Welcome to the first in a continuing series of Kings of Kauffman stories profiling some of the organization's top prospects. First up is pitcher Frank Mozzicato.
Where the KC Royals will assign Frank Mozzicato, the young starting pitcher MLB Pipeline rates as the fourth best prospect in the organization, to begin the 2024 season probably won't be determined until well into spring training. What is unquestionably certain, though, is that he won't be a part of the major league club when it hosts Minnesota for Opening Day.
Mozzicato simply isn't ready. Nor are the Royals ready for him to make that leap. He is a work in progress, one not to be rushed to the big leagues. Performance must exceed potential before he receives the ultimate baseball promotion.
And so far, his minor league performance proves pitching in Kauffman Stadium is not in Mozzicato's immediate future.
Frank Mozzicato has struggled during his brief career
Important to keep in mind about Mozzicato is his inexperience. The Royals made him their first pick, and the seventh overall, in the 2021 draft but, rather than immediately throwing him into the rookie ball mix or assigning him to Single-A, they had him work at their Arizona training complex before giving him a go in that year's Fall Instructional League. That delayed his minor league debut until the 2022.
And his first professional season wasn't a complete success for the promising hurler who, as a high school senior just a year before, threw four straight no-hitters. Assigned to Single-A Columbia, Mozzicato went 2-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 19 starts. Much to his credit, the lefty struck out 89 in 69 innings (11.61 K/9). But he also walked 51 for a disturbing 6.65 BB/9. That his control required work was clear.
Mozzicato returned to Columbia for the 2023 season and made 12 starts before the Royals promoted him to High-A. Unfortunately, his control remained problematic in both places — he issued 34 walks in 56.1 innings for the Fireflies, then 33 in 36.2 frames for the River Bandits, and finished the year with a 6.48 BB/9. All those walks certainly didn't help Mozzicato, who was 2-5 (but with a nice 3.04 ERA) at Columbia and 0-4, 7.12 at Quad Cities.
To be fair, a pre-game workout collision sidelined Mozzicato for almost two weeks in June and may explain at least part of his troubles on the mound. Encouraging, though, was his August, when in 18.1 innings across four starts he gave up six earned runs (2.95 ERA), struck out 24, and held opponents to a .197 OBA. (But he walked 14).
Predicting Frank Mozzicato's 2024 season with the KC organization
Because he pitched only nine times for Quad Cities, expect Mozzicato to be back with the River Bandits to begin this season. Simply put, he needs more time in High-A ba, and returning to that level will be consistent with the obviously cautious and methodical approach the Royals are obviously taking with him.
That doesn't mean he'll finish the campaign at Quad Cities. As long as he pitches reasonably well, cuts down on his walks, and shows progress, he should find his way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas by, or shortly after, midseason. Triple-A, however, is almost certainly a year away.