The Royals didn't take anyone with their pick in the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 draft, but they did manage to add Jandel Gustave in a trade with the Red Sox after Boston drafted him with the sixth pick overall. Even though he was traded, he'll still have to remain on the Royals roster for the entirety of the 2015 season to stay with the organization. The Royals can stash him on the disabled list here and there, but Gustave has to be active for at least 90 days during the season.
As Pine Tar Press' David Lesky noted on Twitter, the Royals bullpen might be deep enough to hide Gustave for the season. Kansas City can opt to use the 22-year-old in mop up situations occasionally, and perhaps, return him to the minors after the year to work on his approach as a starter.
Gustave is often described as a "flame thrower" or "fire baller" because of his 100+ mph fastball. In fact, he might end up being one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the league next year, assuming he serves in a relief role. As a starter in the minors, his fastball sat between 95 mph and 99 mph, according to Fan Graphs' prospect writer Nathaniel Stoltz, who also posited that it could reach up to 102 mph in relief.
Here's the Vine I made of Gustave in March. He's raw, but he throws some gas. https://t.co/m56mP7b1gh— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) December 11, 2014
Scouts note that his fastball is very straight despite the elite velocity, so Gustave tends to get hit pretty hard at times as a result. His breaking stuff is also raw, and he has trouble with allowing too many walks. However, he cut his walks-per-nine down to 3.3 last year with Single-A Quad Cities. His ERA was still 5.01 over 79 innings -- 14 starts, 23 appearances overall -- but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (82-29) was excellent. He also hit 13 batters, which was about one every other time he took the mound, so if he does manage to get on the hill next year, opposing batters better watch out.
It'd be nice to see Gustave make it through 2015 and settle back into a groove in the minors as a starter, but even if he stays in the bullpen, he seems like a candidate to be sent back down after the year. If the Royals run into roster complications during the season, they might have to send Gustave back to Houston. In that case, it'd be unfortunate -- but not devastating by any means -- if they lost the chance to groom his huge velocity into something useful. Baseball America's J.J. Cooper broke down all of the Rule 5 picks on Thursday, including Gustave, who he tabbed as having "low" chances to stick in the majors.
Hopefully, at the very least, we'll get to see Gustave take the mound as Royals and watch his fastball glow to the plate -- or maybe even through it -- a few times. Maybe someone should get Sal an iron mitt for this.