Steven Fuentes is only 22 years old and already Rule 5 draft-eligible. His strike-throwing ability makes him an intriguing possibility for the Royals.
The Washington Nationals signed Steven Fuentes out of Panama back in 2013. Since he signed at the age of sixteen he is already available in the Rule 5 draft this year. He has performed at a level thus far in his minor league career to suggest there is a possibility he is an arm the Royals could use in their bullpen right now.
Fuentes is a right-handed pitcher that throws a fastball in the low 90s. He is deceptive enough with his fastball and puts enough sink on it that it is a nearly perfect pitch for inducing groundballs. His groundball rate was is over 55% in AA. You can see in the video below from 2080baseball that he throws everything from the stretch and his unusual release adds deception to his pitches.
His slider works as a strikeout pitch and he has shown impressive control of the pitch. His changeup also shows promise, though at times there is not enough variance in speed between his changeup and his fastball. But his arm movement and release on his changeup are very good. And he has shown enough improvement with the changeup to believe he could ultimately wind with an arsenal of 3 above-average pitches.
The highest level of baseball that Steven has seen is AA. In 2019 he threw just under 64 innings of AA ball and struck out 63 batters. He also only issued 15 walks. That performance lines up with his earlier performances at lower levels. Over just more than 80 innings total in 2019, he struck out more than a batter per inning and walked less than 3 per 9 innings.
Fuentes throws strikes. He does not issue free passes. The Royals need more pitchers that achieve that combination. He has a pitch that regularly gets weak contact and he has a pitch he can trust to get swings and misses. He has also shown the ability to improve.
With his developing changeup, there is a possibility that Fuentes one day becomes a back-end starter. More than likely, however, he becomes a long relief guy or possibly even an opener for the right team.
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A possible reason for Steven Fuentes being left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft is that in August he was suspended for 50 games because he tested positive for a banned stimulant. This may be an opportunity for the Royals to add a young prospect with a bright future to our bullpen.