Here’s another 2017 MLB rookie profile: left-hander Matt Strahm of the Kansas City Royals. Strahm has struggled early in 2017, touched for seven runs on four hits and six walks in his first three outings for the Royals covering 1.1 innings. This is in sharp contrast to what he did last year and what he did in spring training. Let’s take a look.
Drafted in the 21st round in 2012 from Neosho County Community College, Strahm got off to a slow start in his career due to 2013 Tommy John surgery. He was lights-out on his return in ‘15, posting a 2.59 ERA in 94 innings with a sharp 121/31 K/BB between Low-A and High-A, then following up with a solid 2016 in Double-A (3.43, 107/23 K/BB in 103 innings).
He moved up to the majors last summer and was excellent in the Royals pen, posting a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings with a 30/11 K/BB. Strahm ranked third on the 2017 Kansas City Royals Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
3) Matt Strahm, LHP, Grade B: Age 25, out-of-nowhere success story posted 3.43 ERA with 107/23 K/BB in 102 innings in Double-A, then jumped to majors and posted 1.23 ERA in 22 innings in bullpen, 30/11 K/BB; 21st round pick in 2012 from Neosho County Community College in Kansas; career slowed by injuries but 90-96 MPH fastball and solid/average curve and change remain intact; has the arsenal and command to start but questions remain about his durability; there’s little doubt about his talent, just uncertainty regarding the role. ETA: 2017.
He threw 11 innings in spring training this year, giving up eight hits and six runs for a 4.91 ERA but with an superb 15/1 K/BB. This was enough for him to lock down the bullpen spot.
Strahm’s struggles this April come down to uncharacteristic wildness. His fastball velocity hasn’t changed, his PITCHf/x velocity averaging 93.8 MPH just like last year, but his ability to throw quality strikes has been absent so far and his secondaries have been troublesome. Patrick Brennan at Kings of Kauffman noted problems with Strahm’s curveball late in spring training, a precursor to the early regular season disasters.
Strahm and the Royals coaches trace the problem to mechanical issues, manager Ned Yost noting that Strahm is “. . .just flying open a bit. You stay on top and your command will come back."
If this is a simple mechanical issue, it should be fixable and Strahm can return to form quickly. Time will tell if this is a symptom of something worse, a more complicated delivery breakdown or a hidden injury.