J.J. Picollo's Optimism - Part Two

J.J. Picollo joined the Royals in 2006 as the Director of Player Development. On July 3, 2008, he was named the Assistant General Manager-Scouting and Player Development. Previous to working for the Kansas City Royals, J.J. served as the Director of Minor League Operations for the Atlanta Braves. He has also been a major-league scout and a coach at the college level.

In my four days in Arizona, I could not have been more impressed with the Royals organization. Previously, all my observations were as a fan, and this was my first real opportunity to have access to anyone in a professional capacity.

Before I even arrived in Arizona, I started communicating with the Royals Director of Media Relations, David Holtzman. He was always very courteous and professional via email, and upon my arrival he introduced me to several people and set up several player interviews for me. That first point-of-contact with the Royals organization was just the beginning of a trend. In my observances and in my conversations with minor-league players, major-league players, Scott Sharp, J.J. Picollo, Dayton Moore, the word that stuck with me the most was "family". These people all like and care for each other, and it's obvious. To me, that's the mark of any great organization - whether it be in baseball, or anywhere.

J.J. Picollo went out of his way to have a good conversation with me about the Royals drafting strategies, expectations of some players within the organization, and what we should look forward to this year and in the future. My comments/opinions/feelings will be in italics.

To see part one of my interview my interview with J.J. Picollo click here.

Who has the best chance to be the opening day starter in 2016? Yordano Ventura or Kyle Zimmer?

According to Picollo, each pitcher has the ability to be a #1 starter. He also said that someone under the radar that might need to be considered is Jason Adam.

Kyle Zimmer was drafted so high because of his "plus-plus makeup". He'll likely open the season in Wilmington's rotation, though he has the ability to pitch at the AA level in NW Arkansas. The depth of our system forces him to prove to the organization that he is ready. The main thing he needs to work on is being more efficient with his pitches - he tries to strike out everybody.

Yordano Ventura might have the best "stuff", but he needs to be more efficient with his pitches, too. He wants to strike everyone out. Not too long ago, many assumed that he would be going to bullpen, but when he started dialing it down and pitching in the mid-90s instead of the high 90s, he was much more effective. The Royals had been trying to convince him for several years to dial it down a little bit, and now that he's doing that with more regularity, he is much more effective overall.

Jason Adam is your classic workhorse. He's 6'5", 225 lbs. Last year, he started 27 games for Wilmington, and pitched 158 innings. Though he doesn't boast the same gaudy strikeout numbers as Zimmer and Ventura, he certainly is respectable, and he had a K/BB ratio of close to 3.5.

Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura command most of the headlines, but Picollo was equally complimentary towards Jason Adam. Adam is, at this point, more polished than the other two. One thing is certain, with those three scheduled to make their arrival in Kansas City in the next couple years, the Royals organization is very confident in the future of their starting rotation.

Who has the highest upside - Jason Adam, Kyle Smith, or Sam Selman?

Picollo had already put Jason Adam into the potential #1 starter, so he probably fits the bill as the highest ceiling, and he also probably has the highest bottom. Kyle Smith was compared to Mike Leake - a undersized starting pitcher with "outstanding command." There was concern with Sam Selman's ability to control the strike zone when he was drafted to be a total wild made an adjustment about midway through his final year in college that has allowed him to get a better handle on his command while still maintaining his excellent strikeout rate.

Beyond the three potential #1 starters, the Royals have several guys that could prove to be very effective in the rotation. All three of these guys have the potential to be very good starting pitchers, and they all have a unique skillset.

Does Miguel Almonte compare favorably to Yordano Ventura?

Almonte has a better feel for pitching than Ventura did at his age. Almonte's fastball "only" tops out at 97 or 98 MPH, compared to Ventura who can reach the triple digits when he wants to. When Ventura was signed, he was already throwing in the high 90's. Almonte was signed because of how well he pitched. He was only throwing in the low 90's when he was signed, but has since developed his fastball to the point it is now.

Almonte will turn 20 in April, and with his advanced feel for pitching, I would expect him to move fairly quickly through the system. The Royals will have decisions to make in three or four years if most of their pitching prospects pan out. It's nice to know that they have seven guys that profile as being #3 starters or better that will be under team control 5 years from now (Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Kyle Zimmer, Jason Adam, Kyle Smith, Sam Selman).

What are the expectations for Noel Arguelles?

The first thing that came up was that he's back up to 100% . He was close to 100% last year, but he was frustrated that his velocity wasn't back up to pre-surgery levels. This resulted in his delivery becoming more "efforty". This adversely affected his change-up the most, and his change-up was his best pitch. He'll probably start at double-A NW Arkansas in 2013, but he'll be out of options after this year, so this year's performance is very important.

If he Arguelles isn't ready to help the Royals in 2014, the Royals might lose him. In the past, they could look at moving him to the bullpen to maintain their hold on his services, but the Royals bullpen is stacked. It's hard to envision him cracking the 2014 rotation. The Royals are now getting to the point where the strength of their minor-league system (and major-league team) is going to make it hard to retain some players that might turn out to be good players.

Want more information from J.J. Picollo? Look for part three of this interview soon!

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