The KC Royals pitching rotation woes have been a headline storyline in the 2023 season. The pitching metrics have improved for Kansas City since last season, but the health and future of that pitching rotation are very much in question. Zack Greinke is no spring chicken, Brad Keller is a pending free agent, and Kris Bubic went under the knife this season. That does not include Brady Singer or Daniel Lynch, two pitchers fans expect to take a step forward this season. There is no sure thing in this rotation right now, making eyes turn to what prospect arms could emerge in the coming years. An interesting duel is going on in the Columbia Fireflies rotation, where starters Frank Mozzicato and David Sandlin are dueling for the Low-A strikeout lead.
Two KC Royals prospects and Columbia Fireflies teammates are dueling for the strikeout lead this season.
Both Mozzicato and Sandlin have six starts in 2023, and only five strikeouts separate the two. Mozzicato holds the lead currently with 48 strikeouts across 29 1/3 innings pitched. He does have 19 walks though, the second-most among all Low-A pitchers. Meanwhile, Sandlin has been striking out opposing batters with better control. He is tied for the second-most strikeouts, recording 43 so far this season. But, he only has six walks in 27 2/3 innings for an impressive 1.95 BB9.
Both pitchers are neck-and-neck for the strikeout lead, but both had very different expectations entering this season. Mozzicato, MLB.com's seventh-best Royals prospect, had a lackluster debut season for the Fireflies in 2022. Royals fans already had questions about Mozzicato as a prospect when the Royals drafted him seventh overall in the 2021 Draft. For Sandlin, the expectations were much lower as he was an 11th-round pick for the Royals in 2022. However, he has exceeded expectations with his impressive strikeout numbers and control on the mound.
The two, along with Ben Kudrna, figure to be the focal points of the Fireflies' rotation this season. Sandlin is three years older than Mozzicato and could be a promotion candidate to High-A Quad Cities if he continues this dominant performance. The Royals could be more patient with Mozzicato, allowing the 19-year-old to continue maturing physically and perfecting a devasting curveball. Either way, both pitchers should be considered prospects on the rise at this point of the season.