I saw some of Chris Ellis in person over the last two seasons. He always seemed to be good enough to get the job done. He threw hard, had a good curve, a slider, and a solid change. In my notes I wrote “we never seem to hit this guy hard. Someone to watch.” Well, now that he is on the 25-man roster, I watched a bunch of film on him.
In his windup, Ellis has a slow windup bringing his hands over his head. He is very smooth and in control of his movements. He has a quick tempo. The windup could be described as “traditional”.
Out of the stretch he does an abbreviated leg lift. He is quick to the plate. I didn’t see anything special about his moves to first. They are quick, but readable.
Ellis likes to start RHHs off with his fastball away or the curve ball away for a strike. Once he gets ahead, he can work the fastball up, throw his slider down and away, or break the curve into the dirt. He throws really good chase pitches.
Ellis has good fastball command and usually works 93-95. He uses his 6’5″ height to his advantage and can really drive the ball downhill. The fastball has some slight arm side movement to it. Coming from the Cardinals organization, I’m sure he throws both the 4-seam and 2-seam. If he misses with the fastball, he has a tendency to miss up. He will have to really make sure his misses are down in the big leagues next season.
The Royals think the curve ball is a plus pitch. I agree. A lot of guys freeze both RHHs and LHHs. It has good 12-6 movement on it. Ellis can start it at the hitter’s eye level and break it into the strike zone or start it at their belt and break it into the dirt. Hitters have a hard time picking it up and he gets a lot of weak contact with it. The pitch has sharp, late movement.
Ellis uses a slider as well as his curve. The slider has shorter, sharper movement away from a RHH. He uses it more as a chase pitch and prefers the curve if he needs to throw it in the zone for a strike. This is a good variation for him that big league hitters will chase.
The change up has good arm side movement and LHHs reach for it. They don’t seem to pick it up very easily. He does tend to get the change higher in the zone than he wants at times, but the change in velo is good enough a lot of LHHs are out in front and roll over. This is going to be something he needs to clean up next year in the majors though.
Ellis is a good pick. He definitely seems to be ahead of Burch Smith last year. It is impossible to predict the kind of success that Keller had, but Ellis has the repertoire to stick in the majors for the entire season. The Royals will probably give him a chance to start in spring training but the bullpen is an easy fallback option. If he goes to the pen, I would expect him to be a long guy that might get the start in the second game of a double header or a spot start occasionally. The problem is, the Royals have a bunch of good, young starters right now who are vying for those last few rotations spots. They have to find a way to keep him on the roster all season. This is a good problem because it means they’ve rebuilt their pitching depth and have a lot of solid options to choose from.
Photo from MiLB.com taken by Roger Cotton.