Kansas City Royals: John McMillon call-up is a development win

Forgive yourself if John McMillon is not in the forefront of your prospect knowledge. You are also forgiven if you fancy yourself a Kansas City Royals fan but still are unfamiliar with McMillon. With the team clearly out of playoff contention, the Royals have called McMillon up from Double-A, capping a meteoric rise through the system this season.

What Kansas City Royals fans should know about John McMillon

McMillon was one of nine undrafted free agent signings for the Kansas City Royals following the five-round draft in 2020. Hailing from Texas Tech, a college program that has historically struggled to develop pitching, McMillon was a talented and flawed prospect. In four seasons with the Red Raiders, McMillon walked 110 batters in 145.1 innings, yet still pitched to a 3.41 ERA. How is that possible? A fastball that reached triple-digits is usually a good place to start.

Although different publications seem to disagree on McMillon’s value, the unanimous thought is his fastball is amongst the best offerings in the minors. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked McMillon 11th in the Royals’ system during his pre-draft update, citing a slight upgrade in his control. Both Baseball America and MLB.com rank McMillon towards the back of the Royals’ top 30 prospects. Longenhagen seems to be the most bullish on McMillon’s future, pointing towards a future high-leverage role.

Across his first two minor league seasons, McMillon was nearly unpitchable due to his poor command, walking 51 batters in 48 innings. However, this season, McMillon has walked just 25 batters in 51.1 innings, registering an impressive 91 strikeouts. McMillon’s best work came in Double-A, pitching to a lowly 0.87 ERA in 20.2 innings.

The Royals’ major league future looks bleak, but a developmental win like this at least teases the possibility of a healthy system. Of late, the Royals have struggled to develop pitching, with Brady Singer looking like the best homegrown pitcher recently. McMillon becoming a high-leverage option for a contending bullpen would signify an enormous player development victory for a team that needs more stories like this.