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Duffy, Kennedy atop projected Royals rotation

KC could deal veterans for younger arms before season opens
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- As it stands, left-hander Danny Duffy would be the Royals' Opening Day starter and the leader of the rotation going into 2018.

But the Royals are in rebuild mode, and general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear that virtually everyone on his roster is a potential trade asset to help restock the farm system.

KANSAS CITY -- As it stands, left-hander Danny Duffy would be the Royals' Opening Day starter and the leader of the rotation going into 2018.

But the Royals are in rebuild mode, and general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear that virtually everyone on his roster is a potential trade asset to help restock the farm system.

And Duffy, predictably, received plenty of interest in terms of trade talks at the Winter Meetings last month and ever since.

So what will the Royals' rotation look like come March 29? Well, right-hander Ian Kennedy and his seemingly unmovable contract seem a lock. So do right-handers Nate Karns and Jakob Junis, whom the Royals consider part of the youth movement.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Royals might stack up:

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Danny Duffy, LHP
Ian Kennedy, RHP
Jason Hammel, RHP
Nate Karns, RHP
Jakob Junis, RHP

Video: KC@CWS: Duffy allows two through six innings of work

STRENGTHS
If the Royals don't trade Duffy, this could be a decent rotation. Duffy returns from an injury-plagued year but still has dynamite stuff, everyone knows that. Kennedy was excellent in 2016 (3.68 ERA in 195 2/3 innings) but never seemed to recover from a May hamstring injury last season. He should bounce back. Hammel had a solid post-All-Star break stretch (nine out of 12 starts giving up three runs or fewer) but struggled before and after. Before a thoracic outlet syndrome injury ended his season in May, Karns was a strikeout machine (51 K's in 45 1/3 innings with a 1.19 WHIP). Junis had a solid rookie year (9-3, 4.30 ERA), even better than his numbers suggest.

QUESTION MARKS
Can Kennedy and Hammel bounce back? Will Karns be ready for Opening Day and can he stay healthy? Will big league hitters adjust to Junis in his second year? Where is the depth outside of recently acquired Trevor Oaks?

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Duffy and Hammel still could be dealt before Opening Day. Someone else in the Royals' system could emerge, such as hard-throwing right-hander Josh Staumont or lefties Foster Griffin, Eric Stout or Eric Skoglund, and maybe even right-hander Brad Keller, whom the Royals got in a Rule 5 Draft trade.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Nate Karns, Ian Kennedy