At the end of July, the Kansas City Royals traded fan-favorite starting pitcher Danny Duffy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later. On Wednesday, that player was finally announced. Out of the pool of potential players selected, Kansas City will end up getting relief pitcher Zach Willeman. Willeman was a 2017 19th-round pick and posted a 3.78 ERA with 59 strikeouts in just a tick under 48 innings with LA's Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers, in 2021. The Inside The Royals crew has gathered to give their thoughts on the newest addition to the Royals and why the Duffy trade ultimately goes down as a win.
Jordan Foote: Considering Duffy didn't throw a pitch for the Dodgers, this is easily a win for the Royals. Willeman throws a hard fastball that is his bread and butter pitch, but he also has more to work with within his arsenal. It remains to be seen whether the organization will opt to add Willeman to the 40-man roster so he can be exempt from the Rule 5 draft that will be here before we know it but even if they don't, this move has the potential to pay off. A high-strikeout arm added to the farm system is never a bad thing, especially if that arm still has a big-league ceiling at age 25.
Trevor Hahn: I didn’t expect much coming in, but this looks like a guy that could make a knock on the door in a year or two. Not a high pick, does not look like a high-ceiling guy, but a player that could be plugged into a bullpen and produce.
Tyler Dierking: Given the fact that Danny Duffy didn’t throw a pitch in a single game for the Dodgers, anything the Royals got in return was going to be a win. Zach Willeman is going to be another bullpen guy, which isn’t a bad thing. He has a 3.78 ERA over 33 games and 47.2 IP, but only surrendered a run in 13 games. In five of those 13 games, he surrendered more than 1 run. If he can keep building on his successes this year, the Royals have a potential bullpen arm to work with in the near future. But before he even throws a pitch in the Royals, the trade is already a win.
Jerry Edwards: Willeman is a Tommy John guy whose main weapon is a low to mid-90s sinking fastball with a developing curveball and changeup serving as his secondary pitches. An 11.14 K/9 is promising, but I’d like to see him generate more ground balls and walk fewer batters. Willeman is definitely a guy to keep an eye on during next spring training.
Mark Van Sickle: Zach Willeman, a Double-A prospect, is coming over for the Royals giving up an injured Danny Duffy. Getting anything for Duffy was a win, no matter what Willeman becomes. His 59 strikeouts to 23 walks along with a 3.78 ERA last season isn’t bad at all. Now the only thing to wrap this up will be to have Duffy sign a one-day contract with the Royals this offseason before his retirement.
Jacob Milham: Zach Willeman is a solid three-pitch relief option for the Royals' farm system. While he is not the massive return for Danny Duffy fans hoped for, Kansas City has already won this trade. The Dodgers saw no work from Duffy but still traded Willeman as the PTBNL. Willeman is a low-ceiling prospect for Kansas City but was ranked 22nd in the Dodgers farm system in 2019. A major-league debut in 2023 would not be surprising, possibly 2022 if the bullpen is dire.