25. Kansas City Royals (24–31, minus-50, LT: 27)
When Danny Duffy went down with an oblique injury at the end of May that could knock him out for two months, an already miserable Royals season lost one of its few remaining pieces of optimism. Without their young lefty ace, it became hard to conjure enthusiasm for a team that looks like it’s at the end of an incredible run that included two straight AL pennants in 2014 and '15, plus a World Series victory.
Maybe Eric Skoglund can offer a silver lining. A third-round pick by the Royals in 2014, Skoglund was named Kansas City’s fourth-best prospect before the season by Baseball America, which tabbed him as a back-of-the-rotation starter because he has solid control but lacks an elite out pitch. The 24-year-old lefty’s belied that scouting report in his major league debut on May 30 when he tossed 6 ⅓ shutout innings against the Tigers, with just two hits and one walk allowed, plus five strikeouts. His second start? Not so great: he lasted just two innings against the Indians on Sunday, giving up four runs on four hits with two walks.
A DL trip by Nate Karns (nerve irritation) cleared a spot for Skoglund to make it to the majors, and Duffy’s injury could give the rookie a chance to stick for good. Even if he merely delivers back-of-the-rotation results, the last-place Royals will take any little glimmer of hope they can find right now.