The Kansas City Royals built a World Series winner off of clutch hitting, speed and of course, a dominant bullpen. Right now at the big league level, it seems that the bullpen is open for pitchers to prove themselves.
One name Kansas City Royals fans should keep an eye is the system in 2018 is Walker Sheller.
As Spring Training was winding down in Arizona and the sun was setting in Missouri, I had the chance to speak with the young pitcher. We talked about being drafted in 2016 by the Kansas City Royals; his quick ascension through the minor leagues; as well as an inside edge he may have of joining the big league club this season.
The first thing to a professional career is to be drafted or signed by a major league team. The Kansas City Royals selected Sheller in the ninth round of the 2016 draft. The ninth round is no small feat, so what was it about Sheller that caught the attention of the team? (Answers of Walker Sheller in quotes)
“I feel like one of the main things they saw was my drive to compete. I always want to get out there and prove what I can do; I’m always looking to get better. That drive is something I feel the organization prides itself on and definitely noticed about me.”
“When I got to my junior year of college I really started to feel like professional ball was a real opportunity. The calls and communication started coming in so it seemed like I could get there. It was something I wanted so I went out and worked hard to achieve it.”
“It was definitely exciting getting drafted period. I honestly didn’t know that the [Kansas City] Royals had that level of interest in me until they gave me the call. I knew a couple of people with ties to the organization so I had an idea of what they were about.”
Sheller has had a professional experience that not many players can claim. By the end of the 2017 season, he had made it to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. What made the transition to professional baseball a smooth and successful one for Sheller?
“The transition to pro ball has been great. Honestly, it is a lot like college only without the homework which is awesome! I mean you get to go out and play baseball every day for your job.”
“I think my desire to always want to reach the next level has helped me accomplish what I have. It’s that mindset of competing and wanting to show what I am capable of. “
Not only that, but Sheller was moved by the Kansas City Royals to the Naturals just in time for a very special time of the season. Playoff baseball.
“I actually was able to be a part of playoff baseball the last two years and there is honestly nothing like [it]. All of these guys are really good at what they do and they know how to win. Just being around that atmosphere has helped make me better [myself] because you have to be sharper to have success.”
With that experience, you would expect the goals to be set pretty high for Sheller. What does he hope to accomplish in 2018 with the Kansas City Royals organization?
“My goal has always been to make it to the major leagues. Hopefully, I’ll get to start the season back in Double-A, but once you get there you’re only a phone call away from the big leagues. I definitely want to show that I can play at that level and it would be awesome to get that call.”
In order to get the call to Kansas City Sheller knows that he has to put in the work each and every day. So what are some of the best tools that he can use to give himself the edge? His answer may be a bit unexpected.
“Getting to talk with hitters on the team has been a great way to improve my game. I was roommates with Nick Dini who is a great catcher and hitter. Just talking with him and getting his perspective gave me things that I could work on as I try to reach that next level.”
What about the possibility of being battery mates with one Salvador Perez?
“Salvy is one of the best catchers in the majors right now. It would be absolutely amazing to not only be able to work with him, but to pick his brain and just soak up that knowledge.”
As the Kansas City Royals are at the beginning of a transition from their World Championship core, the insight of someone within the organization is always interesting. How does Sheller view the current state of the team?
“I think the team has a lot of talent and can put together a playoff run. When you are at the highest level it is because you are really good at what you do. At that point, it’s all about the team coming together and clicking. With the kind of atmosphere Dayton [Moore] and the leadership has put in place I think the team is definitely capable of a run this year.”
Of course manager Ned Yost is a definite outdoorsman. Perhaps that interest can give Sheller an inside edge to Kansas City. You see him and Yost share that same passion outside of the game.
“I love to be outdoors. Hunting, fishing, being out on the boat. That’s just what I really enjoy doing when I’m not playing baseball.”
What will 2018 have in-store for Walker Sheller? At this point, no one can be certain. One thing for sure though, it is going to be something worth watching as he puts in the work each day to realize his dream.
What do you think #RoyalsNation? Do you have any predictions for the young hurler? Sound off in the comments!