As the Kansas City Royals continue their search for a new pitching coach, speculation as to who they could go after on the free agent market is also beginning to pick up.
After fielding one of the worst rotations in baseball in 2022 and not having many players stand out to cement themselves as legitimate pieces moving forward, it's painfully obvious that Kansas City needs help in the pitching department. The team has indicated that it will be on the hunt for at least an arm or two, and impact starters are a major component of that.
In a recent article on MLB.com, Mark Feinsand played matchmaker and paired one free agent with every team. He chose right-handed pitcher Michael Lorenzen for the Royals, and here was his logic:
The Royals had some positive developments in 2022, but the rotation was not one of them. Kansas City’s 4.76 ERA ranked last among AL starting staffs, as Brady Singer (3.23 in a team-high 153 1/3 innings) and Zack Greinke (3.68) were the only starters with ERAs below 4.00 (min. 100 IP).
Lorenzen, who turns 31 in January, spent seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds before joining the Los Angeles Angels organization this past season. Across 18 games (all starts), the righty fired 97.2 innings of ball with an 8-6 record and a 4.24 ERA. His K/9 (7.83) and BB/9 (4.05) were both above his career averages, although his BABIP allowed (.262) was the lowest of his entire career. Lorenzen's 4.31 FIP and 3.91 xERA, however, indicate that not a ton of luck was involved in his 2022 production.
A quick look at Lorenzen's Baseball Savant page will show that while he does struggle to limit walks and he isn't the most deceiving pitcher in the game, he's passable in multiple other statistical categories. He relies primarily on a trio of his fastball, changeup and slider but also has a cutter and curveball that he will go to on occasion. This past season, Lorenzen's fastball ranked in the 82nd percentile among all pitchers in spin rate.
Throwing a fair amount of innings has been a major question mark for Lorenzen throughout his career, as shoulder injuries held him back a bit in 2018 and he missed the first three months of the 2021 season before suffering a hamstring injury in his season debut and ultimately pitching just 29 innings on the year. Between July 2 and September 8 of this year, Lorenzen didn't make a single start due to a shoulder issue. His 97-plus innings pitched in 2022 somehow served as his highest mark since his rookie year, which isn't anything to write home about.
Lorenzen did end the season on a high note, posting a 2.36 ERA with 30 strikeouts in five starts — 26.2 innings of work — to end the year. He has experience both as a starter and a reliever, which could appeal to Kansas City as the organization looks to rebuild its entire pitching program at the big-league level. He's likely worth taking a flier on for any team needing an arm but based on his track record, relying on him to bolster a rotation for the duration of a season would be a massive risk.