The Road to The Show™: Royals’ Mozzicato
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at sixth-ranked Royals prospect Frank Mozzicato. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. As he completed his first Minor League season with
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at sixth-ranked Royals prospect Frank Mozzicato. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
As he completed his first Minor League season with Single-A Columbia, Frank Mozzicato’s string of high school dominance was a distant memory.
In 19 starts for the Fireflies, the Royals’ No. 6 prospect produced a 4.30 ERA with an impressive 89 strikeouts over 69 innings after opening the season in extended spring training. His 11.61 K/9 was the third-highest among Kansas City Minor Leaguers with at least 60 innings this season.
Mozzicato got better as the season rolled along, producing a 2.64 ERA in his last seven starts. But he was plagued by walk issues throughout the year, giving up at least three free passes in 10 outings.
“You have to accept failure here,” Mozzicato told CTInsider.com in July. “We were drafted for a reason as much as those hitters were drafted for a reason. You’ve got to have the utmost confidence in your stuff, saying ‘I’m better than that guy.’ But I think failing is learning, especially right now. I’m getting my feet wet in this industry, learning the ins and outs, learning from mistakes. It hasn’t been hard. But the competitiveness in me, I do get frustrated just because I want to be the best possible.”
The walk concerns are somewhat of an occupational hazard for a strikeout artist such as Mozzicato. Especially as he continues to refine his secondary pitches and grows in the professional game.
MLB Pipeline grades the 19-year-old’s curveball as his best pitch. The hook produces a high spin rate with good depth and, most importantly, he can throw it for strikes. His fastball velocity sits in the low 90s, thanks to some work he put in at Cressey Sports Performance before his last high school season. And he still has time to add regular velocity.
But the focus in the early part of camp for the 6-foot-3, 175-pound southpaw was to improve his changeup.
“Changeup is the hardest pitch to hit,” Mozzicato told MLB.com in February. “So every day in practice, our pitching coaches are making us throw it, even on a normal throwing day, just to get a good feel and a good grip of it. It’s definitely gotten a lot better, and I know I’m going to have to use it to win games.”
Mozzicato hardly needed a third offering in high school. But that’s no longer his reality. Even the streak he produced during his senior season at East Catholic High School in Manchester, Conn., barely resembled reality.
Mozzicato finished his amatuer career with a stretch of 49 ⅔ scoreless innings. Over that span, he threw four consecutive no-hitters and claimed a state championship victory, posting a 0.16 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 55 ⅔ innings total.
Those video game-like numbers are just plain unrealistic for anybody at the professional level. But the masterful performance catapulted his Draft stock.
“As you go through the scouting trail, his name keeps coming up and your scouts keep talking about him,” Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg told MLB.com last year. “And then you get to know the person, who he is, what his aspirations are, where he’s going to go, you try to picture that three to five to 10 years down the line and the ceiling he has as a player and a person, what he can do impact-wise in our city.”
Kansas City selected Mozzicato with the No. 7 overall pick in last year’s Draft. Most prospect evaluators thought he would likely be taken closer to the end of the first round, and perhaps even in the second round. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 39 overall Draft prospect, but noted in its report that he was unlikely to fall so far that he’d be tempted to honor his commitment to UConn.
"Definitely hasn't really sunk in yet, but it's amazing."— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) July 12, 2021
1-on-1 with @FrankMozzicato.#TogetherRoyal pic.twitter.com/t1bEYsGM6l
Instead, the Royals surprised many by taking Mozzicato with their first pick. He signed for a reported $3.5 million bonus, which was almost $2 million less than slot value.
“You get drawn to the ability,” Goldberg told MLB.com after the signing last year. “He’s got extreme talent, ability to spin a breaking ball, picture perfect delivery, throws a ton of strikes. Those are the first things that draw you. He’s got a ton of ceiling -- he’s got a lot of projection left to him. ... He’s going to do special things. Really, really big things here.”
The Royals used the money saved in their selection of Mozzicato to provide over-slot bonuses to six of their first nine picks, including right-hander Ben Kudrna, catcher Carter Jensen and righty Shane Panzini, who were Mozzicato’s roommates in Columbia this past season. The three pitchers spent their remainder of last season in instructional league after the Draft -- and eventually became close enough to earn the nicknames “The Three Amigos” and “The Freshmen.”
“It makes it a lot more fun. That competitive nature -- we’re always trying to beat each other out. It’s not in a mean way, it’s just how we are,” Mozzicato told MLB.com in February. “It’s fun because even when we get off the baseball field, it’s like I’ve known these guys for my whole life.”
This season was a good first step for Mozzicato, especially as one of the younger players in the league. The Royals have depth at the prospect level to take their time with Mozzicato, and let him climb the ladder at a deliberate pace.
Kansas City may never see the type of dominance Mozzicato was able to produce in high school. But he certainly seems to have a Major League future.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.