The KC Royals set social media ablaze Sunday evening. Some will say their credibility was the kindling, their draft strategy the match.
And the fire still burns, as a couple of minutes spent on the Internet perusing the Royals’ first draft pick will quickly reveal.
Kansas City had the seventh selection Sunday night and jolted the baseball world with it. It wasn’t Kumar Rocker, the hard throwing Vanderbilt pitcher nearly all the mock drafts predicted the club would pick.
Instead, the Royals mocked the mocks. They angered fans ready to make a run on Rocker jerseys. They didn’t take Rocker, or super shortstops Kahlil Watson or Brady House, or Kansas State lefthander Jordan Wicks, who surely had a huge band of followers primed for the Royals to pick a Wildcat who’s been pitching almost in their own backyard.
Kansas City picked lefthanded pitcher Frank Mozzicato, and Royals fans erupted. If you didn’t know better, you’d have thought the club had traded Salvador Perez. The din was that loud.
Yes, the pick was surprising, and not solely because few, if any, outside Kauffman Stadium’s inner sanctum saw it coming. Mozzicato just finished his final high school season, making his selection a surprise not only because he’s so inexperienced, but also because the Royals haven’t had a lot of late luck with high school pitchers, especially those they’ve taken in the first round. Mozzicato doesn’t have a blazing fastball, a commodity whose premium value now seems essential for a first round pick. At 6-feet-3 and 175 pounds, he doesn’t cut a physically imposing figure on the mound.
And he didn’t occupy any attention-grabbing, lofty positions on prospect lists. MLB Pipeline, for example, ranked him the 39th best prospect in the draft pool.
So, why did the Royals go all-in on Mozzicato with their only pick until their next turn comes today in the second round with the 43rd overall selection?
Frank Mozzicato may bring more to the KC Royals’ table than many realize.
Dig around a little on Mozzicato and you’ll discover some of the telling 2021 statistics now surfacing across the Internet that undoubtedly helped hook the Royals. Start with his astonishing, mind-numbing 135 strikeouts over 55.2 innings, an unheard of average of almost 22 every nine frames, then consider his 9-0, 0.16 ERA record. Prep stats, yes, but still dependent on talent.
And he threw four straight no-hitters this season while leading Manchester’s East Catholic High to the Class M Connecticut State Championship.
Nevertheless, it will take time, and much of it, to determine whether Kansas City made a colossal mistake, or hit pitching pay dirt, with Mozzicato. He’ll require cautious and deliberate development; the Royals won’t rush him to the majors—instead, they’ll probably nurture him in the same way they should Asa Lacy, their first round surprise of last year’s pandemic-truncated draft.
Mozzicato, after all, is just barely 18; in fact, he reached that important date just last month. He’s lanky, something two or three seasons working in professional ball should change.
And that’s one reason Mozzicato shouldn’t be sold short. Much of Sunday evening’s negative critiques of him focused on an underwhelming fastball that, according to Pipeline’s scouting report, was even worse as late as last summer when it apparently stayed in the upper 80s, occasionally hitting 91; additional work, however, increased the pitch to 91 regularly with a 93 top.
Mozzicato, though, is bound to mature physically as a consequence of nature and the workouts required of pro ballplayers. Those factors are sure to add juice to his fastball.
So it is the Royals can project more heat from Mozzicato, which will complement his exemplary curve, and the changeup Pipeline accurately points out he hasn’t much needed yet but will likely refine into a good weapon.
The KC Royals clearly expect Mozzicato to fit into the organization well.
To hear the Kansas City draft brass tell it, and as The Athletic’s KC beat writer Alec Lewis tweeted late Sunday evening, Mozzicato is precisely what the franchise likes and wants:
And this from Kansas City’s Assistant General Manager-Amateur Scouting Lonnie Goldberg:
Whether some fans like it or not, the KC Royals have the player they seem to have so badly wanted. Now they’ll give him the chance to prove the risk was worth it. As always, time will tell.
Kansas City used its top draft pick on Frank Mozzicato. Here’s hoping he’s everything the Royals want and need.