There is no greater currency in baseball than prospects. Prospects can make or break your team, whether you are a team rebuilding or a team making a playoff push. When discussing prospects, every team is in need of a young power arm, the ones who throw anywhere from the upper 90’s to triple digits on the radar gun. It’s also easy for a young flamethrower to get more chances than his softer throwing brethren, making it easier for them to climb up the prospect ladder. No pitcher follows this pattern in the Kansas City Royals system more than Josh Staumont.
Staumont was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft by Kansas City and the early buzz on him was that he had a lively arm but also had issues with his control. That was very evident that first season, as in 18 games, Staumont was walking 7.2 batters per 9 innings, an absolutely ridiculous amount. But during that span, he also was striking out 13.0 batters per 9 inning, which is also ridiculous but in the good way. Before the 2016 season, Baseball America rated Staumont as the Royals #15 prospect and had some very glowing praise for him:
He tickles triple-digits regularly with a low-effort delivery. Staumont sits 96-98 and has touched 102 mph with a four-seamer. It grades out as an easy top-of-the-scale 80 on the scouting card.
They also praised his curveball, which had graded out as plus-plus when he stays on top of it. But coming into 2016, the concern was that his inability to harness his windup, which led to inconsistency throwing strikes, would continue to hold him back. Luckily, a slight adjustment would speed up his arrival time.
What the Royals wanted him to work on was speeding up his delivery. By the second half of the 2016 season, he figured his delivery out:
He was keeping his arm in the glove too long, which caused him to have trouble finding a proper release point. The Royals preached a delivery with more tempo.“It was causing a lot of erratic behavior, especially when it came to the fastball,” Staumont said. “It was just figuring out how my body worked.”
The young man I saw throwing an easy, effortless 98 miles per hour with a recently-incorporated over-the-head, windmill delivery knows how to pitch. He is realizing success with his new mechanics. Of course, more time is needed to perfect the changes, but he is smart and patient.
Staumont repeats his delivery very well. He uses the identical over-the-head, old-school windmill windup to gain consistency on his delivery. The ball comes from the same location and at the same pace and arm speed every pitch.
As I observed Staumont, I wondered exactly what role the Royals have in mind for the hard-throwing right-hander. If he remains a starter, he may be able to get a way with two very solid above-average pitches in his four-seam fastball and his curveball. It will help that he mixes in the cutter. However, it would really help him navigate a big league batting order if he includes a two-seam fastball to his arsenal. That would give him an entirely different pitch to show hitters. It could provide earlier sink and induce ground balls.
I project Staumont to be an impact pitcher for the Royals once he is settled in with his new mechanics and a greater sense of confidence in his ability. Yes, there may be some hiccups along the way, but he has the arm, the poise and the pitches to dominate. He just needs time now to refine the entire package.