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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.

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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.

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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 numbers definitely showed a different Staumont: over his final 10 starts, Staumont posted a 3.17 ERA while striking out 71 and walking 33 in 45  1/3 innings while in AA Northwest Arkansas. Overall he still had a high walk total (7.6 walks per 9 overall, 6.6 in AA) but his ERA, WHIP, and FIP had all gone down. By the end of the season, there was already rumblings that Staumont could be seen in Kansas City the following season, probably out of the bullpen and probably late in the year. Since then, that timetable might have changed.
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The Royals sent Staumont to the Arizona Fall League this offseason and he has been nothing short of impressive. In 7 games, Staumont threw 24 innings, striking out 30 batters while walking 16. On the surface those aren’t blow away numbers, but they are on par with his second half in AA which is a sign of consistency. It’s also been good enough for Baseball America to bump him from 15th to 1st on the Royals prospect chart. They weren’t the only ones impressed  by Staumont, as former pro scout Bernie Pleskoff was really taken with him during the AFL:
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.
What I found very interesting was his take on Staumont’s delivery, the one that was adjusted earlier in the year:
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.
This is very good to see and shows that the slight hitch in his delivery is gone and he has taken to the instructions of the coaching staff. Staumont has been pitching as a starter, but Pleskoff did wonder what his role would be once he reaches the majors:
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.
Overall, Pleskoff was very impressed with Josh:
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.
At this point, it might be okay to get excited about what the Royals have with Staumont.
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So the verdict on Staumont? He will be heading to Spring Training in February and should at the least compete for a role on the Royals 2017 pitching staff. I tend to lean toward Staumont starting the year in the minors but I fully expect to see him before the year is done. But…in what role? I really believe his future is in the bullpen, but I can easily see why the Royals would want to see what he can do as a starting pitcher. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in the pen for Kansas City and eventually shift to the rotation, either late in 2017 or even 2018. No matter the role, it appears as if Staumont’s star is on the rise. During Dayton Moore’s tenure, the Royals have had a hard time producing homegrown arms for the rotation that stick. Time will tell, but the thought of Staumont  on the mound at Kauffman Stadium, blowing away hitters, should get Kansas City fans excited. Write Josh’s name down in pencil for now, but it looks like we will be seeing him sooner rather than later.
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