The KC Royals announced another set of promotions on Tuesday, seeing three pitchers acquired in 2022 all rise one level in affiliated ball. William Fleming, who came to Kansas City in the Carlos Santana trade, jumped from High-A Quad Cities to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Steven Zobac took his place, moving from Low-A Columbia to Quad Cities. Prospect hounds have plenty of tape on Fleming and Zobac, both appearing in at least 13 games this season. The final promotion, moving pitcher Hunter Patteson from the Arizona Complex League to Columbia is the move few know have insights to.
A KC Royals 2022 draftee is making his Low-A debut soon.
The Royals selected Patteson in Round 5 of the 2022 MLB Draft, at 145 overall. He is a Florida native through and through, attending Vero Beach High School and playing college ball in Orlando at the University of Central Florida. The Cubs drafted him in the 35th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, but Patteson honored his commitment to the UCF Golden Knights. He had a relatively quiet freshman season in 2020 but came into his own in 2021 after a summer in the Coastal Plains League. In 2021, Patteson struck out 65 batters in 55 2/3 innings, walking 35 in that same span. He started out as a bullpen arm, but the Golden Knights added him to the rotation later on.
He parlayed a developing collegiate season into the Cape Cod League in 2021. Summer ball is summer ball, but the best summer ball is in the Cape Cod League. He played for the Brewster Whitecaps that season, appearing in eight games with two starts. He ended that summer with a 4.34 ERA, but a 4.25 K/BB ratio and 1.071 WHIP put Patteson on the prospect map.
Patteson turned into a full-time starter for UCF in the 2022 season, but injury derailed a promising season. He underwent Tommy John surgery after an elbow injury in April, limiting him to seven starts for the Golden Knights. Patteson was lights out in those appearances though. He logged 41 strikeouts to five walks across 29 2/3 innings. A 12.4 K/9 coupled with a 1.82 ERA had Patteson looking like the Golden Knights' ace to start the season.
Patteson sported a three-pitch mix, with a fastball nearing 100 MPH prior to the injury. How he is a different pitcher following Tommy John surgery remains to be seen. But, Patteson had all the talent to be selected higher in the 2022 draft if healthy.
Patteson has some pitching experience following recovery, namely for the Royals Arizona Com,plez League team. He faced 68 batters in seven appearances, striking out 21 and walking three. His nearly identical 12.3 K/9 is a great sign, and 1.8 BB/9 is more than acceptable. A 4.02 FIP is far from shutdown stuff, but Patteson likely has more stretching out to do, and making the transition to professional baseball is rarely easy.
The Royals took a gamble on Patteson and fans will finally see what he can do in Columbia. He will take Zobac's spot in the rotation presumably, also filling the versatile role that Zobac did to open the 2023 season. Promotions are always a sign of confidence, but let's see what Patteson can do and how he may be different on the mound.