The Royals have had only one 'sure thing' this year, and that is Bobby Witt Jr. Everyone else has had moments in the sun, like Freddy Fermin and Maikel Garcia, or have been quiet for most of the year and chosen now to get hot, like Dairon Blanco and Brady Singer, or even started strong and flamed out, like Vinnie Pasquantino, Daniel Lynch and Brad Keller. But Witt has really been the one locked-in piece the Royals have had all year, which is depressing when you consider that Salvador Perez, Zack Greinke and Brady Singer are on this team.
Although...what it's looking like at the moment is that, after 4 months, the Royals have gained a second confirmed, locked-in piece. Because how else can you explain how good Cole Ragans has looked?
Ragans was a decent starting option for the Rangers last year, and though he went 0-3 in 9 starts, he showed promise as a steady and sturdy innings-eater. Only issue is Ragans was the type of starter the Rangers could only use when they were running thin on proven options. For 2023, they were overstocked with starters, so Ragans was mostly a bullpen long man, and not a particularly effective one at that. So when the Rangers needed arms to give up in exchange for Aroldis Chapman, Ragans was relatively high on the list.
Since landing in Kansas City however, Cole Ragans has been given the stability, opportunity and healthy environment that the Rangers didn't have the space to provide him with before. And that's why his first 5 starts for the Royals have been excellent, with a 2.51 ERA, 36 strikeouts and a 2-1 record. It's the kind of strong, dominant material that's rocketed him to the top of the WAR leaderboards after barely even a month. And even if the Royals have built people like Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and Brad Keller to be their rotation, a lot of them are injured or unreliable, and if the plan's not gonna succeed, this team needs people who will.
Even if the Royals still suck next year, which is a likely option, having both Brady Singer and Cole Ragans pitching consistently well, and on par with how they are now, will ensure that that team will be a step up from this one. It felt like with all the potential pieces the Royals set up last year, nothing really came to fruition and they took steps back. If Witt, Singer and Ragans all deliver seasons similar to their peak years, the Royals could begin to build something to separate themselves from the pack and potentially raise the quality of the AL Central. However...this could be a mirage, and Ragans could struggle next year just like Michael Massey, Nate Eaton and Scott Barlow did this year.
It'd be nice, though. What if Ragans gets good and makes the Rangers regret ever trading him? How awesome would that be?
Coming Tonight: Of the remaining members of the 2015 Mets rotation, the biggest active long-term success has been Noah Syndergaard. The second biggest somehow might be this guy.