One of the major strengths of this upcoming draft is in the prep pitching class. From the arms I’ve already highlighted in Mason Denaburg, Carter Stewart, Kumar Rocker and Ryan Weathers, to the ones I’m likely going to pass on due to their higher draft status, this year’s class is stacked. As usual, the state of Texas has more than their share of impact, draftable arms as they seem to do every year. What also is repeating itself is that these two prep pitchers we are discussing today are products of Dave Evans Premier Baseball, the same complex that helped resurrect Bryan Brickhouse’s career as well as producing Shane Baz, Forrest Whitley and plenty of others before them.
Grayson Rodriguez – Not many prep arms were flying up draft boards as quickly as this big Texas arm was early in the mock season. At 6’5, 230 lbs Rodriguez definitely looks the part of a major league pitcher from that frame and would compare to current Royals prospect Carlos Hernandez in terms of size. Where he might differ from Hernandez is in his ability to throw the breaking ball, with Grayson tossing both a curve and a slider that look to be future major league average or both above that. MLB Pipeline rates the future slider a tick above average where Baseball America likes the future of the curveball more. A feel for spin is a plus for any pitcher and a major plus with the Royals considering some of their pitchers in the past have struggled to refine their breaking balls along the way.
It’s likely the Royals would want him to lean heavier on his slow mid-70s curve as they favor a pitch that can come across multiple planes as opposed to a harder late biting two plane slider. Still, he would have both in his back pocket with a slight feel for a changeup that would need more reps to turn into an average pitch. Of course, all of the pitches are thrown off a fastball that sits 92-95 mph while regularly hitting 98 mph with hard late movement. The pitch is above major league average currently and could result in a future 70 offering if he can command it up to capability. There is some athleticism and ability to repeat his mechanics, leading one to believe that he could have a tick better than average future control with average command. With all the hard-throwing prep arms who are maxing out, there is the possibility of his stuff backing up resulting in a 90-93 mph fastball instead of the current variety. That is where the breaking ball mix comes in handy for this pitcher’s future as well as his ability to continue to work with Evans.
Adam Kloffenstein – While Rodriguez could be maxed out, a second Texas big pitcher could have some future projection despite a 6-5, 220 lbs frame. That skinny body looks like it could put on more strength, and his age at just 17 years old until August which makes him one of the few that isn’t well past his 18th birthday at the time of the draft. Playing alongside Jordan Groshans at Magnolia HS, Kloffenstein has had plenty of opportunities to throw in front of scouts there and in the Perfect Game circuit that he’s pitched in since his 13th birthday. The fastball works in the low 91-94 mph range with sinking action that allows him to generate plenty of groundball contact against the best of the best prospects during the summer circuit and in high school.
Next to that fastball is a low-80s slider that he shows an excellent feel for and can use to generate groundball contact or earn a swing and miss. In the past it was more of a curveball shape but morphed into a slider, this could possibly be worked more into a downer curve which is likely something the Royals organization would prefer. Like his teammate Groshans, he’s a strong student and has feel for the game, inputting that intelligence onto the field where he can mix and match his stuff to keep hitters off balance. The changeup shows some feel but is more of a firm offering and will need reps to turn into a better pitch. The future upside on Kloffenstein may match that of Rodriguez and the other prep right-handers in this draft even if his current stock isn’t quite as high.
Both prospects would be excellent additions for the Royals and I hope are being heavily considered with one of their selections.