Taking stock of KC's young arms from '18 Draft

June 5th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- Exactly four years ago, the 2018 MLB Draft was in full swing as the Royals searched for their next pitching prospects, using their first five selections to do so. 

Some of those one-time prospects are now Major Leaguers, and the spotlight was all on them this weekend against the Astros.  

Kansas City’s 13th-round pick in that Draft, Jonathan Heasley, took the mound on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium in a 7-4 loss to Houston, which handed the team its sixth loss in the last seven games.

Heasley allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out five across six innings. If nothing else, he’s been consistent this year, going at least five innings in each of his last four starts and allowing exactly three runs each time. 

“Overall, I thought that was my strongest outing of the year,” Heasley said. “I feel like I was able to put guys away a little better than I have been in previous starts.”

Heasley leaned on his fastball, but he used an array of pitches to be successful. He recorded at least two outs on each of his four pitches (fastball, slider, curveball and changeup).  

“I thought Heasley was great,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He made really good pitches all day, and that was probably as good of a curveball as we’ve seen. He didn’t need his slider much, but when he did, it was effective. He had a couple good pitches that got hurt, but he limited the damage.” 

As Heasley toed the slab, he followed the footsteps of his fellow 2018 Draft teammates that pitched the two nights prior.

On Friday, 18th-overall pick Brady Singer took the mound for the Royals and allowed seven runs in five innings. Despite the rough outing, he has shown the most recent promise of his young career.  

Between May 17 and June 3, Singer struck out 24 and only walked three, but he has given up 22 hits in that stretch. He leans on his sinker, which has been a potent pitch with a .217 opponents’ average.

It was Kris Bubic on Saturday, the 40th-overall pick, who threw five scoreless innings in a 6-0 win for Kansas City. He thrived using his changeup, getting 13 of 15 outs with the pitch. 

Before being optioned to Triple-A Omaha on May 12, Bubic struggled in the Majors as a starter this season, posting a 12.83 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, allowing 19 runs on 19 hits in six appearances (five starts).  

“Any time you get sent down it's not ideal, but you learn from it and move on from things, and I think it just puts things in perspective,” Bubic said. “For me, I'm a guy that is pretty detail oriented, hard on myself, but kind of seeing the other side of that now, it's OK.”

Daniel Lynch is another 2018 Draft pick (34th overall) that is in the rotation, and he’s set to go Monday night against Toronto. In his second year, Lynch is 2-4 in nine starts with a 4.81 ERA in the Majors.  

He’s got a five-pitch mix, but he relies on the fastball-slider combo to fool batters. Lynch has struck out 39 batters in 43 innings this season and is allowing just a .197 opponents’ batting average on his slider.

Veteran catcher Salvador Perez, who hit his second homer in as many days in the loss, said he thinks this Draft class is preparing and doing all they need to do to be successful at this next level.  

“They got really good stuff,” Perez said. “They just need some time to get experience. It’s part of the process though.”

In the series, the starters had a 5.63 ERA, allowing 10 earned runs in 16 innings pitched. The Royals lost the series, but Matheny was happy with what he saw from the youngsters.

“These guys are getting better every time they go out there,” Matheny said. “Brady has been a really good story for us this year. Kris was special yesterday and just figured out how to get outs against a hot lineup. Jonathan Heasley gave us a chance to win today and if he keeps pitching like that, he’s going to have a lot of wins. Hopefully, Daniel Lynch follows suit.” 

Kansas City went all in on pitchers in 2018. Now they get to see which ones are part of their long-term plan.