Home > Kansas City Royals > Player Profile: Royals Prospect RHP Sam Runion

Player Profile: Royals Prospect RHP Sam Runion

Today, I got a chance to see Royals prospect Sam Runion, a 20 year old RHP, start for the Burlington Bees against the West Michigan Whitecaps.  What follows is an incredibly amateur scouting report based on his performance.

First, though, a story.  Sam Runion was a 2007 2nd round draft pick of the Royals out of A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, North Carolina.  He signed shortly thereafter, and began his professional career in rookie ball in Arizona.  A classic control pitcher with a good fastball, Runion played very well out of the gate in 2007, striking out 9 batters per 9 innings in Arizona.

He began the 2008 season playing near his home, with the Burlington (NC) Royals, dropped his ERA to 3.35 in 10 starts which, combined with his draft position and age, earned him prospect status.

Promoted to Burlington in the middle of the 2008 season Runion was expected to continue to flourish, but his ERA has skyrocketed while his peripherals have fallen apart completely.  Runion, who was almost unhittable in Burlington, saw a massive increase in his hit and home run rate, but the decline in his strikeout rate has been most devastating.  Returning to Burlington in 2009, Runion entered today with a 6.30 ERA in 94.1 innings.

The West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers affiliate) are the class of the midwest league, and would prove to be Runion’s biggest challenge of the season.  Runion started out in the first inning demonstrating a spectacular range of speeds, throwing 4 different pitches which ranged from an 88-90 mph fastball to a 56-59 mph slow (knuckle?) curve.  He threw both a changeup in the upper 70’s, and some sort of a breaking ball in the mid to low 70’s that might have been a power curve, a slider, a slurve, or something similar.

Before Runion had his second out, he had already committed a fielding error, and had given up a two run homer to put the Whitecaps up 3-0.  The home run pitch was that extremely slow curve that he simply left up in the zone out over the plate, and WM DH Billy Nowlin hit it at least 430 feet, if not further.

True to the scouting reports I’ve read on him, Runion does not often get too far behind in the count.  He struggled with his control a little bit in the first inning, throwing one ball to the backstop, and getting behind 2-0 at times, but Runion is good at throwing his fastball and his changeup for first pitch strikes.  He’s also appeared to be an incredibly hittable pitcher early in the count.  But as Runion started to work some hitters over, he got ahead 0-2, or 1-2, and appeared to be quite good at getting groundballs to get him out of innings.

The floodgates would open once again on him in the 5th inning, and at this point, I thought he was relying too heavily on his fastball, and the top five hitters in the order for the Whitecaps were just taking him to the warning track on every at bat.  They did not get one out of the park after the first inning, but this appears to be a trend with Runion: when he tires, he leaves his fastball out over the plate, and if he gets it up in the zone, the ball will travel.

Runion also appears to be a very poor defender even for a pitcher.  He was charged with an error, that really was a misplayed ball by the first basemen (who left his zone to cut off a 3 hopper), forcing Runion to hustle over to the bag, and field a 1-hopped throw while moving, which did not happen, and cost the Bees a free base.  Later in the game though, WM CF Brent Wyatt, a fine player in his own right, layed a bunt down the third base line, and it was a play that probably should have been made.  Runion, however, didn’t come charging off the mound, and his throw to first was consequently late.

Overall, Runion compiled a line of 6 IP, 7 ER, 2 K, 2 BB, and the lone homer, against a team much better than his own.  Even a good performance by Runion might not have changed the outcome of this one, but I came away thinking that I just didn’t see any sort of  “out” pitch the whole outing, and this would explain Runion’s terrible strikeout rate.  I do think he might have a future if he can develop a strong ground ball tendency: he can improve his walk rate by working with his fastball and his changeup more exclusively (the breaking stuff simply fooled no one), but without the ability to get ground ball outs, Runion might not ever make it as far as double-A.

For Royals GM Dayton Moore, the calling into question of Runion’s prospect status has to be disheartening.  If nothing else, Moore will be measured by how he does with his early round picks, and while players like Johnny Giovatella, Eric Hosmer, Michael Montgomery, and Mike Moustakas are moving through the system according to plan, Moore’s drafting resume would look a lot better if Runion bounces back next year, and rights himself on the path to the big leagues.  I think this could still happen, but he’s going to have to simply his repitoire to make the next step.

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  1. July 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm
  2. January 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm

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