3 Royals Players Set to Break Out in the 2020 MLB Season

Tristan Jung
Royals OF Bubba Starling made it to the majors in 2019, eight years after he was drafted in the first round.
Royals OF Bubba Starling made it to the majors in 2019, eight years after he was drafted in the first round. / Michael Zagaris/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

The Kansas City Royals are set for a rebuilding year in the AL Central, but that should offer plenty of opportunities for new stars to make a name for themselves. The team had a limited offseason, but talent in the system and some veterans could be poised for a breakout.

Last year, the Royals saw breakout seasons from Jorge Soler, Ian Kennedy, and Hunter Dozier. All three were unheralded coming into the season but showed significant improvements. Here are three players who could make a similar leap in 2020.

1. Scott Barlow

Scott Barlow was a workhorse in the Royals' bullpen last year.
Scott Barlow was a workhorse in the Royals' bullpen last year. / Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Despite finishing the year with 103 losses, the Royals had a solid bullpen in 2019. The unit finished the year 17th in fielding-independent production (FIP), which is respectable considering what the bullpen looked like coming into the year. Scott Barlow, a Los Angeles Dodgers castoff who had a 6.11 ERA in Triple-A in 2018, was a big part of that improvement. Barlow had a 3.41 FIP and struck out 11.77 batters per nine over 70.1 innings and is set up to be the setup man for closer Ian Kennedy. If the Royals opt to trade their 35-year-old closer to a contender, Barlow could be the next man up and a long-term bullpen piece for the future.

2. Bubba Starling

Bubba Starling is set to be on the Opening Day roster in 2020 for the Royals.
Bubba Starling is set to be on the Opening Day roster in 2020 for the Royals. / Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Bubba Starling was taken fifth overall by the Royals in the 2011 MLB Draft. For years, he was best known as the bust that the Royals took over Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Baez in the first round. However, Starling finally made his major-league debut in 2019, playing 56 games after tearing up Triple-A. Starling had had a difficult time making contact for his whole career, but he showed improvements at the plate in 2019 and cut his overall strikeout rate. Just like Hunter Dozier, another prospect who many considered a bust, Starling will get a full shot at the majors years after his prospect hype has diminished. If he get anywhere close to the .310/.358./.448 line he had in Triple-A and continues to play solid defense, he could be a breakout star. He's started spring training by hitting .423 with 3 homers, so things are already looking up.

3. Brad Keller

Brad Keller struggled in the first half, but rebounded well before getting shut down due to an innings restriction.
Brad Keller struggled in the first half, but rebounded well before getting shut down due to an innings restriction. / Will Newton/Getty Images

Brad Keller was supposed to be one of the Royals' breakout stars last year, but lost rhythm after earning a five-game suspension for throwing at the White Sox's Tim Anderson. The talented righty was unable to make use of increased velocity, but he still wasn't terrible, managing a 4.19 ERA and 4.35 FIP despite only striking out 6.64 per nine. Keller is a ground-ball pitcher in an era of power arms, but he still has the command and the stuff to get by in a weak AL Central. He had a 3.62 ERA in the 54.2 innings he threw in the second half, numbers akin to the 3.08 ERA/3.55 FIP season he posted in 2018. He's been overlooked after he got shut down for September as the Royals sought to manage his workload, but he should be a solid starting option in 2020.


Join FanDuel Sportsbook Today. New users get a risk-free bet up to $500. Join Now.


Tristan Jung is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Tristan Jung also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username tristan1117. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

facebooktwitterreddit