Werner shows off power as KC wraps Breakout with wild win

March 17th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Enticed by his 90 mph-plus fastball and big power potential with the bat, the Royals originally drafted in the seventh round of last year’s MLB Draft as a two-way player out of Texas A&M.

When he signed, they asked him what he’d like to pursue: Hitting or pitching?

For Werner, there was no question. He wanted to hit.

“That’s always been my No. 1,” Werner said. “Pitching has always been on the backburner a little bit. I’ve always been a position player first, and I was like, ‘If you’re going to give me an opportunity to do it, that’s what I want to pursue first.’”

Werner and the Royals couldn’t be happier with that decision -- because the power is real. Kansas City’s No. 20 prospect crushed a home run in the Royals’ Spring Breakout game at Surprise Stadium on Sunday, a solo shot that got the Royals on the board in their eventual 4-3 walk-off win over the Brewers’ prospects.

Werner loves hitting because of how “rewarding it is,” he says, noting it’s one of the hardest things to do in sports. And he sure felt rewarded rounding the bases in the fourth inning Sunday after he smoked a 93 mph fastball from Brewers prospect Logan Henderson.

“A barrel on the ball sounds a lot better in that stadium, too,” Werner said with a grin.

“Got us all pumped up,” lefty Noah Cameron, the Royals’ No. 21 prospect, added. “I told him after he hit it, ‘This is the place to do it.’ Not back on those backfields.”

Royals prospects relished getting to play in the big league stadium on Sunday as opposed to the backfields of the Spring Training complex. Fans were in the stands, and that got the adrenaline pumping.

“It’s a blast,” said No. 12 prospect Chandler Champlain, who tossed two perfect innings with a strikeout. “Obviously for us, we get to face these guys throughout the year. But it’s better for the fans to understand Minor League ball [and] the competition. There’s a lot of guys in Minor League ball that are going to be big leaguers one day.”

Werner is just getting his feet wet ahead of his first full professional season. But he made an immediate impact when the Royals sent him to Single-A Columbia to finish out the 2023 season, where he posted a 1.158 OPS across 31 games (113 at-bats) with eight homers and a .354 average.

Werner’s calling card is the strength in his swing, with easy power, and he can hit the ball to all fields. On Sunday, he got to two strikes quickly against Henderson, but the two had faced each other in late August last season. So Werner called back to that matchup and had an idea of what to expect.

“I was ready for the fastball, for sure,” Werner said. “I knew he had a good changeup, and he threw a couple in that AB, so I was just fighting those off and went for the heater. Finally got it.”

Werner played first base on Sunday but will get plenty of playing time this year as a third baseman and perhaps even the outfield, given his strong arm.

Whatever his first full season brings, he’s ready for it.

“I’m open to anything as long as I get in the lineup,” Werner said. “Third base, first base, outfield, shortstop, maybe catch. I love the game.”

Here are some other fun moments from Sunday’s prospect showcase:

  • This time last year, Blake Mitchell (the Royals’ top prospect and No. 94 overall) was a senior at Sinton (Texas) High School. On Sunday, he was the starting backstop for Spring Breakout as the Royals’ top prospect. He went 0-for-2 with a walk, and was the batter when the winning wild pitch came in, but he handled things well behind the plate catching more experienced pitchers, including Mason Barnett (No. 6), Cameron, Champlain and Will Klein (No. 19).
  • Cameron looked good over 2 1/3 innings, and Champlain followed suit, hitting 96 mph with his fastball and mixing in the rest of his arsenal to induce weak contact on ground balls. Klein was also pumping 98-99 mph and was the winning pitcher after a scoreless seventh inning with two strikeouts.
  • Carson Roccaforte (No. 17) showed off his scouting report well with a nice diving play in center field in the third inning and two walks. The Royals’ Competitive Balance round pick in last year’s Draft, Roccaforte has high upside because of his above-average play in center field, plus the Royals believe in the bat -- and he showed a good eye Sunday.