The rebuilding Royals went all in on college pitchers in the 2018 Draft. They used each of their three first-round picks on college arms (Florida right-handers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, Virginia left-hander Daniel Lynch), as well as their supplemental first-rounder (Stanford lefty Kris Bubic) and second-rounder (Memphis righty Jonathan
The rebuilding Royals went all in on college pitchers in the 2018 Draft. They used each of their three first-round picks on college arms (Florida right-handers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, Virginia left-hander Daniel Lynch), as well as their supplemental first-rounder (Stanford lefty Kris Bubic) and second-rounder (Memphis righty Jonathan Bowlan).
They are now five of the best pitching prospects in an organization that needs a lot of help on the mound. Reinforcements shouldn't be too far off after the former Gators teammates reached Double-A and the other three thrived in high Class A during their first full seasons. Kansas City will get its first glimpse at what it hopes is a promising future today when it promotes Singer to start against the Indians.
The Royals never expected to get a chance to land Singer, MLB Pipeline's No. 2-rated prospect in the 2018 Draft. In fact, had a dispute not arisen over the results of his post-Draft physical in 2015, he would have signed with the Blue Jays as a second-rounder out of (Eustis, Fla., High). Toronto had similar conflicts with several prep pitchers while Alex Anthopoulos was its GM, and Singer hasn't missed a start since.
Singer served as a middle reliever as a Florida freshman on a pitching staff that included five future first-round choices, then played a starring role as the Gators won the 2017 College World Series. He won Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year honors and multiple national player of the year awards in 2018, when he surprisingly slid to Kansas City and the No. 18 overall pick, where he signed for $4,247,500.
Because he pitched 113 innings as a Florida junior and had a minor hamstring injury, the Royals didn't have Singer make his pro debut until 2019. He breezed through his introduction to pro ball, going 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 26 starts between high Class A and Double-A. He posted a 138/39 K/BB ratio in 148 1/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .247 average with nine homers.
Singer performs above his solid-but-not-spectacular stuff because he's an intense competitor who locates his pitches well. A realistic expectation would be that he develops into a No. 3 starter, though he has a history of headlining his pitching staffs. He's getting this opportunity because Brad Keller and Jakob Junis are opening the season on the injured list after testing positive for the coronavirus, and Singer's history suggests that he may not relinquish his spot in the rotation.
Here's our breakdown of Singer's tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents big league average ability:
Fastball (55): Singer's fastball features average velocity, sitting at 91-94 mph and topping out at 96, but plays better than that because of his life and command. He can sink his two-seamer or ride his four-seamer in on right-handers (or away from left-handers), creating action on his heater with a low arm slot. Some scouts worry that his lower angle isn't conducive to starting, but he has had no issues and the Royals don't share those concerns.
Slider (60): Long his best pitch, Singer's mid-80s slider is an easy plus offering when he stays on top of it. He has great feel for his breaking ball, showing the ability to manipulate its shape and alter its velocity. It's especially tough on same-side hitters, whom he limited to a .222/.273/.337 batting line in 2019, and he also can back-foot it against left-handers.
Changeup (50): Singer didn't need a changeup much in college but it ultimately may provide the key to his success in the big leagues. After lefties batted .276/.352/.385 against him last season, he focused on improving his third pitch and trying to get more velocity separation from his fastball. His changeup resides in the low 80s now after parking in the mid-80s a year ago, and Royals manager Mike Matheny noted Singer's progress with the offering as a reason for his promotion.
Control (55): Though his competitiveness is obvious on the mound, Singer is able to control his emotions and pound the strike zone. He was one of the more polished high school pitchers in his 2015 class, averaged 2.3 walks per nine innings in college and 2.4 per nine in his pro debut. His delivery isn't as pristine as some evaluators might like, but the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder has the strength and athleticism to repeat it well.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.