Notes: Taking it easy with Asa

February 24th, 2021

Left-handed pitching prospect Asa Lacy and other pitchers who are expected to head to Minor League camp will be eased into innings this spring because of the gap between Major League camp and the beginning of the Minor League season, which starts April 6 for Triple-A and May 4 for Double-A and below.

Lacy, the No. 4 overall Draft pick in 2020, experienced a truncated final college season at Texas A&M and has yet to have his first season in the professional ranks due to the canceled Minor League season last year. He joined the Royals’ alternate training site and instructional league in Kansas City once he was in the organization.

The No. 30-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, Lacy is a non-roster invite to Spring Training this year. He was delayed in arriving to camp in Surprise, Ariz., but had his physical Monday. The 21-year-old hasn’t been scheduled to throw off a mound yet.

“The Asa Lacys of the world and guys like that, we probably won’t give him too much game time especially early,” general manager Dayton Moore said Tuesday. “We’ll just see how it plays out late if there’s any innings for him.”

Moore elaborated on how he views the workload for pitchers coming off the shortened, 60-game season and said aside from the young arms who will have the gap between big league and Minor League camp, he’s not as concerned as one might think.

“Every year, you try to get through the first 12 days of camp,” Moore said. “[Longtime pitching coach and advisor] Bill Fischer always told me if you can get through the first 12 days, two weeks of camp with your pitchers healthy, there’s a good chance they’re going to stay healthy as you break spring and the first part of the year. You’re always managing the health of your pitchers. I trust [pitching coach] Cal Eldred, [athletic trainer] Nick Kenny, [manager] Mike Matheny. I trust our pitchers to communicate how they feel. I trust them to do their work and prepare in ways that are going to keep them healthy. … The players come to camp in great shape.”

Right-handers Josh Staumont, Brady Singer and Carlos Hernández, as well as lefty Daniel Lynch, threw bullpen sessions Tuesday. Righties Ervin Santana, Andres Sotillet, Jonathan Bowlan, Brad Keller and Kris Bubic threw two rounds of live batting practice on the backfields of the Royals’ complex.

Minor League development
One of the biggest things to watch as the Minor League season opens is how the lost 2020 season has impacted development at those levels. Moore has seen some college and high school baseball workouts recently on the scouting trail and noticed a lack of command, as well as some rust on hitters, but otherwise didn’t see a huge difference after most of their 2020 seasons were cut short.

He suspects the biggest impact will come at the lower levels of the farm system.

“Major League players are highly skilled,” Moore said. “They’ve worked and spent countless hours at perfecting their skill at a level to make it this far, so I expect them to pick it up rather quickly. I think some of the lower levels is where you’ll see some of the impact, but I think in this camp, guys will leave camp sharp and ready to perform at a high level come April 1.”

The Royals were able to have a number of their top prospects report to the alternate training site last year, and then the organization hosted two fall instructional leagues -- one at their complex in Arizona and one at Kauffman Stadium. While not all of their Minor Leaguers got work in, and there is no substitute for games, the majority was able to see action at some point in 2020.

Royals looking to win 'each and every year'
When asked about his offseason acquisitions and fielding a competitive team after four straight losing seasons, especially after a pandemic-shortened year that saw financial losses for most teams, Moore was candid with his answer: The Royals try to be as competitive of a team as they can every year.

“We don’t know it any other way,” Moore said. “You’re trying to inspire people to follow your team. You’re trying to inspire young people to be a part of this game and want to play this game. I think what we’ve always tried to do is be as competitive as we possibly can. Everybody will tell you whatever our budget is financially, we’ve taken it right to the max every single year. We’ve spent whatever has been given to us. It’s really important to try to win each and every year.

“To be a great steward of the game, and to continue to grow the game in the ways that are most healthy, you’ve got to bust your tail for the good of the players, the fans, the coaching staff and ownership and everybody surrounding the game and put the best team you can on the field. Period. That’s what it’s all about.”