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Royals to give Hochevar, Davis second… mmm, sixth chances as SPs

Dec 9, 2013, 5:15 PM EDT

Luke Hochevar Getty Images

After two seasons as a below average starter, Wade Davis broke through as a reliever for the Rays in 2012, amassing a 2.43 ERA and striking out 87 in 70 1/3 innings.

The Royals plan after picking him up in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade? Move him back to the rotation.

Luke Hochevar was a below average starter for five years before his move to the pen last year. However, he was an immediate success as a reliever, posting a 1.92 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings. This after he entered the season with a career ERA of 5.39.

So what are the Royals going to do now? Try him again as a starter, of course.

And they’re going to do the same with Davis, again, even though he was terrible as a starter last season and, again, an immediate success after losing his rotation spot and shifting back to the pen (one run in 10 innings in September).

The Royals will probably include one of the two in their 2014 rotation along with Shields, the newly acquired Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy. It’s possible both could be starters if Duffy struggles in spring training.

On the one hand, the Royals do have the bullpen depth to pull off such a plan. Even though Hochevar and Davis have both looked like elite setup men when given the chance, the Royals will still be just fine with Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Donnie Joseph working in front of closer Greg Holland.

But it still seems like a pretty awful idea. Davis and Hochevar have combined to spend eight seasons in a major league rotation. The only year in which either managed even a 90 ERA+ was Davis’s rookie campaign in 2010 (he came in at 96). Hochevar’s career-best ERA is 4.68 and ERA+ is 87.

At least in Hochevar’s case, one could argue that he figured something out as a reliever that he could carry back into the rotation with him. Of course, that was the argument for Davis a year ago and it didn’t work. Hochevar essentially ditched his slider and changeup as a reliever, becoming a fastball-cutter guy. He can rely more on that cutter going forward than he did before, but he’s still going to need to reincorporate the changeup as a starter and that’s always been a liability for him.

Ideally, the Royals would be able to trade two guys from the Davis-Hochevar-Herrera-Crow-Collins quintet for one quality starter. It really shouldn’t be that much of a reach, given the value all five of those guys possess. But if they can’t go that route, they’re probably better off just keeping all of those guys in the pen and signing re-signing Bruce Chen to round out the rotation.

  1. humpalumpagus - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    Man what a bad call on Hochevar. He finally became an exciting player this past year with potential to become a successful Major League closer. Now it’s tough to predict if he’ll be of any value at all.

  2. sportsdrenched - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    When the Royals front office does stuff like this. I wonder if they just got done watching Ground Hog Day on the VCR.

    • spudchukar - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      Yeah, I guess you have to try and make the most out of what you got, but this has to be discouraging to Royals fans. Maybe Davis can contribute in a #5 role, but a Hochevar move to the rotation is frightening.

  3. blingslade - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Even though KC finally had a plus .500 year last year the smart fans knew it was just a one and done scam. It’s soooo easy to see that the owner and GM are just trying to make a few bucks instead of building a winner.

    • dan1111 - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      The sad thing is, I think this IS them trying to build a winner.

  4. spudchukar - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Or maybe elevate Crow to the rotation. Wasn’t he a starter potential at one time?

  5. kcrobert10 - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    This is just a smoke screen to enhance there trade value I’d bet. I see Ventura and Duffy as ur 4 5 guys. Trade bullpen guys to find a 2nd baseman or 3rd baseman.

    • dan1111 - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      Enhance their trade value? How?

      • kcrobert10 - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:04 PM

        Maybe if other gm’s see them as starters we may get more for them. Only takes 1 smuck to make a great move for us.

  6. geoknows - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    “Long look in spring training” does not mean that either of them will be in the rotation. Hochevar got a “long look in spring training” for a rotation spot this year, and look how it turned out.

  7. hittfamily - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Wade Davis’ xFIP wasn’t bad. It’s only 4 tenths of a run per 9 higher than Shields. He was really, really unlucky. I’d put him in the rotation too. He’s got some expensive option years coming up. If he’s a serviceable #3 or #4, those options look pretty good. If he’s a good middle reliever, those options will be declined. Might as well figure out what you’ve got, especially with Duffy and Ventura to fall back on.

  8. posterkid88 - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    All they are doing is creating competition in Spring training and building depth. You hear it fairly often that it’s a a lot harder to stretch your pitch count out if you’ve conditioned as a reliever and easier to go to a relief role if you’ve conditioned as a starter. If injuries or struggles cause these guys need to start, they better have them stretched.

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