It’s not very often you’ll see a pure reliever ranked as a top ten prospect in an organization, but Royals Farm Report felt so inclined to do so, ranking left-handed reliever Richard Lovelady at #9 in our top 100 series. Now this can be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the Royals having a system as shallow as the bird bath in your backyard. But when compiling these rankings, we also felt that Lovelady was very deserving of this high-ranking after putting together one of the more fantastic seasons in the Royals Minor League system this past season.
The Royals drafted Lovelady in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Kennesaw State University. This came after he put up an impressive season in the Atlantic Sun Conference, owning a 2.96 ERA in 45.2 innings, striking out 52 and walking 25. The Royals then assigned Lovelady to the Arizona League Royals, where he earned himself a promotion to Idaho Falls after posting a 1.84 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in a small 14.2 innings. The southpaw would continue his success of a rookie campaign in the Pioneer League, pitching to the tune of a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings, striking out striking out 14 and walking a pair of batters.
The Royals would fast-track Lovelady’s development this year, propelling him all the way to High-A Wilmington. This is when he would find himself on the prospect radar. He put up numbers that anybody would drool over (1.08 ERA, 1.48 FIP, 11.1 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 69.9% GB%). High-A seemed like a breeze for Lovelady, so the Royals promptly promoted him to AA Northwest Arkansas around mid-season, where he still owned fine numbers (2.16 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 49.4% GB%).
Lovelady maintains one of the higher ceilings in the organization for his respective role, as I believe he has a very good chance to end up as an above-average reliever in the major leagues. Everything is there for him. The numbers. The stuff. The velocity. Everything.
With some little improvements and refinements in his delivery, Lovelady has added about 10 MPH (!) to his fastball velocity. And somehow with this added velocity, he has learned to throw strikes more consistently, something that he lacked in college.
The delivery is not very conventional, working with some unique side-arm action. This causes some insane deception.
Lovelady should probably get some sort of look next Spring. I’d have to think he ends up starting the year in Omaha and then the Royals see what happens from there. With spots opening up in the bullpen, and more possibly to come, the chances of Lovelady making his major league debut next year are growing.
Photo Credits: Ken Inness—MiLB.com
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