Kansas City Royals: Prospect Q&A with pitcher Daniel Tillo

KC Royals, Top moments of September (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals, Top moments of September (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Daniel Tillo was a third-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft for the Kansas City Royals. I had a chance to catch up with him about his season.

Drafted in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Iowa Western Community College, Daniel Tillo put together a really good 2019 season that saw him start out at High-A Wilmington. There he made 20 starts while tossing 107.1 innings and striking out 64 batters to the tune of a 3.77 ERA.

From there, he was promoted to Double-A NW Arkansas where he was utilized a bit differently. Tillo made more appearances out of the bullpen than starts but struck out nearly a batter per inning in that role. I caught up with him now that the Naturals’ season is over.

Q: Being from Sioux City, Iowa, what initially drew you to Iowa Western Community College after transferring from Kentucky? Was it a difficult decision to ultimately give up basketball to pursue baseball?

A: I pretty much verbally committed to Iowa Western out of high school initially to play both basketball and baseball. My first love was always basketball but I also loved baseball too. But once I knew I was transferring back home that baseball way my sport I’m gonna run with and see what I can do with. I just love competing with my teammates with any sport I play though.

Q: I also want to congratulate you on a successful 2019 season that saw you get promoted to Double-A after 20 starts in High-A Wilmington. Were there any discussions to utilize you more in a bullpen role in Double-A?

A: Thank you! You can only have one starting pitcher normally in the fall league. And because Daniel Lynch is going I got moved to the pen to get ready to throw out of the pen at the fall league. I had a great experience coming out of the pen late with the Naturals and learned how to do it.

Q: How do you feel about analytics, and have you taken much of the data into account when looking for ways to improve? If so, what particularly has been helpful? Have you found any tendencies in pitch usage and spin rates?

A: I’ve noticed I have a solid spin rate on my 4 seam fastball. I started throwing that up later in the year. Still pound my sinker down though in the zone to get ground balls. Slider got sharper out of the pen when I was just ripping it throwing it hard. Still not always the correct tilt but that’s something I’m gonna work on this offseason!

Q: I was wondering if you might say you would be able to throw it harder out of the bullpen. The same thing has happened with Ian Kennedy since he became the closer. His average fastball velocity increased from 91 to 95 due to fewer pitches and less time needed to recover. That being said, is the bullpen something you would consider long-term or do you still prefer to start?

A: Actually two outings ago I hit 98 for the first time this year in late August so I was happy about that. I think for sure I throw harder out of the bullpen. I’d consider anything that helps me get to the big leagues whichever road it is!! Couldn’t quite hit 99 like Jackson Kowar did earlier this year but I’m coming for him. He’s the velo King for now…

Q: What has been the biggest adjustment since arriving in Double-A, and where do you think you can make the biggest improvements in terms of specific pitches and approach?

A: My 4 seam/sinker is solid. I’d say just again it’s consistency with my slider and changeup. When I can throw them where I want will be the biggest part. They have good movement just have to control them!

Next. An early look at the 2020 MLB Draft. dark

Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals? Music, handshakes, etc.

A: No I don’t have any pregame rituals. My teammates like to think I’m pretty laid back and very loose before games when I pitch. I can joke and have a good time in the lockerroom 45 minutes before game time haha.

A special thank you to Daniel Tillo (@DT4Cero) for allowing me the opportunity to interview him. We hope to see you in the big leagues soon!