2018 Official Royals Farm Report: Starting Pitchers 

The Royals system lacks high level, starting pitching talent.  We don’t have the next Zack Greinke or Yordano Ventura flourishing in the upper levels of our system.  What we have is a lot of guys with a decent floor that aren’t considered spectacular by the scouting gurus.  Our guys get outs and eat innings, and that is very valuable but not flashy enough to garner high prospect rankings and grades.  But even so, the state of the Farm starting pitchers is solid. 


Maybe you are worried that we haven’t been developing our pitchers or that we have made some bad draft choices.  The latter could be true for the 2015 draft but those guys have a lot of talent and are just taking a little longer to develop.  But really the fact that we traded most of our high level starting pitching prospects for our 2015 World Series title is to blame for where the system currently is.  Think about it. The Royals traded Brandon Finnegan, Sean Manaea, Cody Reed, John Lamb, and Aaron Brooks, as part of that 2015 playoff chase.  They also dealt Mike Montgomery, AJ Puckett, Matt Strahm, Andre Davis, and Alec Mills in other deals including a push at the 2017 playoffs.  The Royals lost Ashe Russell to personal reasons last year knocking out their 2015 draft.  And the biggest blow to the system was the best starting pitcher I have ever seen throw in the Texas League, Kyle Zimmer who has dealt with injury issues.  


What I just described eliminates the first pitcher the Royals selected from the 2012 through 2016 drafts.  Now take a look at the second pitcher taken in each of those drafts.  The Royals took Reed who was traded, Griffin who is probably starting in Northwest Arkansas and looking to move quickly up the ladder and is a top prospect, Watson who has not worked out as hoped yet but has had some great moments, and Jace Vines who has talent and will probably be in Northwest Arkansas by the end of this year.  They have some promise but they are not the level of that first group we’ve already mentioned that we traded away.  


I hate to revisit it, because it hurts so much emotionally, but losing Yordano really took a toll on this ball club as well.  Our major league rotation is not what it could have been but most of us are okay sacrificing that because we won the 2015 World Series.  Homegrown Danny Duffy will be the ace of this rotation followed by Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Nate Karns, and another homegrown guy, Jakob Junis.  If Yordano is the ace of that rotation we would have three homegrown guys and a better record of developing our own and perhaps no mantra of “unable to develop guys” hanging over our heads.  We have looked into the issue of SP development recently at RFR.  


One of our issues last season was the step Josh Staumont took backwards in his development.  It looked like he was pitching not to throw a ball rather than to attack a hitter and get ahead early.  He had a few incredible starts but not enough over the course of the year.  Staumont needs to get back to where he was mentally at the end of 2016 and attack hitters.  You have great stuff Josh, get out there and dominate with it.  Attacking hitters is the key to your success.  

What the Royals have right now is a bottleneck of pitchers ready for Lexington who may not get to throw there to start the year.  There are at least three 2017 draft picks who should start the season at Lexington and at least three more who deserve to start there but it looks as if the rotation spots are all already filled.  The Royals will probably have to send those starters to extended spring training to get starter innings and fill in spots as they open or put guys in the pen as piggybackers.  There will have to be some creativity to make sure guys are getting innings and developing early in the year.  One thing the Royals tend to do is start high school guys at extended spring.  I expect Newieler, Willis, and del Rosario to start in extended.  Somewhere around May 15 is about when they’ll make adjustments.  

Let’s take a look at some possible rotations for our minor league affiliates.  


Omaha Storm Chasers

Rotation

Sparkman

Glenn

RHP

Oaks

Trevor

RHP

Skoglund

Eric

LHP

Ogando

Emelio

LHP

Barlow

Scott

RHP

I’m projecting that Omaha’s rotation will be made up of Emelio Ogando, Eric Skoglund, Jonathan Dziezdic, Glenn Sparkman, and Scott Barlow.  Of course you have Sam Gaviglio who will be working for an MLB roster spot.  Gaviglio could start the season in Omaha as a starter or he could be a swingman on the 25 man roster which is what I’m assuming happens at this point.  The addition of two Rule 5 guys makes that a little tougher, however.  Also, is Karns ready for opening day? And what about Eric Skoglund who looks like he needs more time in Omaha but could also start developing more at the MLB level with us in a rebuild?  The Royals really like Skoglund so he may find a way to break spring with them team also.  A lot of things could change this rotation around.  

Northwest Arkansas

Rotation

Blewett

Scott

RHP

Castillo

Cristian

LHP

Ray

Corey

RHP

Staumont

Josh

RHP

Griffin

Foster

LHP

I’m projecting that Northwest Arkansas’s rotation will be made up of Scott Blewett, Cristian Castillo, Corey Ray, Foster Griffin, and Josh Staumont.  Sparkman should start the season at Omaha and he is ready, but there are some guys above him that may keep him at NWA to start the season.  I’m really excited to see what Blewett can do and compare him to Griffin and Staumont who I’ve been able to watch recently.  I think the Royals want to keep Blewett and Griffin relatively close to each other in the development area as they can compete and move up together in a wave.  And adding Staumont wouldn’t hurt that group of three.  Castillo is a guy that is flying under the radar and at least one Royals minor league guy has said is the most underrated prospect in our system.  Like I wrote in his prospect watch, I think Corey Ray should move to the pen in the future but I think he’ll stay in the rotation at NWA just because the lack of mid-minors rotation fillers.  Vines is probably ready for the promotion to double-A and ready for the challenge but will probably end up at Wilmington.


Wilmington Blue Rocks

Rotation

Rodgers

Colin

LHP

Davila

Garrett

LHP

Garabito

Gerson

RHP

Watson

Nolan

RHP

Vines

Jace

RHP

I’m projecting that Wilmington’s rotation will be made up of Jace Vines, Gerson Garabito, Nolan Watson, Colin Rodgers, and one other pitcher who I have not identified yet.  I put Garrett Davila here for the time being as roster filler but I really think he starts at Lexington.  There are several people suggesting the Royals should aggressively fast track either Daniel Tillo or Evan Steele and start them here skipping Lexington but that probably doesn’t happen and one or both could end up at extended spring training.  Davila needs a little more development but he and Garabito are both solid starters and should do well going forward and could be that next combo of L and R to move together.  Rodgers and Watson need to get things ironed out and going at this point in their careers and this is a good place to do it with a great pitcher’s park.  There is a chance Watson ends up starting out at Lexington to work on his confidence.  That last rotation spot is very interesting because I don’t see a clear cut favorite to take it.  I’d love to see the Royals be aggressive and send one of our 2017 draft class pitchers to fill out this rotation and push the development. 

 

Lexington Legends

Rotation

Biasi

Sal

RHP

Drabble

Dillon

RHP

Hernandez

Carlos

RHP

Steele

Evan

LHP

Tillo

Daniel

LHP

I’m projecting that Lexington’s rotation will be made up of Evan Steele, Daniel Tillo, Sal Biasi, Dillon Drabble, and Carlos Hernandez.  But Jansen Lara really deserves to be here as well.  There is a chance that Steele or Tillo end up at extended spring which opens the door for him.  There are a lot of other possible pitchers here such as JC Cloney, Charlie Neuweiler, Holden Capps, David McKay, or even Connor Mayes. Neuweiler pitched really well last season in Arizona and could start here but that would be very aggressive of the Royals with a high school draftee who they normally start in extended.   This is the rotation with perhaps the most upside in the entire system.  Lara was the best arm pitching at the scoring rich environment of Idaho Falls last year but will have to cut down on his baserunners.  The Royals may also want to send him to extended spring to get more seasoned in the US as this will be only his second season stateside.  Steele, Tillo, and del Rosario all have tremendous upside and are exciting prospects if they are here.  Biasi has great stuff, is a college guy, and had a tremendous season last year and even if he is not quite the same upside, Biasi still has a chance to be a solid MLB mid-rotation guy.  If the Royals are aggressive and send one of those five to Wilmington, I think Cloney could slide into this spot.  Cloney is a college lefty who had success in the PAC 12 at Arizona with a solid professional debut.


Other Starters

Rotation

Neuweiler

Charlie

RHP

Sotillet

Andres

RHP

Van Buren

Malcolm

RHP

Willis

Marlin

LHP

Lara

Janser

RHP

Cloney

JC

LHP

Bender

Anthony

RHP

Mayes

Connor

RHP

Webb

Nathan

RHP

Capellan

Delvin

RHP

Zerpa

Angel

LHP

Frias

Adan

LHP

Jimenez

Wilmer

LHP

Cabrera

Rovaldis

LHP

Castillo

Adriam

RHP

del Rosario

Yefri

RHP

Eckert

Travis

RHP

Capps

Holden

LHP

Garcia

Robert

LHP


Listen, these guys are better than a lot of the prospect gurus think. There is a lot of talent here.  You have size, stuff, moxy, pedigree, and a lot more.  Royals pitching development has changed since 2010.  They are doing new things and seem to be having results.  


Even though this system lacks a top 100 pitching prospect, there is still a lot of potential.  But of course, things have to develop for all of those guys to be successful.  And nothing ever works out 100% with minor league systems.  With the 2018 draft coming and potentially 7 or 8 top 100 picks, the starting pitchers in this group could look completely different as the Royals could take 3 or 4 top 100 arms adding to what is currently there.  I expect they’ll take a college starter at 18 who has dropped and will probably start out in Lexington or Wilmington.  I expect this guy to challenge to be our number one pitching prospect at that point.  


The Royals may take two college arms, probably a high risk/high reward high schooler who needs time, and probably a very talented high school arm that has a safer floor.  This part of the farm will look completely different in June and could suddenly become a strength rather than what many consider a weakness.  

Photo credit: KC Star

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One thought on “2018 Official Royals Farm Report: Starting Pitchers 

  1. FYI Drew. You write that Dziedzic will be one of the Omaha starters but have Oaks in the list of 5 starters. It is possible Oaks starts in KC if Karns is not ready. And also possible given his recent history that Dziedzic starts the season on the DL. So either may be true.

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