As I further look into draft prospects for the Royals, I must remind you that this front office hasn’t been scared of employing strategies in an attempt to garner further talent in the later rounds behind their first selection. While many remember the 2013 draft when KC chose Hunter Dozier with Sean Manaea on their minds for their second choice, this wasn’t the first time the Royals had made a pick while thinking ahead to another selection. In 2009, Kansas City chose Aaron Crow with the 12th pick, getting an older advanced arm, who at the time they thought might be able to start if not advance through the system quickly, while also signing for $1.5m. That bonus amount was $1.25m below the next pick and $1.375m less than the Cardinals gave Shelby Miller a few picks later. While no hard cap existed, teams still had to invoke their own budgets, knowing this the Royals were able to use the savings on Crow and turn it into Wil Myers when he tumbled to the 3rd round with a $2m asking price.
Knowing this is a possible strategy, who is a player that the Royals may highlight as fast mover, who could be had for a tad less than slot to save money for later picks? Here’s one.
LHP Brendon Little
6-2 215 lbs
JUCO State JC of Florida
The JUCO left-handed pitcher started his college career at the University of North Carolina where he couldn’t break through their usually deep pitching staff despite his lofty recruiting ranking, pitching just four innings. From the lost year in the ACC, Little went onto the Cape Cod League where he changed his fortunes. In 13 games pitched in the Cape, he impressed from the bullpen, tossing 22 innings with 29 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP and earning an All-Star nod.
The lefty is attempting to build on that performance to earn a first round selection while continuing to improve his stuff. Using an exaggerated over the top motion, Little works his fastball in the low 90s with plenty of 3s and 4s and up to a peak of 96 mph. That motion allows him to attack the bottom part of the zone effectively, earning a solid 55 or 60 grade on the pitch despite lacking horizontal movement due to the over the top delivery.
The fastball is an impressive pitch and should earn plenty of outs as Little moves along in his career, but the real gem in his current arsenal is the curveball he’s working with. From his over the top delivery, he is able to use a true 12-6 downer breaking ball with depth and off the table motion. The pitch already gets plenty of 60 grades with future 70 possible grades for him. It’s a harder curveball, working in the low 80’s into the mid 80’s at times, that is a true hammer of a pitch.
With the fastball and curveball’s well ahead and both earning swings and misses, Little hasn’t had to develop his change up much in this last year, but he has shown a feel for it at times. Much like the two premier pitches from his hand, it features tumbling action while working in the mid-80s. From the pen in the Cape and working against JUCO hitters, Little has been able to work primarily with the fastball/curveball leaving the change lagging behind. Still, it has the ability to also turn into an average to above average pitch with the actions and feel he has on it.
The combination of three pitches is quite impressive, but the control and command lack considerably behind as currently grading below average. That will have to improve to reach a high ceiling 2/3 starter that he could become with three pitches at least average and two of those being above average. The Royals have had some recent success with this JUCO profile as of late and this selection seems like a logical choice that could provide them a high ceiling talent with savings on the backend to continued adding talent later in the draft.
45 JUCO Pitchers Selected/31 signed in the GMDM era
’12 Daniel Stumpf, Matt Strahm
’13 Cody Reed, Glenn Sparkman
BA Scouting report 2015
Little is a solid athlete with potential for three average or better pitches. His velocity took a while to come back this spring, but he was consistently 89-92 on the summer showcase circuit and has hit 93 again this spring, though he pitches more at 88-91. His second pitch is his tumbling changeup, which he’s shown a good feel for at times, and the pitch misses bats against right-handed hitters. Little has shown the ability to tightly spin a breaking ball this spring. His command was well below average to start the spring, but he came on strong towards the end, and some scouts project him to have three average or better pitches.
Picture via sfcamanatees.com