games. Both his strikeout rate (12.7) and walk rate (4.5) came below his minor league resume. Without more strength, Lopez will hit at the bottom of the batting order while being a tough out with runners on base. His speed resume gives him 25-plus stolen base upside early in his career if he decides to run. Overall, he has no real fantasy value in 2020, even with an expected starting opportunity with Whit Merrifield scheduled to shift to centerfield. 

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Reynolds had been stuck at AAA over the last six seasons despite reasonable success (.286 with 37 HRs, 227 RBI, and 48 SBs over 1,794 at-bats). His bat offered more value in 2019 at AAA (.295 with 16 HRs, 55 RBI, and eight SBs over 376 at-bats). He'll take his fair share of walks (9.4 percent) with a reasonable strikeout rate (19.1). In his limited time in the majors, Reynolds hit .223 with four home runs and 19 RBI over 215 at-bats. Not a lock to make the team out of spring training, but he may surprise in his limited opportunity.

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Over eight seasons in the minors, Phillips hit .274 with 92 home runs, 389 RBI, and 106 steals over 2,712 at-bats. In 2017, he played well at AAA (.305 with 79 runs, 19 HRs, 78 RBI, and nine SBs over 383 at-bats), putting him at the doorstep of the majors. Phillips found himself back at AAA (.240 with 24 HRs, 79 RBI, and 33 SBs over 591 at-bats) with much weaker results over the paths two seasons. In his minor league career, his strikeout rate (24.9) was higher than the league average while showing more failure in this area in majors (36.4 percent). His walk rate (11.4) does project well, along with his high CTBA and AVH in the minors. Phillips has been a disaster so far in the majors (.203 with eight HRs, 29 RBI, and nine SBs over 286 at-bats). Possible 20/20 skill set once he makes batter contact vs. professional pitching. 

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Meibrys Viloria (C) hit .280 over 1,468 at-bats in the minors with 24 home runs, 216 RBI, and ten stolen bases in his six seasons. Last year after the injury to Salvador Perez. He had his first opportunity with the Royals. He hit only .211 with one home run and 15 RBI over 133 at-bats. Not quite ready (no career at-bats at AAA), but Viloria may earn the backup role in 2020. 

Ryan McBroom (1B) played well over his previous two seasons at AAA (.306 with 37 HRs and 112 RBI over 772 at-bats). Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .288 with 102 home runs, 430 RBI, and 20 stolen bases over 2,591 at-bats. His walk rate (8.0) and strikeout rate (20.9) are about league average. Last year the Royals gave him 75 at-bats in September (.293 with no HRs and six RBI). Viable option against lefties in 2020. 

Bubba Starling (OF) was selected in the first round in 2011 as the fifth overall pick. Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .244 with 69 home runs, 304 RBI, and 81 steals over 2,484 at-bats. Starling still strikes out too much (26.5 percent). Last year he played better at AAA (.310 with seven home runs, 38 RBI, and nine stolen bases over 740 at-bats). In his first chance in the majors, Starling hit .215 with four home runs and 12 RBI over 186 at-bats while striking out 28.4 percent of the time. He has a lot to prove. 

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After pitching well in 2016 over his first 19 starts (2.61 ERA and .978 WHIP with 126 Ks in 120.2 innings), Duffy hasn't been the same pitcher. Over his last three seasons, he went 24-28 with a 4.35 ERA and 386 Ks over 432 innings with most of the damage coming in 2018 (4.88 ERA) due to a considerable step back in his walk rate (4.1). 

After the 2017 season, he had surgery in early October to clean up his left elbow. After seven poor starts after the All-Star break in 2018 (6.55 ERA), the Royals shut him down for the rest of the season with a bum left shoulder which lingered into the 2019 season. Over his first six starts, Duffy posted a 3.12 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 34.2 innings. In his next 11 starts, his arm lost value (5.16 ERA, 58 Ks, and 12 home runs over 61 innings). On August 3rd, he gave up eight runs and allowed 10 baserunners over 4.2 innings, leading to a trip to the injured list with a hamstring issue. 

His season ended with success in September (2.37 ERA and 25 Ks over 30.1 innings). His AFB (92.9) was a career-low while falling short of his value in 2016 (94.8). Duffy had success with his slider (.239 BAA), changeup (.2131 BAA), and sinker (.167 BAA). He had a rebound in his walk rate (3.2) with a fading strikeout rate (7.9). Home runs (1.4) continue to be a problem. Tons of risk with no real reward.

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After struggling in 2016 at High A (4.47 ERA) and in 2017 at AA (4.68 ERA), Keller made the jump to the majors in 2018. Over his first 12 games as a reliever, he posted a 2.01 ERA with 13 strikeouts over 22.1 innings. Kansas City pushed him into the starting rotation in late May, but he needed some time to work up his pitch count. Keller went 8-5 over his 19 starts over the last four months of the season with a 3.29 ERA and 80 Ks over 115 innings. 

In 2019, he teased over his first 30.2 innings (2.64 ERA and 26 Ks). Over his final 23 starts, Keller had more disaster than upside (4.54 ERA while allowing two runs or fewer in 11 games). Keller walks too many batters (3.8 per nine) with a weak strikeout rate (6.6). His AFB (94.1) drifted backward slightly with no real edge (four-seam – .259 BAA and sinker – .301 BAA). He does offer a slider (.194 BAA) of value. Over five seasons in the minors, Keller went 40-32 with a 3.77 ERA and 442 strikeouts over 541.1 innings. His ground ball approach (52.0 percent) works well when he’s throwing strikes, but his command and his inability to strike out batters invites downside. At best, a slight edge in ERA with WHIP risk and weakness in strikeouts.

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Junis came into 2019 with strength in his walk rate (2.2) and strikeout rate (8.3) but battled home runs (1.6 per nine). Rather than show growth last year, he issued more walks (3.0 per nine) while being easier to hit (.276 BAA – .265 in 2018). Junis struggled over his first 13 starts (5.63 ERA, 66 Ks, and 12 home runs over 72 innings). Other than two bad starts (12 runs and 20 baserunners over 10.2 innings), he looked better over his next 13 starts (4.00 ERA) with no success to finish the year (8.03 ERA, six home runs, and 22 Ks over 24.2 innings). Junis struggled with lefties (.298 BAA) while continuing to have a high HR/FB rate (16.7). His AFB (92.1) improved slightly. Batters drilled his four-seam fastball (.339 BAA), sinker (.345 BAA), and changeup (.366 BAA). His slider (.182 BAA) is his only pitch with upside. I can’t say dead in the water, but I would be quick to jump off once the disaster outings emerge. Only a waiver wire option with possible double start value if he’s pitching well. 

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Over the last four seasons with the Cubs as a swingman, Montgomery went 14-17 with a 3.74 ERA and 242 Ks over 320 innings. After a trade to the Royals, he went 2-7 with a 4.64 ERA and 51 strikeouts over 64 innings. Montgomery pitched well over six starts (2.31 ERA and 36 Ks over 35 innings) highlighted by his start on August 10th (no runs over seven innings with 12 Ks). Over his final four games, he battled command (nine walks over 17.2 innings) and home runs (five), which led to a 7.13 ERA. Surprisingly, his failure came against lefthanded pitching (.452 with four home runs over 84 at-bats). Montgomery has a low-velocity fastball (91.9) with no pitch of value. Just a bad inning eater based on 2019, but he may bounce back in some fashion if he regains his 2016 to 2018 form. On the positive side. His strikeout rate (7.2) was a career-best.

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After getting drafted 18th overall in 2018, Singer dominated for at High A (1.87 ERA and 53 Ks over 57.2 innings) while holding his own at AA (7-3 with a 3.47 ERA and 85 Ks 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 walk rate (2.4) in the minors is favorable while striking out 8.4 batters per nine. Singer offers a low-90s fastball with movement and a plus slider. His next step is developing his changeup in the minors. He should start the year at AAA while being a couple of months away from Kansas City. His ADP (595) in the early draft season in the high-stakes market, places him as a waiver wire in shallow leagues. Must follow this spring. 

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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 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). Last year Kowar matched Singer in starts (26) and innings pitched (148.1), but he lost the battle in ERA (3.52) and WHIP (1.240). I have a soft spot for pitchers with an elite changeup, which is what Kowar brings to the majors, along with a fastball that can reach the upper 90s. Once his command improves, and a pitching coach unlocks a winning breaking pitch, Kowar is going to offer ace upside. I expect him to pitch in the majors, but his command may lead to some up and down starts. I’m very interested in seeing his progress this spring.

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Based on his college resume (12-12 with 4.56 ERA and 186 Ks over 205.1), Lynch didn’t appear to offer first-round talent. 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 as well in the first round of the 2018 drafts with the 34th pick. Over two seasons in the minors, he went 11-3 with a 2.50 ERA and 157 Ks over 147.2 innings. In 2019, he made 15 of his 20 starts at High A, which suggests he’s trailing the top two arms in Kansas City by about a year. This big lefty now offers a high-90s fastball with a swing and miss slider. Lynch needs to add more length to his starts while developing his changeup. Last year he did miss some development time with a left shoulder injury. Possible fast mover while starting 2020 at AA.

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The Royals hit on a fourth starter in the 2018 draft class with Bubic. Kansas City added him as well in the first round (40th selection) in 2018 after two successful seasons at Stanford (15-7 with a 2.71 ERA and 197 Ks 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 Ks over 149.1 innings) while pitching at A Ball and High A. His fastball sits in the low-90s while offering an upside changeup. If he builds on his improved walk rate (2.5) in 2019, Bubic will have follow-through at AA this season. Another intriguing lefty to follow in early 2020. 

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Kennedy pitched poorly in 2017 and 2018 (8-22 with a 5.06 ERA and 236 Ks over 273.2 innings) while struggling with home runs (54). After failing to make the Royals’ starting rotation out of Spring Training, he had an up and down first 21 games (4.37 ERA) in the bullpen while having sporadic save chances (2-for-4). Kansas City handed him the closing role for good on May 30th. Over the next two months, Kennedy posted a 2.08 ERA, 27 strikeouts, and 18 saves over 21.2 innings. Other than two bad outings (six runs and seven baserunners over two innings), he ended the season with a 3.79 ERA over 19 innings while converting 10 of his last 11 save chances. 

Even with success, Kennedy did have risk against right-handed batters (.298). He changed his approach toward batters, which led to a career-high ground ball rate (44.4). His AFB (94.9) jumped by a couple of miles per hour while batters struggled to hit his four-seamer (.208 BAA). Unfortunately, Kennedy lost the feel for his cutter (.469 BAA) and his curveball (.308 BAA). Even with a favorable ADP (197), he does have job loss risk based on his weaker arsenal and failure in 2017 and 2018. With a career-best strikeout rate (10.4), Kennedy may keep the job all year. Possible 3.50 ERA, 75 strikeouts, and 35 saves.

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Adams started 2017 with six strong starts at AA (4-0 with 1.03 ERA and 32 Ks over 35 innings) with continued success at AAA (11-5 with 2.89 ERA and 103 Ks over 115.1 innings). Over his first two-plus seasons in the minors, he went 31-7 with a 2.33 ERA and 324 strikeouts over 313 innings. Over the two previous seasons, Adams lost his way at AAA (8-9 with 4.72 ERA and 193 Ks over 194.2 innings) due to a huge step back in his walk rate (4.4 – 3.6 in his career). In his two chances in the majors, he posted an 8.18 ERA with 27 strikeouts over 33 innings. His AFB (91.8) isn’t an edge, while all three of his secondary pitches last value. A move to the bullpen may revive his career. The Royals lack upside in relief arms, so Adams may move up the ranks with improvement in his command.

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Staumont has been a failure 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 was much improved at AAA in 2018 (3.51) and 2019 (3.16) with strength in his K rate (12.5 and 13.0). He still walked too many batters (6.4 per nine) while being tougher to hit (.217 and .172 BAA). In his first trip to the majors, Staumont had a 3.72 ERA, but he struggled with home runs (1.9 per nine) and a lower strikeout rate (7.0). He did have a lower his walk rate (4.7) over 19.1 innings. His average fastball came in at 96.2 MPH with success with his curveball (.214 BAA). Live arm with tons of work to do with his command.

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