4 Royals on Thin Ice Heading Into Opening Day

Alec Marsh will be the Royals' fifth starter but needs to prove he belongs
Alec Marsh will be the Royals' fifth starter but needs to prove he belongs / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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The Royals officially begin what looks like a year full of promise on Thursday, taking on the Twins at home for Opening Day with a bolstered roster and dreams of contention.

Kansas City expects to make a dramatic improvement on 2023's miserable 56-win season and betting markets believe in the franchise's direction after inking Bobby Witt Jr. to a long-term extension while making several massive pitching upgrades.

That being said, with heightened expectations comes heightened pressure. This is no longer an "evaluation" year and players need to perform. Let's look at four Royals on thin ice as we open the 2024 regular season.

4 Royals on Thin Ice Entering Opening Day

1. Alec Marsh - SP

Marsh was named the team's fifth starting pitcher with Jordan Lyles heading to the bullpen in a surprising move, but one that signals the organization's intention to seriously compete for an AL Central title this year.

The 25-year-old Marsh showed a lot of promise near the end of 2023, striking out 75 batters in 65.1 innings after the All-Star break in his first year in the big leagues. He'll get an opportunity to stick in the rotation, though I expect manager Matt Quatrato to have Marsh on a short leash if things go poorly early on.

With six pitches in his arsenal highlighted by a plus fastball and deceptive sweeper, Marsh ranked in the 74th percentile in whiff percentage last year. He's looked dominant at times in the minor leagues and his 4.70 expected FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 2023 implies he was a bit unlucky to amass a 5.69 ERA overall.

Marsh was only in the 12th percentile in walk rate and needs to improve his command. Jordan Lyles is lurking and wants back in the rotation, so Marsh will need to start hot to stave off a veteran who has shown he can handle a ton of innings like Lyles.

I'm optimistic about Marsh's future, though there's plenty of pressure on the 6'2" righty to prove he belongs in the rotation all year long.

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