The KC Royals’ pitching prospect has the physical tools and makeup to be successful, although he’ll need some seasoning before he’s ready for the MLB.
Daniel Tillo was a third-round draft selection by the KC Royals in 2017. It was primarily a pick based off potential, as Tillo’s resume to that point was far from impressive. His repertoire, however, was.
MLB Pipeline, which ranked Tillo as the Royals’ No. 30 prospect a season ago and No. 19 ahead of the 2020 campaign, grades his fastball as a 60. It has a ton of late life to it and can touch 97 MPH at its best. Tillo mixes it in with a solid slider and a developing changeup. Control has always been a question mark for him.
Tillo was solid in 20 starts with Single-A Wilmington in 2019, then spun a 3.47 ERA in 23.1 innings with Northwest Arkansas in AA. It’s unclear whether his future is as a starter or a member of the bullpen but nevertheless, let’s take a look at some scenarios for the tall lefty:
Tillo’s control becomes a strong point. His slider becomes a perfect secondary pitch and the changeup takes the place of where his slider’s currently at. His walk rate (3.7 per nine innings as a minor-leaguer) improves and the strikeouts start piling up. Tillo silences any worries about his future as a starting pitcher and he earns a promotion to AAA — or higher — before the end of the year.
The inconsistency comes back to bite Tillo. His erratic nature as a pitcher leads to his ground ball rate lowering in exchange for more home runs allowed. The ERA skyrockets and he’s stuck in AA for all of 2020 with little hope he’ll become an MLB starter. To the bullpen, he goes.
Most likely outcome:
At 23 years old, Tillo should begin the maturation process as a pitcher. Is he ever going to be a strikeout machine? Maybe not. Does he have the potential to become one? Absolutely. If he can limit his walks, which he should be able to do the second time around in AA, there’s little reason to believe he can’t earn a promotion and keep on track with his 2021 ETA. In the event of a 29-man roster, there’s a very outside chance he joins KC in late 2020.
Tillo has the pure stuff to be successful. He’ll have to control his arsenal