The last article of the Under-the-Radar Royals Prospects series is finally here! In part 5 of the series, I am looking at Royals right handed pitcher Will Klein. The 2020 fifth-round draft pick out of Eastern Illinois was recently named MLB Pipeline’s 2021 Royals Pitching Prospect of the Year. Klein was also Royals Farm Report’s 2021 Organizational Reliever of the Year.
Dominance in High-A Central
Klein spent the entire year with the Quad Cities River Bandits in High-A Central, where he dominated hitters in a long relief-type role. The 21-year-old went 7-1, compiling a 3.20 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. That led to an absurd league-leading 40.9% strikeout rate and an insane 15.48 K/9. He was sitting around 94-98 mph when I watched him in games while covering High-A Central. In an earlier Royals Farm Report article, they mentioned that he could also reach 102 mph with his fastball.
I was most impressed watching Klein in the High-A Central Championship Series. He continued his dominance going 3.2 innings while giving up one hit and striking out eight. He came in with the bases loaded in one game and struck out two of the Minnesota Twins’ top prospects, Matt Wallner and Aaron Sabato. He finished that game striking out six of the ten batters that he faced in 2.2 innings, ultimately helping the Quad Cities River Bandits on their path to becoming High-A Central Champions.
The Scouting Report
When you watch Klein on the mound, he presents a bulldog presence on the mound coming in at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. His power arm that has his fastball topping 100 mph at times dominates hitters. When he’s coming in relief, his fastball will be a tick higher than the 93 to 94 mph he sits at as a starter. He pairs his fastball with a good slider and a fun looping curveball.
There were some concerns about his command and control, but he already started to see improvement this year when he cut his walks in half in August and September compared to June and July. During the last two months of the season, he threw 24 ⅓ innings giving up six earned runs, walking only nine, and striking out an absurd 47 batters! The stuff is elite, and given his age, there is plenty of time to keep improving on that command and control.
Based on what I’ve seen, Klein will most likely stick as a reliever, but he can be a starter if he improves his secondaries. I like everything I have seen about Klein and see him having a significant role in the Royals bullpen in the future. Going into 2022, Klein will most likely start the season in Double-A. If he picks up where he left off and continues his dominance, we could see Klein making his major league debut at some point in 2022. Thinking about Will Klein, Dylan Coleman, and others, have you just dreaming about how dominant the future Royals bullpen will be. Might we see the return of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland’s?! Maybe. Just maybe.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@BanditsPhotog)