Expedition Saves: Who Could Fill The Royals’ Ninth Inning Void (McCarthy, Hill & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

After the Royals surprisingly jettisoned Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals (it’s the timing of the trade, not the trade itself, that’s a surprise), there is an obvious void at the back of the bullpen.  There’s a good chance that the team utilizes a committee, at least initially, but let’s take a look at the candidates and try to determine who’s the best fit for the role.

We are going to use Rotoprofessor’s Reliever Reliability Quotient (RRQ) to help identify the best fit.  For those who are new to our exclusive statistic, click here for more details and here is the current grading scale:

Score
Skill Level
50+Elite
30-49Above Average
10-29Solid (though worth monitoring)
0-9Questionable makeup
<0High Risk For Struggles

 

Kevin McCarthy – Right-Handed Pitcher
If he gets the role he’s not going to be your prototypical closer, doing the job with control (2.08 BB/9) and groundballs (60.4%) instead of strikeouts (5.64 K/9).  There hasn’t been much upside in the strikeout department (8.9% SwStr%) and while closers of this nature have had some success we’ve also seen them implode (look at Brad Ziegler and Sam Dyson as examples).

The problem is that a lot of his success is going to be tied to “luck” and the defense behind him.  Thus far that hasn’t been an issue (.272 BABIP), but with a 24.2% line drive rate would it be surprising to see that number rise?

Maybe he does get an opportunity in the role, but it’s hard to imagine him thriving or holding it for long.

Rotoprofessor’s RRQ Score – 14.10

 

Tim Hill – Left-Handed Pitcher
He’s a rookie and he’s left-handed, a double whammy of reasons that could keep him out of the role, but from a pure skill set he has it (21.2 IP):

  • Strikeouts – 9.55 K/9
  • Control – 3.32 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 61.7%

He showed similar numbers at Double-A in ’17 (9.78 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, 60.8% groundball rate), so while he has a 4.98 ERA it’s strictly been luck driven (.339 BABIP, 54.1% strand rate).

A lot of the damage has come in June (14.54 ERA), and that could keep him from the role initially, as could his .281/.359/.429 slash against RHH.  If there’s a slew of left-handed hitters due up he should get the call, and he has the potential to develop into the best option.  He’s going to need time to right the ship, though.

Rotoprofessor’s RRQ Score – 51.38

 

Brandon Maurer – Right-Handed Pitcher
He has closing experience, with 35 saves while with the Padres in 2016 & 2017, which could give him the inside path to the role initially.  He spent significant time in the minors this season having struggled since being acquired in ’17, and it’s not like he was any better during his time there (5.48 ERA, 5.09 BB/9).  He doesn’t deserve the opportunity, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get it.

Rotoprofessor’s RRQ Score – Not enough IP to qualify

 

Justin Grimm – Right-Handed Pitcher
Another veteran, Grimm has been limited to 10.2 IP in ’18 while spending time on the DL.  Like Maurer he doesn’t deserve the chance, even if he gets it, as he’s continually struggled with his control (3.86 BB/9 for his career) and been burned by home runs (14 HR over 66.0 IP over the past two seasons).  What about that makes him worthy?

Rotoprofessor’s RRQ Score – Not enough IP to qualify

 

Conclusion
The guess here is that McCarthy gets the first crack at the role, though if Hill can get right-handed hitters out he has the best skill set to thrive in it.  Can he get there is a different question, considering a .339 BAA by right-handed hitters at Double-A in ’17.  At the end of the day this is likely a timeshare, and an uninspiring one at that.

Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  

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