The Royals picked 6’5″ righthander Nathan Adcock in last winter’s Rule 5 draft.   With 2011 slated to be a developmental year and with room on the roster, taking a flyer in the Rule 5 made sense.   As Royals fans, we have become used to the team always having such a player on its roster, or at least hanging around through most of the spring.   It is nice that the 2012 roster not only did not have room for a new Rule 5 pick, but probably does not have a spot for last year’s either.

That he is a long shot to make the team is not a condemnation of Nathan Adcock’s 2011 performance.   After having spent the first five years of his professional career no higher than A ball, the tall righthander managed to at least hold his own working sporadically as the long reliever out of a talented Royals bullpen.

With so many good arms in the pen, Adcock almost never pitched in a high leverage situation (when he actually did on July 26th in Boston – he imploded spectacularly) and spent long periods of time not pitching at all.  He went 14 days between appearances in April, pitched just once between June 16th and July 22nd, and only twice in September.   When Adcock did get into a game, he was often there for a long period of time:  13 of his 21 relief appearances went two innings or longer.

As you might expect from a pitcher making the leap from A ball to the majors, there were times when the Royals needed Adcock to grind out some innings and he was unable to do so.  However, more often than not, Nathan came into games early and did his job:  absorb innings so the high leverage relievers could be saved for another, better day.

The soon to be twenty-four year old also was called upon to make three starts.   The first two, on May 21st and 27th, were night and day.  On the twenty-first, Adcock made an emergency start and gave Kansas City five shutout innings against St. Louis.  On the twenty-seventh against Texas, Nathan could not get out of the third inning and left having surrendered seven runs.   To his credit, Adcock bounced back six days later by throwing 4.1 innings in relief allowing just one run and inducing 12 ground outs.

Therein lies the nature of the type of pitcher Nathan Adcock is:  a ground ball inducing machine with pretty moderate stuff.   When he got his third start of the season on August 31st, Adcock induced 13 ground outs in 5.1 innings of work, striking out two, walking none and allowing two runs on six hits.  That is pretty much the upside of Nathan Adcock right there.

With a sinking fastball that sits right around 90-91 mph, a slider that spins in at 86-86 mph, a curve that comes in at 81-82 and a change-up(?) that averaged 86.7 mph, Adcock is pretty much going to throw the ball towards the plate and hope the batter hits a groundball at someone.  Hey, guys have made good livings doing that and it would not surprise me if Adcock does as well.

In his third season in High A ball in 2010, Adcock did strike out more than seven batters every nine innings, but more importantly walked a career low 2.42 batters every nine innings.   That resulted in Adcock throwing 141 innings over 26 starts to the tune of a 3.38 ERA.   Upon reaching the majors, Adcock’s strikeouts predictably dropped to just 5.37/9 and his walks rose to an unacceptable 3.88/9.   Even then, Nathan managed 60 fairly decent innings of work – all things considered – posting a 4.62 ERA but a far better 4.32 xFIP.

The future for Adcock is as a starter:  he does not have the stuff to be anything but a long reliever (which is something of a dying role in the majors).   We saw outings in 2011 where envisioning Adcock as a back of the rotation guy that could give a team 175 halfway decent innings was not a big stretch.  More time in the minors, honing his control and developing some seperation in his pitches velocity-wise, could turn Adcock into a productive option as just that.

For 2012, I have a hard time creating a scenario (a good scenario anyway) that has Nathan Adcock on the Opening Day roster.  His more likely destination is the starting rotation in Omaha and the likely guy to get a call if the Royals need someone to take three or four starts if/when one of the front-line starters goes down.