Kansas City Royals got a Gem in David Sandlin. Now, They Need to Develop Him.

Heading into day 3 of the 2022 MLB draft, many in the Royals squak-o-sphere (myself included) were puzzled by some of their day 2 selections. The Royals used rounds three through 10 to target what seemed like long-shot college pitching that no public draft boards had anywhere near the slots in which they were taken.

But what initially looked like another classic Royals, galaxy brain overdraft made a lot more sense when they drafted David Sandlin with the 325th pick in the 11th round.

Sandlin was the 206th ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s draft board. A redshirt junior out of Oklahoma, he put together a wildly inconsistent 2022 with a train wreck of a regular season and a few moments of postseason brilliance. But draft gurus and scouts were in agreement that Sandlin has potential.

The start that got him overslotted by the Royals was undoubtedly the outing he had against Texas A&M to send Oklahoma to the College World Series Final. In 7 innings, Sandlin allowed 1 run on 5 hits with 12 strikeouts and only one walk. He owned the Aggie lineup by pounding the strike zone with a 93-94 mph fastball, a 55-grade slider, and a 50-grade curveball.

It’s the secondary pitches that make Sandlin a particularly enticing prospect. He threw a lot of them in that start against the Aggies and got nearly all his swing and misses with them. The broadcast team mentioned that the spin rates and movement metrics on his 85-87 mph slider are already above major league average, and for the most part, he locates it well.

His curveball is probably a tick below his slider, but it’s still a good pitch with a lot of depth and little horizontal movement. It’s more of a 1-to-7 than a true 12-to-6, which I actually like. It also has plenty of velocity separation from his slider, as it sits round 80 mph. Sandlin also sparingly uses a changeup, but I think it’s got the potential to be at least a 50-grade pitch.

That means Sandlin is probably on track to have at least 3 pitches that are Major League average or better. The questions are, how good can his fastball be and can he command it consistently?

Sandlin’s post season success can be attributed, in part, to a rise in velocity. While he sat 91-92 mph with his fastball during most of the regular season, in the post season he saw his fastball velocity rise to 93-94 mph, occasionally touching 95 mph. As you might imagine, Sandlin is much more effective sitting 93-94. He has an athletic body and frame that indicates he may be able to hold the velocity bump or even add a bit more. His ability or inability to hold that velocity increase will be a big factor in his future success.

Right now, his fastball plays better at the top of the zone than it does elsewhere. He mowed down the Aggies with sliders in his impressive postseason start against them but managed only 2 swings and misses on his fastball, both of which came at the top of the zone.

The lone run he gave up in that start came on a 91 mph fastball right down broadway. And that pitch exemplifies the potential downside of Sandlin. To be successful throwing 91-92, he’d need 60-grade command and a pitch mix that hides his fastball. At 93-94 mph or 94-95 mph, he could succeed with 50-55 grade command and a more even pitch mix.

Sandlin is a pitcher with the upside of a mid-rotation starter who needs development. He needs increased consistency, work on his command, and a more developed changeup. But all the tools are there. It’s now up to Paul Gibson and the pitching development team to make something valuable out of him.

9 thoughts on “Kansas City Royals got a Gem in David Sandlin. Now, They Need to Develop Him.

  1. Thanks for this article, Marcus. Sandlin is the type of pitcher would has talent but needs to be developed. I couldn’t help but notice that KC seems to scout the CWS hard with 25% of their picks from Ole Miss or Oklahoma (and one UDFA). Not a criticism but an observation. I’ve liked college guy over HSers especially for the Royals. Another factor is lack of short seasons for HS kids to have an in-between step from Surprise to full season – that’s a big jump for some of them as we are seeing this year.

    When do you think the 2022 class gets into competition at Columbia or ACL?

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    • Thanks, Dave! I agree; it’s interesting that the Royal seem to gravitate so much toward CWS guys (and not just in this draft). I’m not sure when each guy will debut; it will depend on things like health and whether or not they think they have something to work on in Surprise first. But Cross and Wallace I would expect to see in Columbia or Quad Cities first (I think Cross could go to QC; I think Wallace should be in Columbia to start). Some of the other college hitters prolly won’t spend any time in the ACL either. Dunhurst, Pineda, I expect those guys in Columbia. The college pitchers may spend time in Surprise to work on some stuff, but I doubt they play a lot in the ACL. ACL is typically more for HS guys, young international signings, and guys recovering from injury.

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      • Hi Marcus, what do the Royals do with guys who have been in ACL for a while (1yr+) but have flamed out at Columbia? Thinking guys like some of the DR kids i.e. Candelario or name the pitcher. How long do they keep them in AZ and doesn’t that create a backlog with new college players coming in who should be more advanced due to being older and more experienced.

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    • I’m gonna assume you asking this question is what made it happen so … great job! They just signed him for $1.7M about $150k over slot. I think they the holdup was probably related to organizing their money. They had priorities and they wanted to make sure they knew exactly what they could and couldn’t do money-wise.

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  2. Pingback: RFR’s 2022 Midseason Top-50 Royals Prospect Rankings: 30-21 | Royals Farm Report

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