“Last year there was a lot of talk about Josh Staumont but he was terrible in Triple-A then everyone seemed to forget about him. But I saw him pitch a couple of weeks ago and he looked great though he is now in the bullpen. What is your take on him now”?—-Lilly, Greeley, Colorado
You’re right, Lilly, Staumont did get a lot of press entering 2017. Throwing 100 MPH will do that. And yes, he did not have a good year for Triple-A Omaha in ‘17, with a 6.28 ERA in 76 innings. He struck out 93 but walked 63 and that will haunt a pitcher in any league, especially the Pacific Coast League.
Despite his problems in 2017 he still ranked third on the Royals Top 20 prospects list pre-season. This was my take then:
3) Josh Staumont, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, second round pick in 2015 from Azusa Pacific; combined 5.56 ERA with 138/97 K/BB in 125 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 106 hits; arm strength borders on spectacular, clocked at 100 and higher; good breaking ball and moving change-up, too, but command remains very unreliable; this grade is based on ceiling and may be a notch generous, very much a high risk/high reward type. ETA late 2018.
As Lilly notes the Royals moved Staumont to the bullpen for 2018 and the results have been excellent: in 15.2 innings he has a 0.57 ERA, a 30/13 K/BB, and just nine hits allowed. His walk rate is still very, very high, but his already outstanding strikeout rate has kicked up another notch.
When Staumont is right his stuff is ridiculous. As a starter he worked at 96-100 but in the bullpen he’s up as high as 102. He also has a plus curveball. In relief he doesn’t have to worry as much about a third pitch or pacing himself and can just come in and throw hard for an inning or two.
When Staumont is wrong, his stuff is still ridiculous but he doesn’t know where it is going. So far this year PCL hitters have had little chance against him even with the very high walk rate.
Would that remain true in the majors?
Well frankly I don’t know. He’s obviously better-suited for relief work and in that role I’d bump his grade up from a B-/C+ to a plain B-. His control is still too shaky to merit more at the moment. His ceiling is tremendous but the risks that his control will be too poor for consistent success are high.
That said, Staumont doesn’t have to turn into Greg Maddux to be successful. Even mild improvement with his command would take him a long way.