KANSAS CITY -- When the Royals and Braves were discussing a trade for Jorge Soler near the Trade Deadline in July, they were targeting pitching as a return, and among that group, one prospect they were familiar with from the 2019 MLB Draft stood out: Kasey Kalich.
The Royals were high on Kalich out of Texas A&M in ’19, which is why they were so excited to land the power right-hander, who projects as a back-end bullpen piece on a Major League staff one day. Since Kalich became a Royal, he’s been acclimating to High-A Quad Cities, where he was reunited with his former teammate, Asa Lacy, for a few days.
“My head was spinning for a little while after the trade,” Kalich said. “But overall, once I got on the road and once I got to see a familiar face in Asa Lacy, the overall transition was good. I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve loved it. There’s a great group of guys here. I’m happy to be here.”
Kalich slots in as the Royals’ No. 24 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The 6-foot-3 right-hander has been a reliever since he transferred to A&M in 2019 and notched 12 saves as the Aggies' closer. He pitched well at Class A Rome during his pro debut for Atlanta, with a 1.31 ERA in 13 appearances (20 2/3 innings).
“We valued him really highly in the Draft,” Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “Power righty, really good slider. To get a player that we have history with is great.”
Kalich (pronounced CALL-ICK) didn’t pitch in 2020 because he had surgery that offseason to fix a broken right wrist that he hurt in high school. He had never felt much pain in it when he was pitching at Victoria West (Texas) High School or in college -- and oddly enough, his velocity actually increased during that time -- but when he fell on it in the winter of ’19, he could barely hold anything up and had X-rays done.
“The doctor was like, ‘Yeah, this has been broken for a long time,’” Kalich said. “It was never really a great enough pain to be like, ‘OK, something’s really wrong.’ I could still work out, I could still lift and do everything I needed to. But when I fell again, I couldn’t even stabilize a dumbbell. So that’s when I knew something was off.”
Kalich has a clean bill of health now, and the surgery doesn’t change his projection or what scouts think of him. He is still figuring out his mechanics after being in a cast and not picking up a ball for nearly a year, but he feels better every time he steps on a mound.
“I’m still trying to figure out who I am as a pitcher now as opposed to then because I don’t think anything’s really the same,” Kalich said. “There’s a lot of new things that I had to change about myself. … I had a good deal of trouble this year leaking with my front side, having a very weak front side or glove side. Working with the pitching coach here in Quad Cities, we’ve gotten back to using my front side much better. It’s just a process, and it’ll all come back in due time.”
Kalich has a pair of solid power pitches in his arsenal, a mid-90s fastball -- with more velocity potentially in there -- and a hard slider that has cutter-like action. That’s his swing-and-miss pitch, and Kalich misses a lot of bats.
His command will need to improve; he’s walked three in 3 1/3 innings in Quad Cities, but he also has four strikeouts. He’s also working on finding more depth on his slider after the surgery.
“The shape has varied a little bit,” Picollo said. “So the goal for us is to find the shape that we really want it to be and stress to him that this is what we’re looking for and get him to trust it. And then just try to repeat it. He just needs to repeat his delivery, fine-tune his pitches. He’s got plenty of fastball, so we do see him as a potential back-end piece.”
Lacy’s shoulder injury
Lacy, the Royals’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, last pitched on July 21, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings. He’s been on the injured list since with a shoulder injury that will likely see him miss six to eight weeks.
Lacy felt a nagging pain in his shoulder, so the Royals shut him down for a while before he began his throwing progression in Arizona. The organization would like to see him pitch some innings before the season is over, so that might be an instructional or fall league, depending on when he’s ready to appear in live games. The hope is that the eight-week mark of his injury is when he’s ready to pitch in games again, so that would be around the middle of September.
“The way it was described to me was that it was something some guys would try to pitch through,” Picollo said. “But given his age and where he is in his career, it’s not worth it. So I’m glad he said something, was able to get ahead of it and put it to rest.”
This is Lacy’s first season of professional baseball after the Royals drafted him No. 4 overall in 2020. He has showcased elite stuff in High-A, including his hard fastball and two distinct breaking balls that have racked up 79 strikeouts in 52 innings this season. He has struggled with command, though, with 41 walks and 31 earned runs allowed for a 5.19 ERA in 14 games. But for his first season, the Royals have been impressed with what he’s shown and the improvement he can have.
Now, he just needs to get the shoulder pain behind him.