Roy­als work­ing on plan for col­lege pitch­ers taken in draft

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Sports - BY SAM MCDOWELL

Day­ton Moore sat in­side a Las Ve­gas suite last month and con­versed about the topic con­sum­ing the bulk of his time these days – the long-term fu­ture of the Roy­als. He ex­panded upon his re­luc­tance to trade a core player, the rea­son for trimming pay­roll in the in­terim and the need to avoid lengthy freeagent con­tracts.

It all cir­cled back to the same point. The fu­ture of the team, he says, will be built pri­mar­ily through the draft. Not through free agency. Not via sweep­ing trades.

He tele­graphed that blue­print last June, se­lect­ing 33 col­lege play­ers in the Roy­als’ ini­tial 36 picks of the MLB Draft. As he en­ters his 13th sea­son as the gen­eral man­ager of the Roy­als, Moore’s vi­sion for the fu­ture starts there. With col­lege ta­lent.

But how quickly will the fu­ture be­come the present?

“We’ve talked a lot about that,” Moore said. “We’ve never put lim­i­ta­tions on any of our play­ers.”

On the other hand, Moore added, “It’s been my ex­pe­ri­ence

that you move slow with your pitch­ers’ de­vel­op­ment. And when they’re ready, they’ll move re­ally quick. You won’t be able to stop them.”

The­o­ret­i­cally, col­lege play­ers are closer to ma­jor-league ready than high school ta­lent, and that played into the club’s rea­son­ing for plant­ing last year’s re­sources there.

The Roy­als are try­ing to ex­pe­dite the re­build­ing process, even elim­i­nat­ing the word from the front of­fice’s vo­cab­u­lary last sum­mer.

But they won’t the rush the arms to the ma­jors. And there are a lot of them. The Roy­als had five of the first 58 picks last June and used all of them on pitch­ers – Florida righthander Brady Singer at

No. 18 over­all, Florida righty Jack­son Kowar (33), Vir­ginia left-han­der Daniel Lynch (34), Stan­ford lefty Kris Bu­bic (40) and Mem­phis right-han­der Jonathan Bowlan (58).

Bu­bic will be 21 years old on open­ing day. The re­main­ing four will be 22. That’s older than most play­ers en­ter­ing their first full pro­fes­sional sea­son. But age alone won’t drive the de­ci­sions on where to place them within the farm sys­tem in 2019.

“You don’t want to put a pitcher at a higher level too soon, a level that they’re not con­fi­dent in, be­cause you want them to uti­lize all of their pitches,” Moore said. “You want them to have some es­cape hatches in the lineup.

They don’t get out of their de­liv­ery. They don’t try to do too much. When you get out of our de­liv­ery and try to do too much, of­ten times in­jury will creep in there. There’s too much ef­fort; they get out of their de­liv­ery; they lose their me­chan­ics. So you want to move re­ally slow.”

Moore em­pha­sized his op­ti­mism about the group. He in­sists the farm sys­tem as a whole is in a much bet­ter place than it was a year ago, and he points to­ward the 2018 draft class as prin­ci­pal ra­tio­nale.

Even so, there are stages within the de­vel­op­ment that can’t be skipped. Most no­tably:

The evo­lu­tion of sec­ondary pitches. The con­fi­dence to turn to sec­ond and third op­tions to get the game’s best hit­ters out. That could be ac­com­plished at Class AAA Omaha, at Class AA North­west Arkansas or lower lev­els. It will de­pend on the pitcher.

“You’ve gotta be able to pitch back­wards in the ma­jor leagues,” Moore said. “You’ve gotta be able to lo­cate a break­ing ball, an off-speed pitch, as well as you can the fast­ball. A pitcher may be hav­ing a lot of suc­cess in low-A or high-A with one par­tic­u­lar pitch, but you know full well based on his arse­nal that he’s gonna be chal­lenged at the next level.”

The Roy­als aren’t com­mit­ting to where any of their prospects will open the 2019 sea­son, though none fig­ure to be part of the ma­jor-league mix. The club likes its op­tions in the ro­ta­tion.

Moore al­lowed for the pos­si­bil­ity some­one could help the bullpen – the team pro­moted Bran­don Fin­negan in 2014, the same year he was drafted – but the pref­er­ence is to pre­serve them as starters. Fin­negan was a boost to a team in a pen­nant race. He filled a need.

Per­haps that could hap­pen late in the sea­son, Moore con­ceded. But Fin­negan was the ex­cep­tion. It’s not the club’s pre­ferred path for pitch­ing prospects.

“I’ve al­ways felt as a gen­eral rule you don’t want to move pitch­ers late in the year,” Moore said. “So even though a pitcher’s do­ing re­ally well, and it’s July 15 or July 30 and you’ve got a month left, don’t move them up a level. Be­cause now they get there and (think they have) to gear up.

“They’re go­ing to get to a new team, a new en­vi­ron­ment; you’re go­ing to write about it; peo­ple are go­ing to come see them; they’re go­ing to try to do more for their new man­ager and coaches and pitch­ing staff and team­mates; OK, they put forth more ef­fort and they’re fa­tigued al­ready. They get hurt.

“When it comes to pro­gress­ing a player, you re­ally only have, in my opin­ion, about three months to do it, and then you’re bet­ter off just rid­ing it out.”

Sam McDowell: 816-234-4869, @SamMcDow­ell11

JOHN SLEEZER [email protected]­star.com

Right-handed pitcher Brady Singer was the Kansas City Roy­als’ top pick of the 2018 draft, taken No. 18 over­all out of Florida.

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