The Royals sent eight players to the Arizona Fall League this year to give them a chance to continue to develop and springboard into Major League action in the near future. While Tim Tebow may draw most of the crowds in league play, some Royals players have quietly impressed with their performance.
Right-handed pitcher Josh Staumont was probably the most promising player the Royals sent the Arizona Fall League, and he has not disappointed. Blessed with a fastball that can hit triple digits, Staumont has had trouble throwing strikes in his professional career, averaging 7.5 walks-per-nine innings in the minors. But he has seemed to harness his command in shorter stints in Arizona, and has allowed just four walks in 10 1⁄3 innings. Even better, he has continued to strike hitters out with 11 strikeouts and just five hits allowed with a 0.87 ERA. For his efforts last week, he was named Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Week for his performance.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Staumont is he is not just relying on brute velocity to blow hitters away, instead showing a mature changing of speeds to disrupt timing. According to a scouting report from Bernie Pleskoff of Today’s Knuckbleball, Staumont was masterful.
Staumont changes the eye level of the hitter by serving a combination of a curveball that he brings at 77-81 miles per hour and his four-seam fastball that varies from 90-98 miles per hour. Many times the same hitter faces that velocity variation. And once the hitter thinks he has the curve and the fastball fairly well-timed, Staumont sneaks in a 91 or 92 mile per hour cutter. But that happens less often in his sequencing.
It almost isn’t fair how Staumont taunts the hitter with his change of speeds and location. Every pitch has very good movement. Some pitches, specifically the lower-velocity fastballs, seem to move later than others.
It is a small sample size, so don’t pencil Staumont into the Royals rotation quite yet. Most likely he will begin the year at AA Northwest Arkansas in their rotation, and perhaps be promoted to the big league bullpen by the end of the year, much like how Matt Strahm was handled.
The best position player the Royals sent to Arizona was first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, and the slugger has been an on-base machine so far. The 23-year old is hitting .364 with a .475 on-base percentage, but curiously does not have an extra-base hit in 33 at-bats despite slamming 22 home runs this year. He admitted he is just looking to improve in his time in Arizona.
"I didn't come in here setting number expectations like I need to have this batting average or I need to hit this many home runs...It's just more about having as many quality at-bats per day as I can have every day. Whether it's an out, whether it's a walk, whatever it is, I just want to have a quality at-bat, really see the pitchers."
Teammate Corey Toups has also hit well, batting .296/.321/.519 with a home run and three doubles in six games. The second baseman came on strong this year, hitting .268/.356/.440 with 12 home runs in 127 games between High A and AA ball. The 23-year old could be in the mix for a utility role or even challenge for the second base job in Kansas City by 2018.
Third baseman Mauricios Ramos is 4-for-16 with a home run and two doubles. The 24-year old Colombian hit .288/.326/.406 with nine home runs in 125 games with AA Northwest Arkansas this year. Outfielder Alfredo Escalera has struggled, hitting .167/.242/.200 with ten strikeouts in 30 at-bats. On the mound, left-hander Eric Stout has given up just one run and struck out five in five innings of work. The 23-year old posted a 3.86 ERA in 72 1⁄3 innings of relief for AA Northwest Arkansas this year. Right-hander Evan Beal has given up four walks and four runs in just 5 1⁄3 innings of work, while striking out five. He had a 3.81 ERA in relief for AA Northwest Arkansas before being promoted to AAA late in the year. Right-hander Jake Newberry has pitched just two innings, striking out four without giving up a walk or run. The reliever had a 2.56 ERA in 66 2⁄3 innings across Low A and High A this year.
The Arizona Fall League runs through November 17.