If the Royals are going to be successful they need homegrown players who can lead them to the World Series. They got that from Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon during their 2015 title season. The core of any winning team is going to have to be players the Royals have developed themselves or for whom they have traded. The Royals cannot win by signing free agents. They don’t have, or won’t spend, the money to win through free agency. No team can afford to consistently do this. Free agent signings will have to complete the roster. They will never be the core of a winning Royals team.
If the development process is done correctly a team does not need to “tank” regardless of what some in the game might say. The St. Louis Cardinals are a great example of this. The Cardinals are regular contenders and win a World Series from time to time without letting go of all of their players to draft high in the June draft for a few seasons to build their farm system. However, this means that the Royals have to do what they didn’t do with the Hosmer and Moustakas group. They must be willing to turn over the roster a little on a yearly basis. They have to trade popular players to add pieces to the minor league system with players more proven than many of those in the draft.
The Royals have to be happy that they are getting this kind of performance out of Keller in just his age 23 season. If things go as planned, Keller should be joined in the rotation by 2018 draft picks Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar in 2020. Both project as possible top-half of the rotation starters. Left-handed starter Daniel Lynch could also be with the major league club in 2020. Lynch had a combined 1.58 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 12 starts in rookie and single-A ball in 2018. And let’s not forget Jakob Junis. Junis would be a quality fourth or fifth starter if the Royals are fortunate enough to force him down to those spots in the rotation.
It was just one start in 2019 for Brad Keller but it was encouraging in that it backed up what he did in 2018. Nothing is guaranteed but the Royals have to feel good about where they stand with Keller’s spot in the rotation as they build toward getting back to competing for the division in 2021.