In 2018, the Royals went heavy on college pitchers, taking Florida right-hander Brady Singer in the first round, followed by Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jonathan Bowlan. That strategy seems to be paying off so far, so the Royals could look to go down that path once more. If they look for college arms early in this draft, one name they could turn to is Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy.
Lacy was ranked #176 by Baseball America in the 2017 draft as a senior out of Tivy High School in Texas, but it would have taken him at least a million dollars to keep him from his commitment to A&M, causing him to slide to the 31st round where he was drafted by the Indians. He ended up going to College Station where he made an impact immediately, posting a 2.75 ERA working in 23 games his freshman year, mostly as a reliever.
He worked on developing a breaking ball in summer ball in Alaska and moved into the starting rotation his sophomore season in 2019. Lacy started 15 games that year with a 2.13 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings. He pitched for the U.S. collegiate national team over the summer and performed well, with many projecting him to be a high first-round pick going into this year.
He did not disappoint his junior season. Lacy made just four starts before play was shut down this spring, but he was dominant, striking out 46 hitters in just 24 innings, allowing just nine hits and two runs for a ridiculous ERA of 0.75. He walked eight batters and opponents hit just .111 against him. His last outing came against New Mexico State, where he punched out 13 hitters in seven no-hit innings. Nick Gonzales - expected to be a top ten pick - went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts against Lacy.
Here are all of (Potential Fifth Overall Pick) Asa Lacy's 15 Strikeouts via the Slider, hitters have reached base just once (HBP) in 20 PA. He's thrown his SL 50 times, for a strike 64%, with 28 swing-and-misses. Enjoy 94 seconds of the best pitch in the entire 2020 Draft. pic.twitter.com/Ow8bLi1PLg— Mason McRae (@mason_mcrae) March 7, 2020
Lacy has filled out his 6’4’’ frame, bulking up to 215 pounds, and added real bite to his slider, making it one of the best in the country. The slider is a plus pitch in the high 80s that impresses scouts so much, some say “it’s the best slider they’ve seen from a college lefty since Carlos Rodon in 2014”, according to Baseball America.
The lefty has a heater in the mid 90s that can hit 98 on the radar gun at times. Lacy also throws a change up that is described as “a well above-average pitch at its best” by MLB Pipeline with fade and sink. He can also throw an average curveball that has the potential to be plus.
Both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America note that if Lacy has a weakness it is his tendency to go deep into counts. Much like Royals starter Danny Duffy, Lacy has terrific stuff but can have trouble being pitch efficient. He has good command at times, but cannot always put the pitch where he wants to. However his stuff has been good enough to put hitters away and his walk rates are not alarming. He has a nice fluid delivery that generates an explosive fastball that has drawn some comparisons to Aroldis Chapman or even Clayton Kershaw.
Asa Lacy has faced JJ Bleday, Justin Foscue, Nick Gonzales, Austin Martin, Kam Misner, Andrew Vaughn, and Jordan Westburg at Texas A&M.— Mason McRae (@mason_mcrae) May 27, 2020
The 7 Hitters are a combined 1 for 17, with 0 XBH, and a .259 OPS, and a 30.0 K%, 15.0 BB%. He dominated 7 First Round Talents. pic.twitter.com/pnzgj5SL7h
Lacy brings a very no-nonsense attitude on the mound with good composure and little emotion. He stepped up as a leader for Texas A&M, addressing his teammates back in January.
“When you love the process more than you love the games, you’ve got a chance to be great,” he said. “That’s when you find yourself achieving the things you want to achieve.”
Lacy added that the one thing he’d learned through the years is that everything matters, that everything must be done with a purpose.
“Whether that’s fielding drills or working on pitch grips or a weight-room session, it’s all important,” he said. “Are you a good teammate? Are you accountable to yourself and your teammates? How do you deal with adversity? Because you’re going to have it. It’s how you deal with it.”
Both Kiley McDaniel at ESPN and Keith Law at The Athletic have the Marlins taking Lacy third overall in their respective mock drafts. Baseball America and MLB Pipeline both have him ranked as the third-best draft prospect overall.
The Royals have taken a left-hander from A&M before, taking Jeff Granger with the fifth-overall pick in the 1993 draft. Lacy has a chance to surpass Granger and become the highest selection in Aggie history.
The farm system is already pitching-heavy, but the best way to develop a young pitcher is to start out with five pitching prospects. The Royals can use all the pitching depth they can get, and Lacy could very well be a quick riser that could join the 2018 draft class in the big leagues before very long.