Once upon a time, you could make a legit argument that Josh Staumont was the Royals top prospect, or one of at the very least. The majority of hype built up around Staumont came after his 2016 campaign, which started with a stint in High-A Wilmington that saw him 94 batters in 67 innings, and finished with a half-season in AA Northwest Arkansas that saw him flash more command than he ever had (though still very poor), while posting 13.1 K/9.
The build up for Staumont continued into the 2017 season. Hopes were not met in AAA though, as even more command issues rose, contributing to a 6.28 ERA and 6.47 FIP in 76 innings. A demotion back to Northwest Arkansas didn’t ease any pains though, as he put up a mere 5.1% K-BB%, the lowest mark of his career.
After that disaster of a season, it seemed any possibility of Staumont making it as an above-average starting pitcher at the major league level, let alone starting pitcher, were waining. The next step for the Royals and Staumont was to try to give him an extended opportunity as a reliever. Overall, the results were good (20.2 IP, 1.74 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 35.7% K%), but the command issues still raised concern about him ever making in a big league bullpen, as the BB-rate stood at 7.8 per nine.
But after suddenly pitching short stints out of the bullpen all year, the Royals gave Staumont a second opportunity at starting. One would expect those command issues to stay, if not worsen, pitching longer game-by-game. But as a bit of a surprise, they’ve totally disappeared three starts into this season (for now).
- May 28: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO
- June 2: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO
- June 8: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO
It wouldn’t be a stretch at all to say Staumont is currently showing more command than he ever has in his career. It’s actually probably not even really close.
To add in some perspective, Staumont has made 58 starts in his minor league career. In six of them, he’s had one walk or less. Of those six starts, three of them are his last three starts. Two starts ago, he had his first ever start without a walk in his minor league career.
This recent improvement brings up the obvious question. Has anything change with Staumont? If so, what? What we do know is this is Staumont’s first time starting without pitching from the windup at all. Over at Royals Farm Report, our own Alex Duvall noticed something different after watching Staumont’s start.
After watching Josh Staumont’s outing on Saturday night, it was apparent to me that there is a clear emphasis on shortening the arm stroke in the back of his delivery. Staumont looked short, smooth, and clean throughout his delivery, and it showed up in the box score.
It’s fun to picture a world in which Staumont walks under five batters per nine. Pitchers that possess the raw skills he has don’t really grow on trees. The thought of a pitcher with a 65 grade fastball with above-average velocity and a 60 grade, high-spinning curveball improving his command is tantalizing.
Time will tell if this good run of command is a fluke or not. But if he keeps up even a fraction of this improvement over an extended-period of time as a starter, we may have to start talking about Staumont taking back the title of the Royals top pitching prospect.
Staumont may be the best chance at anything in this system thin on pitching developing into anything higher than a number three starter. So these recent developments are definitely a thing to keep an eye on.