(Photo Minda Haas)
If the Royals and the people of Kansas City don’t get to see a winning record under the Dayton Moore regime the one position group that could have the biggest hand in that is the the left-handed pitching group. Â Whether it is Mike Montgomery’s fall, Danny Duffy and John Lamb’s injuries or Chris Dwyer’s ineffectiveness the once promising group of lefthanders has seen just one starter break in to the majors while the fate of the rest of the group lies in the hands of Lamb. Â If the Royals develop just one starter out of four that shouldn’t surprise most considering the fate of most prospects but it isn’t the result fans or the development staff of Kansas City were thinking just two winters ago.
#1 John Lamb – It has been quite sometime since we’ve seen John at 100% on the bump but those that have interracted with continue to have the confidence that he can make an impact in a Royals rotation. Â The big lefty will have to find his former command to go with the mid 90’s fastball and solid average change up to reach his former upper rotation ceiling. Â On top of that he’ll need to sharpen that curve and make it an average or better offering.
Its a long road obviously but what John brings to the table that gives me more confidence in him than others is his pitching knowledge to sequence and set up hitters. Â The lefty when healthy showed he can dominate a line up with his best stuff and survive when he was pitching at about 80%. Â If the stuff comes back fully then the Royals have a front of the rotation lefty that could see time in Kansas City by the end of the season.
#2 Sam Selman – The tall lanky lefty has as electric stuff as any in the org outside Yordano Ventura but like most with electric stuff there has always been a question of whether he can harness it or not. Â A 90-95 mph fastball comes out of the 6’4 lanky 190 lbs frame attacking hitters from both sides with its sinking movement that helped him earn a 63% groundball rate in his first minor league season. Â His second pitch is a departure from the old regime as Selman throws a hard slider instead of the usual 12-6 curveball that past prospects have been forced into. Â The big difference in Selman’s somewhat spotty college career and his spectacular first minor league season was the shape and command of that pitch. Â Not only did he throw it for a better strike rate than he did in college but it also had tighter break which helped him strikeout 36% of the hitters he faced in the Pioneer League.
The pitch that will ultimately decide Selman’s fate between being a starter and just a solid lefty reliever will be his change up.Â Currently the change up is inconsistent but it does profile as an average pitch longterm.Â The Royals have been fairly successful helping their lefties learn a change which should mean Selman with his fastball and slider could be an impact starter if he can maintain his control.Â This season against more advanced competition in High A could be a good test with a hopeful AA advancement later in the season to decide whether or not Kansas City got what they were hoping for in last seasons draft.
#3 Donnie Joseph – When I think of what Sam Selman could become in the bullpen if the change up doesn’t develop or the control doesn’t maintain its 2012 form I think of Donnie Joseph.Â The lefty acquired in the Jonathan Broxton deal last year has a very good fastball/slider combo that helps him miss plenty of bats (11.11 per 9 in ’12) and allows him to get righties out while dominating lefties.
The relievers big weakness is his erratic control which lead to a difficult to 2011 and some rough spots with the Storm Chasers in 2012, including five wild pitches in just 11 games.Â If he can smooth that out he has the stuff to break with the big club and be an impact in an already loaded Royals bullpen.
#4 Colin Rodgers – The 3rd round pick from 2012 is a slight departure from lefties the organization has chosen in the past.Â Instead of being a big hard thrower Roders is more of a smaller finesse guy.Â He measures in around 6′ 185 lbs while throwing in the high 80’s low 90s but what sets Rodgers apart is an advanced mid 70’s curveball and a good feel for a change up.Â The Royals have plenty of background with Rodgers as he played for a summer team that was coached by Lonnie Goldberg in the offseason.Â It is that familiarity and Rodgers great demeanor and work ethic that gave the Royals the confidence to take him in the 3rd round.Â In 2012 his pitchability allowed him to keep hitters off balance and get through the Appy league with solid “old man” numbers (2.05 ERA) but he’ll need to miss more bats (4.66 K/9) as he moves up the chain.
Physically Rodgers isn’t the ideal but I would bet plenty of scouts and managers would take a lefty that shows good pitchability, has a good work ethic and a couple pitches that could develop into above average pitches (curve, change).Â That said the velocity will have to improve for the lefty to be an impact starter, we should see if it starts to do that in Lexington this season.
#5 Justin Marks - Acquired in the David DeJesus Marks has had a nice fall season, leading the Arizona Fall League withÂ a 5-0 record while putting up a 2.21 ERA against some of the best prospects baseball has to offer.Â The lefthander does his work with a low 90’s fastball that he can run up to 93 while also tossing a curve, slider and change up.Â The slider is the pitch Marks leans on the most as his breaking ball of choice, tossing it in the low to mid 80’s with some decent bite.Â ThatÂ slider isÂ his best pitch grading out as an averageÂ offering along with his averageÂ fastball.Â Â That curveball lags as does the change up into slightlyÂ below average pitches.
While Marks may never be the starter the RoyalsÂ were hoping to getÂ I think he has a chance toÂ be a long man/spot starter in the sameÂ realm as Everett Teaford.
#6 Antonio Cruz – I’m higher on Cruz than most I imagine but I see a chance at him developing similar stuff to Donnie Joseph.Â Â Just turned 21 in October this lefthanderÂ also hasÂ a good fastball/slider combination running his fastball into the low 90’s while throwing a hard biting slider.Â If he can put the arm problems he encountered last season behind him then I see a future as a major league LOOGY with a chance to turn into a more usable lefthander in the pen.
Mike Montgomery – At this point there isn’t much to be optimistic about when it comes to the lefthander after another down season. Â The big lefty continues to get shelled by left-handed hitters because he doesn’t have a breaking ball that is good enough to keep them off of his fastball.Â The Royals sent him to AA hoping he’d go back to the mid 90’s fastball to find his past success, that wasn’t the case as the lefty did throw harder but the success didn’t come.Â The former 2nd round picks change up remains average to better which is a nice building block for any pitcher with a mid 90s fastball but at this point a change of scenary is probably in the best interest of this pitcher and the organization.