The Royals announced several roster moves today, including the news that Brady Singer and Brad Keller have both been placed on the 15-day injured list, ending their seasons. Kansas City recalled right-hander Jonathan Bowlan from Triple-A and selected the contract of left-hander Anthony Veneziano from Triple-A as well. To create 40-man roster space for Veneziano, Matt Beaty was designated for assignment.
Keller already spent a big chunk of the season on the 60-day IL due to a right shoulder impingement, and his placement today was due to a “return of symptoms associated with thoracic outlet syndrome,” according to the Royals’ official announcement. That is unwelcome news for the veteran righty, and it implies that a TOS surgery might be required to correct the problem. The Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly is one of the rare examples of a pitcher returning from a TOS procedure and still pitching well in the aftermath, though if Keller does need a surgery, his chances of a recovery and a return to form might hinge on the specific nature of his TOS issue.
In the bigger picture, undergoing a major surgery will also certainly hamper Keller’s chances of landing a new contract in free agency this winter. With a 5.17 ERA over 318 2/3 innings since Opening Day 2021, Keller was already likely looking at a non-guaranteed deal on the open market, but he might now face a longer wait before landing any kind of contract if he does indeed have to get a TOS procedure.
Singer has a strain in his left lower lumbar area, and the injury will put a coda on an overall disappointing year for the 27-year-old. After seemingly breaking out in 2022, Singer appeared to be the front-of-the-rotation type of pitcher the Royals were desperately hoping to find from their group of highly-touted (but to date underwhelming) crop of top pitching prospects. Unfortunately, Singer took a step backwards in 2023, with a 5.52 ERA over 159 2/3 innings and some of the worst hard-contact numbers of any hurler in baseball. The right-hander’s strikeout rate was also well below average, sharply declining from 24.2% in 2022 to 18.9% in 2023.
One of the many questions the Royals face heading into 2024 is discovering what exactly they have in Singer, and whether or not he can be an effective and consistent starting pitcher. He did have a few stretches of quality starts amidst his broader struggles in 2023, but that is small consolation for a Kansas City team in dire need of rotation help.
Veneziano has been in the Royals organization since he was selected in the 10th round of the 2019 draft. After a strong start to the season at Double-A, he earned a promotion to Triple-A Omaha in mid-May. He has pitched to a 4.22 ERA over 89 2/3 innings with below-average strikeout (20.6%) and walk (11.2%) rates, but it has been enough to earn the 26-year-old his first taste of Major League action.
Baseball America ranks Veneziano as the fourth-best prospect in the Kansas City farm system, while Bowlan is 18th on their list. MLB Pipeline has Veneziano 16th and Bowlan out of their top 30 altogether, quite possibly owing to the injuries that have plagued Bowlan since he was a second-round pick in the 2018 draft. He underwent a Tommy John surgery in 2021, and has dealt with some shoulder issues this year.
The results haven’t been there for Bowlan since returning from his TJ rehab, as he posted a 5.92 ERA over 62 1/3 combined innings (at rookie ball, high-A ball, and Double-A) in 2022, and he has a 5.91 ERA over 102 frames of Double-A and Triple-A work this season. His first appearance with the Royals will also mark the MLB debut for the right-hander.
Since the Royals have off-days on both Thursday and Monday, it remains to be seen how they’ll line up their rotation over the final two weeks of the season. However, it stands to reason that both Bowlan and Veneziano will get at least one start as K.C. looks to patch these holes in their rotation and takes a look at two farm system arms that could factor into the club’s 2024 plans.
More to come…