Typically, a 23 year old pitcher that spent a good part of his season playing on Single A minor league teams would not register on the radar. Yet, when that pitcher has pitched at five different levels in the past two years, then that player gets a lot more interesting. That type of progression would seemingly indicate that the Royals would have plans for that player, and potentially soon.
That is what makes Scott Alexander potentially interesting. Alexander was initially drafted by the Royals in the sixth round of the 2010 Amateur Draft, and reported to Idaho Falls. There, he struggled, producing a 1-6 record with a 5.73 ERA before missing the entire 2011 season following shoulder surgery. It may have been fair to wonder if Alexander would be able to provide any return for the Royals.
Alexander put together a solid 2012 season, despite pitching a total of 35.2 innings. Between two levels, he was only 2-4, but he put together a 2.52 ERA while striking out almost eight batters per nine innings. His control was a bit of a concern, as he walked four batters per nine, but he gave up less than a hit per inning. It appeared as though there may be something there.
During the first part of the 2013 season, Scott Alexander was excellent. Working exclusively as a reliever for the first time in his career, Alexander started the season with the Lexington Legends, where he had a 1.20 ERA while striking out a batter per inning. He was then promoted to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, and performed at roughly the same level. Although he only struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings, Alexander decreased his walk rate while putting together his best K/BB rate of his career. That performance earned him a promotion to Northwest Arkansas.
With the Naturals, Alexander struggled. Although he struck out almost eleven batters per nine innings, his walk rate spiked to just under five walks per nine. Alexander was also eminently hittable, giving up 38 hits in 33 innings of work. Those struggles led to a 5.18 ERA, the most that Alexander has struggled since his first year in the minors.
Scott Alexander has been adept at getting ground balls in his minor league career, getting a ground ball in 59.1% of his at bats. He actually gets 2.49 ground balls to every fly ball, potentially cementing his status as a reliever that could come in and get a ground ball when that key double play is needed. It is actually so difficult to get any lift against Alexander that he has only given up a total of two home runs in the past two seasons, with both coming during his time in Kane County.
The biggest key for Alexander appears to be his control. It appears as though Alexander looks for the strikeout too often, overthrowing his pitches and losing the plate. As indicated by his time in Wilmington, when he looks to challenge hitters, he can have success. With his extreme ground ball to fly ball rate, it appears to be more of a matter of getting Alexander to trust his pitches and challenge the opposition.
Much like fellow minor leaguer and ground ball aficionado Andrew Edwards, Scott Alexander may be able to earn a major league job as a ground ball specialist. However, if he can improve his control while continuing to miss bats at the rate he has throughout his minor league career, then Alexander may be able to develop into a late inning option for the Royals within the next year or two.