Successful baseball teams are built through the draft, and two recent examples of teams focusing attention on one position -- pitcher -- will take center stage as the Kansas City Royals host the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night in the third game of a four-game series.
The Indians will go fortheir third straight win over the Royals after Tuesday's 7-3 victory. The Indians had no runs and one hit through five innings but tied the game at 3-3 with a three-run sixth. They scored four more in the eighth.
In 2016, the Indians drafted three-fifths of their current starting rotation, including Wednesday's starter, right-hander Shane Bieber. Bieber was selected in the fourth round, one round after Aaron Civale and eight rounds before Zach Plesac.
Two years later, the Royals used four picks in the first round, including compensatory picks, on college pitchers. Three of those pitchers are on the parent team now, including their first selection, Brady Singer, who will face Bieber on Wednesday.
Bieber won the 2020 American League Cy Young award when he went 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA. He had 122 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. He hasn't been quite as dominant in 2021, but he has six quality starts.
He's 3-2 with a 2.76 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He's the only pitcher in MLB history to record at least eight strikeouts in 18 consecutive games, a mark he set Friday in a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"It's special. It's kind of surreal just to be able to experience that," Bieber said after that start, his fifth in six outings this season with at least 10 Ks. "Obviously, at the end of the day, all that matters is going out there and giving the team a chance to win. So I'm really happy with just how tonight went in general, especially with the end result being a W."
Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said the Royals will have their hands full.
"It's spin," Matheny said of what makes Bieber so tough. "In games when we've really had trouble with him, it's recognition of the strike-to-ball spin, especially with the slider. He uses the curveball effectively, too.
"He spreads the strike zone. ... The more opportunities to see him, the better the chance you have. Familiarity helps a little bit with understanding what a guy has."
Bieber is 4-0 with a 3.59 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals.
Singer, a right-hander, made his MLB debut in the second game of the 2020 season against the Indians. He went five innings and got a no-decision. Against Cleveland, he's 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts -- his best ERA against any team he's faced more than once.
This season, Singer is a deceptive 1-3 with a 3.09 ERA. His best start was a six-inning no-decision against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 18, when he allowed no runs on two hits. Singer is joined on the Royals' roster by 2018 first-round picks Kris Bubic, who also debuted in 2020, and Daniel Lynch, who made his major-league debut Monday night against the Indians.
Singer is good to go after taking a line drive off his left heel in his last start. The ball caromed to first baseman Carlos Santana, who doubled the runner off second to end the inning and end Singer's night.
"He threw his bullpen right on time, and everything seems to be going in a positive direction," Matheny said Tuesday.
--Field Level Media