The KC Royals and minor-league pitching development have not belonged in the same statement for quite some time. The team has historically struggled to develop pitching prospects into major leaguers. Pitchers like Jackson Kowar, Angel Zerpa, and Dylan Coleman are just a few that come to mind. A new crop of pitching coaches and development staff has had some immediate positive effects on the lower minor league teams.
Two KC Royals pitching prospects are moving up through the farm system early in the 2023 season.
Comparing the 2022 pitching stats in Low-A Columbia and High-A Quad Cities to this year's at the same level is night and day. Both teams' ERAs have improved, with more strikeouts, fewer home runs surrendered, and improved WHIPs as a unit. There are some pitchers doing more than the rest, and Kansas City promoted two well-performing prospects to the next level this past week.
First, Kansas City promoted starting pitcher Anthony Veneziano from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha after his successful start to the 2023 season. A 10th-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Veneziano has rebounded from a down 2022 season. Through eight starts this season. He has a 5-1 record, a 2.13 ERA, and limits walks with a 2.5 BB/9. Despite pitching more than 40 innings, he still maintains a .99 WHIP. That alone is an elite level of limiting the opposing batter, no matter the level.
Veneziano is far from a top prospect in the Royals system, not appearing on any major team-specific prospect lists. It is not surprising, considering he is 25 years old and posted a 5.72 ERA in Double-A last season. Nonetheless, he is starting 2023 strong and has flipped the script on his outlook in the Royals farm system. Veneziano has not made his debut with the Storm Chasers yet, but he will be a welcome addition to a struggling Omaha rotation.
Second, the Royals promoted starting pitcher Noah Cameron from Quad Cities to Northwest Arkansas, filling Veneziano's open spot in the rotation. Cameron has an even 2-2 record through seven starts this season. posting a 3.60 ERA. His 14.9 K9 and 6.44 KBB are both elite-level production in the minors, and Cameron had the second-most strikeouts in all of MiLB when he was promoted. The Royals' promotion of the 23-year-old Cameron is not entirely surprising. He quickly rose through the system in 2022, making 19 total starts across rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A. His high strikeout rate and lower walk rate were present at every level he played at and peaked in High-A.
Unlike Veneziano, Cameron appears on MLB's top 30 Royals prospects list in 2023. Their evaluators rank him as the Royals' 22nd-best prospect, but with tantalizing tools. His 60-grade changeup and 55-grade control are among the most promising, especially considering the erratic Royals' pitching development history. The Royals drafted him 199th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft, nabbing the falling Cameron, who underwent Tommy John surgery that same year. It was a risky pick, but it is working out well for the Royals right now. Cameron taking the next step to Double-A will certainly prove how soon he can contribute to the major-league club.