Kansas City Royals Success May Depend On Luke Hochevar

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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The proof is in the pudding and last season’s numbers certainly don’t lie. The question is, can he get the same results if he has to stretch things out over six or seven innings rather than one or two?

History has not been kind to failed starters who went to the bullpen, found success, and then returned to the rotation to become successful starters. Ryan Dempster is pretty much the only recent example.

Hochevar, however is different. This is not a case of a failed starter getting another chance and fundamentally doing what he’s always done, while hoping for better results. If he lands a spot in the rotation, it will be because he’s fundamentally reinvented his approach to pitching.

He’s still got the same tantalizing stuff and overall physique that made him the top overall selection in the draft so if he can stay healthy and apply last season’s lessons, he may well become the pitcher we’ve all hoped for. If last year is any indication, he may well have finally figured things out at the major league level.

At 30yrs old, he’s still relatively young by pitcher standards. If he can win a rotation slot and perform to the level Royals fans, management, and ownership expected when drafting him, this could be a very exciting season.

It may also be Hochevar’s last in Royal blue. He is currently operating on a 1-year deal worth just over $5M. A team like the Royals will likely not be able to hold on to such an expensive commodity in the bullpen.

If he doesn’t crack the rotation and he’s able to repeat his bullpen success of last year, he still positions the Royals to have another successful campaign in 2014 and his trade value, with back-to-back successful campaigns under his belt, goes through the roof.

Perhaps his greatest value to the Royals ultimately becomes whatever the Royals can acquire from another team in exchange for Hochevar before the trade deadline; a big bat or perhaps another quality young starting pitcher.

Either way, Hochevar’s success this season may determine the near-term success of the franchise, at least with this core group of players.

While the argument may rage throughout the season as to what Hochevar’s role should be, a lot will likely be determined by the performance of youngsters like Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, and Kyle Zimmer.

Yet, like Ned Yost and Dayton Moore, I just can’t seem to give up on this guy. Maybe it’s the former pitcher in me that continues to be fooled by his potential, but I have a hunch the best of Luke Hochevar is yet to come in Kansas City.

Like many Royals fans in recent years, I too have been frustrated by Hochevar’s potential and raw physical talent. The brief glimpses of success he’s had in the rotation were often dominant but were never sustained.

As we say in the military, “hope is not a plan” but in this instance, the promise of Hochevar’s potential success will likely determine the fate of the Royals over the next few seasons. So let’s hope that he truly has figured it out and that he can help the Royals reach the playoffs this season and beyond.