Kansas City Royals: Competition for No. 5 Starter Will Heat Up Quickly

Jeremy SickelContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 25:  Bruce Chen #52 of the Kansas City Royals warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 25, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training complexes next week, which is the official sign that the 2013 Major League Baseball season is just around the corner.

Though there are a few names left to be signed on the free-agent market, most of the rosters around baseball are set—at least with the players who will be battling it out for the opportunity to break camp with their parent club.

The Kansas City Royals are coming off one of their most active offseasons in recent memory, bolstering their starting pitching rotation to the point that there is hope the team can actually contend for a postseason berth this year.

With the position players all but locked into place at this point—with only the lineup order and what to do with second base left to settle on—the Royals’ primary focus heading in to the spring could be who emerges as the team’s No. 5 starter.

James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana (acquired via trade), along with the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie, will comprise the top four arms in Kansas City’s rotation. The fifth starter will more than likely be chosen from this group: Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza or Will Smith—all of whom have experience with the team.

With only one spot up for grabs, it is likely that salary and track record will take a backseat to the hot hand coming out of spring training.

While Hochevar and Chen are on the books for more than a combined $9 million in 2013, it would be hard to imagine the Royals not going with either Mendoza or Smith should either have proven to be worthy a candidate leading up to the start of the season.

Should there not be much separation in performance this spring, however, overall value and past performance could serve as the tiebreaker here.

While all four pitchers have had stretches of nominal success in this league, there is likely to be a clear drop-off in performance at the back end of the Royals’ rotation. Luckily for Kansas City, the team should only need to make use of its No. 5 starter twice within the first month of the season due to how the schedule is set up.


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