In a draft filled with pitching prospects, the best results of all for the Kansas City Royals may come from Jackson Kowar.
Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will probably always be tied together in the minds of Kansas City Royals fans. Both right-handed pitchers were drafted in 2018 out of the University of Florida. They both pitched in the NCAA for 3 seasons. They were both drafted in the first round. Singer was drafted 18th and Kowar was selected 33rd overall. And they are both climbing the ranks of the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system together.
Kowar and Singer also have incredibly similar numbers through the beginnings of their professional careers. They have almost identical strikeouts per 9 innings, almost identical runs allowed per 9 innings, and almost identical bases on balls per 9 innings. Kowar has thrown more innings and has more starts but, barring injury, they both appear to be on track to arrive in the big leagues sometime next year.
Thus far, Brady Singer remains the better known of the two. And he is also ranked higher in most prospect rankings. But it is my belief that Jackson Kowar is the more likely member of the Florida duo to have a long career as a starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Kowar throws one of the hardest fastballs in the Kansas City Royals system (sometimes as high as 98 MPH) and he has one of the best changeups, if not the best. Those two pitches alone would seem to suggest he can develop into a reliable pitcher in the middle of an MLB rotation. Watch and enjoy the video below from Rob Friedman. This changeup is a work of art.
Jackson Kowar still appears a little on the thin side for a man of his size. I would hope he would continue to fill out as he hits his mid-20s. If he can develop even more velocity on his fastball and keep it up around that 97 MPH range, it would make his changeup even more devastating. And it is his changeup that makes him so effective. It is deceptive and his arm speed sells it to the hitter. His changeup is good enough now to get big league hitters out.
Throwing his fastball consistently for strikes was an issue in college, at times, for Kowar. But his low walk rate would suggest he is figuring that part out. What will keep Kowar from becoming a front of rotation level pitcher is his lack of a third pitch. His curveball must continue improving or he needs to find another breaking ball that he can throw consistently if he wants to become a front of rotation ace.
But, even in a worst-case scenario for Kowar, he still has that incredible changeup to pair with a 95 MPH fastball. Below is another video from Rob Friedman demonstrating the release of Kowar’s changeup and the view from the batter’s box. I have no idea how anyone is supposed to hit that pitch.
The difference between Kowar and Singer is that Singer has been unable to find a changeup while Kowar struggles with his breaking ball. At this point, I would prefer what Kowar offers. His two-pitch arsenal seems more effective against hitters from either side of the plate, so he is not as susceptible to being roughed up by lefties. And, with his changeup as good as it is, his breaking ball does not have to become a plus pitch to be a usable offering. He just needs an average breaking ball to keep the best hitters honest.
The good news is that fans of the Kansas City Royals do not have to choose. We have both pitchers. And they have both performed at about the level you would expect. It would be disappointing if we did not see both young men pitching for the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in 2020, at some point. The only difference, in my opinion, is that Kowar has the higher ceiling.