Royals minor-league starter Josh Staumont has the highest upside of any player in the KC system, despite ranking no higher than 11th among Kansas City’s top prospects.
Twenty-two year old Josh Staumont rose to no. 11 on MLB Pipeline’s ranking of top Kansas City Royals prospects in their mid-season update. However, both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus failed to list Staumont among the top 10 KC Royals talents.
So, why do I say that Staumont has the bighest upside of any player in the Kansas City system?
The short answer is his grade 80 fastball that he can’t control.
Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore selected Staumont in the second round of the 2015 draft after he led all collegiate pitchers in average fastball velocity while playing for Azusa Pacific University. The reason that Staumont lasted into the second round was because he averaged 5.07 walks per nine innings (BB/9).
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However, despite the wildness, Staumont was almost un-hittable. As a starter, Staumont can maintain his fastball in the mid-90s deep into games with good life. As a reliever, he sits in the high 90’s and can touch 102 mph. Staumont can also throw a sinker in the high 90’s.
Along with his fastball, Josh Staumont throws a sharp 12-6 curve along with a change-up that shows splitter action (drops off the shelf).
In short, Josh Staumont has no. 1 ace stuff. If he ever learns to command his pitches, he could become one of the best starters in baseball.
The problem is, Josh Staumont’s control hasn’t improved in the two years since the Kansas City Royals drafted him. Though he has advanced to AA NW Arkansas, Staumont struggles to get the ball over the plate. He’s got a career BB/9 of 8.2 across four minor league stops, and his BB/9 has zoomed to 9.2 in seven games in AA.
Of course, he makes up for this deficiency with a K/9 of 12.2.
Even so, Josh Staumont struggles to last deep into games. Because he lacks the ability to throw strikes, much less locate his pitches, he’s averaging only 4.0 innings per start. He piles up big pitch counts because hitters will try to wait him out for walks.
The smart money says that Staumont will end up as a power reliever in major league baseball, if he can even advance to that level. But, what happens if he eventually learns to command his pitches? Hall-Of-Famer Nolan Ryan famously did not learn to get the ball over the plate until the Mets dealt him to the California Angels at age 25.
Even in his breakout season in 1972 (19-16, 2.28 ERA), Ryan walked 5.0 hitters per nine. Ryan posted a 6.6 BB/9 at age 23 for the Mets, and an even worse 6.9 BB/9 at age 24. That’s why the KC Royals would be wise to be patient with Staumont’s development.
Otherwise, they could risk throwing away one of the best pitchers in the game.