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KC prospect Staumont pitching only from stretch

Right-hander altering approach in effort to harness prolific fastball
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The talent is there. No one has ever disputed that.

Ever since the Royals took right-hander Josh Staumont in the second round of the 2015 Draft, he and his 100-mph fastball have been the center of conversation virtually wherever he has gone.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The talent is there. No one has ever disputed that.

Ever since the Royals took right-hander Josh Staumont in the second round of the 2015 Draft, he and his 100-mph fastball have been the center of conversation virtually wherever he has gone.

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But the question about Staumont, the Royals' No. 13 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is if and when he'll be able to harness that heater.

In 124 2/3 innings last season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Staumont, 24, struck out 138 hitters. But he walked 97.

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Again, the talent in Staumont's right arm is obvious. But before he becomes serviceable to the Royals at the big league level, which they're counting on soon, Staumont must be able to spot that fastball anywhere he wants.

"You're always working on command," Staumont said. "It can never be too good. I just hope we're going down the right path."

The right path this spring for Staumont has been a conversion to working out of the stretch only.

"We're just trying to simplify it all," he said. "The simpler it is, the more you can repeat it. We've been trying to do that this spring to get an idea how it feels."

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The results have been mixed. In his first three outings, Staumont had a 1.80 ERA through five innings, walking two and striking out four. But Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz., against the D-backs, Staumont struggled with his command, walking two and giving up three hits and three runs in one inning.

"You can see him working his mechanics right now," manager Ned Yost said. "He's really concentrating on that. And through time and repetition, it will come more natural to him where he doesn't have to think about it -- he'll just be able to throw."

If anything, the new stretch-only approach has given Staumont confidence, though he says he never really lost it despite the numbers from last season.

Staumont had a 5.56 ERA overall and was sent back to Northwest Arkansas during the season. But he doesn't consider 2017 a wasted season.

"I think we just got a little tired and started compensating too much," he said. "Playing in the [Arizona] Fall League [in 2016], there wasn't much time off. Because of that and because of who I am, wanting to pitch through it all, I got a little tired.

"For the first two months, I felt awesome. Then it all started to decay a little."

True, through the end of May, Staumont had a respectable 3.88 ERA with Omaha. But over his next six starts, he posted an 11.91 ERA and gave up nine home runs and walked 24 batters in 22 2/3 innings, leading to the demotion.

"Actually, I have no problem with how last year went," Staumont said. "It was one of the biggest learning years I've had, regardless of the results. Baseball is a long career, hopefully. You don't get down because of one year."

Staumont skipped winter ball this season, lost some baby fat and feels refreshed for the 2018 season.

"We're athletes, supposedly," he said, smiling again. "I'm just trying to be the best version of me I can."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Josh Staumont