With all due respect to the Marquee documentary on Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game, I think the most impressive pitching performance I’ve seen in at least the last year came Monday night from Royals righty Josh Staumont. He needed just 13 pitches — a mix of a fastball that sat 99 and touched 101 and a curveball that bit like a saltwater crocodile — to dispatch the Cubs in order in the 8th inning.
We’re not talking about the bottom of the order, either, though the Cubs are actually pretty potent there as well. Staumont made Javy Báez, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber look like children at the plate. In fact, his freakishly incredible stuff had the Cubs hitters so discombobulated that Javy went down looking while Schwarber whiffed on strike three. That largely a joke about their respective tendencies, but I want to make certain we don’t take anything away from Staumont’s effort.
If you weren’t able to watch the game, you really need to see this. Hell, you need to see it again even if you did watch the game.
I was shocked to learn that Staumont has actually given up hits in the past, let alone that it took him four years to make the majors after being drafted in the second round out of Azusa Pacific in 2015. He didn’t really dominate at the lower levels and had a 5.56 ERA across 124.2 innings in Double- and Triple-A in 2017, but he was almost exclusively starting at that point. Though he continued to make spot starts over the next two seasons, the move to the ‘pen appears to have unlocked his talent.
Even with the improvement, it doesn’t appear as though anyone saw a performance like Monday’s coming. Just a few days after spring training was suspended, MLB.com’s Royals beat writer Jeffrey Flanagan had Staumont as something of a dark horse bullpen candidate behind Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland. Granted, that’s before we knew rosters would expand to 30 players, but even the folks close to the team never saw this coming.
Heading into the season, FanGraphs had Staumont ranked as the No. 32 overall prospect…in the Royals organization. There were 12 righty pitchers listed ahead of him. Twelve. Either evaluators missed as badly on Staumont’s talent as the Cubs missed on his pitches or he made some tweaks during the offseason and subsequent shutdown that made him a dude.
The other possibility, and this should be scary as hell for those AL Central fans who’ve enjoyed the Royals’ precipitous fall from competitiveness in the time since their World Series win, is that KC is primed to be very good for several years to come. If Staumont isn’t even among their top 30 prospects, what other monsters do they have coming up from the system?