Frank Mozzicato, a talented lefthanded pitcher, plies his new professional baseball trade for Columbia, the KC Royals’ Low-A affiliate. He turned 19 just a few weeks ago, yet carries the burden of expectations attached to his status as the club’s first-round draft choice last year.
The wickedness of his curveball is well-chronicled and may be his best ticket to the majors. But at least on paper, Mozzicato isn’t electrifying the baseball world in his first season in the pros.
More on that in a moment.
Working a level above Mozzicato, but for a different organization, is another lefthander who Kansas City could have danced with in last year’s first round, a “local” product of sorts who had opened eyes as a three-season starter just down the road at Kansas State. Unlike Mozzicato, though, Jordan Wicks’ 2022 numbers seem, on the surface, more befitting of a first-rounder.
Does that mean the Royals muffed their pick and should have grabbed Wicks instead?
KC Royals pick Frank Mozzicato isn’t setting the world on fire at Columbia.
Mozzicato signed soon after Kansas City chose him with the seventh overall 2021 pick but elected not to use him in any minor league games last summer, opting instead to work him out at its Surprise, Arizona complex before letting him see limited action in the fall instructional league. The organization then sent him to Columbia to start this season.
His performance for the Fireflies hasn’t been eye-popping. He’s 0-3 with a troubling 5.52 ERA in 10 starts, and his 26 walks in 29.1 innings translates to an even more troubling 8.0 BB9.
But he also boasts an 11.4 SO9. Encouraging, too, is his last start—he threw 3.2 scoreless innings (Columbia typically uses him two-to-three innings at a time) and struck out four.
Jordan Wicks, who the KC Royals could have drafted, is doing well this year.
Wicks, who MLB Pipeline rated the 16th best 2021 draft prospect (it ranked Mozzicato 39th), was the Cubs’ first-round pick pitches for their South Bend High-A affiliate, and his 2022 numbers are better than Mozzicato’s. After beating Peoria Tuesday night—he struck out 10 in 5.1 scoreless innings and gave up only one hit—he’s 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 16 starts.
And that’s an improvement over 2021 when he had a 5.14 ERA, 3.9 BB9 and 6.4 SO9 in four no-decision starts for South Bend.
Fortunately for Wicks and the Cubs, his present efforts look far more like his Kansas State days than last year’s. Before the draft, Wicks finished his K-State career with a 6-3, 3.70, 2.7 BB9 and 11.5 SO9 campaign. The Big 12’s Freshman of the Year in 2019, he was 15-6, 3.24 with a 10.2 SO9 and 2.6 BB9 in three Wildcat seasons.
So, did the KC Royals draft the wrong lefthanded pitcher last season?
Although it’s too soon for a definitive answer, the preliminary response is “No.”
Simply put, their short careers provide no grounds to declare either pitcher better than the other. After all, Wicks is 22 (23 in September) and has the benefit of three collegiate seasons, while Mozzicato is barely 19 and getting his first taste of baseball life after high school. Wicks is a sturdy 6-feet-three and 220 pounds; Mozzicato still needs to, and likely will, grow into his 6-feet-three, 175 pound frame.
And that they are only using him in short stints (his longest outing is four innings) suggests the Royals aren’t about to rush Mozzicato up the minor league ladder, so patience is a virtue when it comes to their top pick of a year ago.
Don’t jump to conclusions, then, about whether Kansas City made a mistake. It’s just too soon to tell.
Chances are good, though, that Mozzicato will prove to be a wise choice for the Royals.
Will Frank Mozzicato turn out to be a better draft pick than Jordan Wicks? Time will tell.