The Royals have announced that they have acquired right-hander Zach Willeman from the Los Angeles Dodgers as a player who will be named later in the Danny Duffy trade in July. Duffy didn’t throw a single pitch for the Dodgers due to a strained flexor.
Willeman was a reliever at Kent State, Ohio until his junior year when he posted a 4.91 ERA in 66 innings. But he brought in a ’90s fastball that made him a 19th-round pick by the Dodgers in 2017. He wouldn’t pitch professionally this season and most of the next due to Tommy John’s surgery, and he struggled in a balloon in 2019 with a 5.38 ERA. In December 2020, Eric Longenhagen from Fangraphs did a short scouting report on the right-hander.
Willeman was a 35+ FV prospect last year as he was throwing really hard in Arizona while re-dressing from TJ which cost him much of 2017 and 2018. He was selected to start 2019 and its business. were down a bit on his return, more 89-94 than sitting in the mid-90s as was the case the year before.
Willeman has improved his walk rate this year in Double-A and found more success, with a 3.78 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 47 2??3 sleeves. He throws a curve ball and a slider to go with his fastball. He explained his new approach to The Crescent-News this summer.
“I would appreciate being able to hit the strike zone and have a simpler approach this year,” said Willeman of his first full season as a reliever. “I started using more pitches as a reliever and luckily throughout that first month I was killing him with that, eliminating walks and being able to get guys out.”
He also took a line in the back of the head from Royals prospect Dennicher Carrasco that caused him to miss some time due to concussion protocols.
Willeman will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter, so the Royals will have to decide whether or not to add the 25-year-old to the 40-man roster. Duffy is a free agent this winter, free to sign with anyone. He had 10-5 rights this summer, meaning he had the right to veto any trade, but agreed to a trade with his hometown Dodgers.