Kansas City Royals: What to expect from pitcher Daniel Tillo

Multi-sport high school star Daniel Tillo was recently added to the Kansas City Royals’ 40-man roster. His potential bodes well for the development of a powerful bullpen in Kansas City.

On Nov. 20, the Kansas City Royals added 24-year-old left-handed pitching prospect Daniel Tillo to the 40-man roster along with Khalil Lee (outfielder), Sebastian Rivero (catcher), and Angel Zerpa (pitcher) to prevent them from being taken in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Daniel Tillo made the transition to the bullpen full-time in the last two months of the 2019 season. He made the move while in Double-A, then continued to make bullpen appearances in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Tillo’s move to the bullpen added some electricity to his stuff, giving him a chance to be an exciting high leverage reliever.

Tillo possesses the potential and plus pitching arsenal to be exceptional out of the bullpen. Injury to his UCL and subsequent Tommy John surgery (TJS) derailed his ascension to the MLB in 2020. Tillo’s athleticism (being a multi-sport star in high school) should allow him to recover more optimally.

What should Kansas City Royals fans expect from Daniel Tillo?

Tillo’s numbers as a starter were less than desirable as he learned how to harness his stuff. When he was healthy pitching out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, his stuff looked sharp. His fastball was regularly sitting above 96 mph.

The fastball has a sink, run, and cut movement out of his arm slot to generate a very favorable ground-ball rate (+60%). The slider looked more like a plus pitch (sharper movement) than the above-average slider he was throwing while starting. He also possesses a developing change-up which would help in attacking opposite-handed batters, but he will not need to rely on the change-ups development to survive as an effective reliever.

Tillo has some command concerns with problems occurring in repeating his mechanics and release point. His command issues will not be as exposed as a reliever and as such he should be able to progress into a high leverage relief option once he recovers completely from Tommy John surgery.

For Dayton Moore to think this highly of Tillo really makes you appreciate how special his stuff looked out of the bullpen late in the 2019 season. I personally think very highly of Tyler Zuber (pegging him to be the Royals next great closer) and Dayton Moore had Tillo ahead of Zuber before the injury occurred.

Tillo should be back to full health by 2022. His stuff can produce 9.0 K/9 and an ERA around 3.00, producing a WAR range between 0.5 – 1.0. Harnessing his stuff to prevent walks and induce ground-balls could make him a high leverage reliever.

For a pitcher, Tillo is very athletic and just as competitive as some of the other pitchers on the staff. It is a fair bet Tillo will meet or exceed his expectations after he recovers and returns to baseball.