Scouting the Royals top arms

May 17, 2011
Mike Montgomery

It’s no secret: the Royals have accumulated an embarrassing wealth of riches down on the farm. Kansas City has used its high draft picks well in recent years, but it has also hit on several later round guys and used less conventional means of infusing talent into what has blossomed into baseball’s best farm system. None of this is news. The mainstream sports media has alerted the masses that this is a special group. I had a chance to see Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer pitch last month in the Royals Futures Game. Here are my thoughts on each of them:

Mike Montgomery

Montgomery is everything you want in a pitching prospect. He looks the part at 6-foot-5 and uses his height well by driving the ball to the bottom corners of the strike zone with a steep downhill plane. He throws very hard (fastball was up to 96 MPH at the Royals Future Game) and he has a devastating curveball. While he doesn’t yet have the command for his big, upper-70s, 12-6 hook, it is a very effective pitch already and if he can harness the command, it will be a true out pitch in the big leagues. Montgomery’s mid 80s changeup is deceptive but his poor command of the pitch is the biggest shortcoming of his present arsenal. He has shown improvement over time with the pitch. In 2009, it was a show-me pitch to keep righties honest. Last year, it became a chase pitch at times as he managed to get it closer to the strike zone. The key will be for him to learn to throw it for strikes consistently. He also throws a 90-92 MPH cutter that allows him to neutralize righties while he continues to develop his changeup. Montgomery already commands both his fastball and cutter well and both pitches have good movement and velocity. When he’s on, he is unhittable.

Danny Duffy

Duffy is a promising talent as well. He has a mid-90s fastball (90-95 at the Royals futures game). The pitch plays up a tick thanks in part to a long drag line that allows him to release the ball closer to the plate than most 6-foot-3 pitchers. He complements his fastball well with a sharp 12-6 curveball at 77 MPH and a mid-80s changeup. Duffy has real solid big league potential with No. 2 upside, though it’s easier to project him as a good No. 3 starter. He’s also perhaps the most big-league-ready of the Royals’ top young arms, in spite of showing minor mechanical issues in the lower half during the Royals Futures Game that still need to be ironed out.

John Lamb

Lamb’s reputation as a finesse lefty with plus command did not align with what I saw at the Royals Futures Game. Perhaps it was an unusually bad outing by his standards, but while he did throw with a low effort delivery and generally sound mechanics -- though he struggled to repeat his delivery in this outing -- I did not see the command that he has been so highly praised for. Admittedly, it was the first time I had seen Lamb, but he didn’t spot his fastball (86-89 MPH and touched 90 on occasion) nearly as well as I had expected. His fastball had solid movement and he showed good feel for his secondary pitches, locating his curveball and changeup very well for a 20-year-old prospect. But the command that allowed him to walk just 45 batters over 147 2/3 innings last year was not evident in early April. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff and his command is going to be crucial to his ability to succeed in the Major Leagues.

Chris Dwyer

Dwyer was another promising lefthanded pitching prospect on display at the Royals Futures Game. This was my first look at him. What jumped out was Dwyer’s ability to locate a well-above-average curveball that showed good bite. He set it up well with a consistent 90-92 MPH fastball that he showed good command of when he was in rhythm and throwing downhill. His changeup is an effective third pitch with good deception, but he will need to improve his feel for the pitch for it to continue to be effective as he advances to higher levels. Dwyer needs to keep the ball down in the zone more consistently, something that he does well when he stays closed through the balance point.