Current pitcher for the Kansas City Royals and APU graduate Josh Staumont has proven to be one of the game’s brightest bullpen pieces.
Heading into the 2015 MLB Draft, former Cougar Josh Staumont showed potential unlike anyone the baseball program had ever witnessed before. He was drafted with the 64th pick in the second round by the Kansas City Royals. That made him the highest-drafted player in program history.
That same year, Staumont left APU after a two-year stint with the Cougars. What did he do during his final season with the team? He finished seventh in the nation in strikeouts with a whopping 109.
However, his baseball story is far more extensive than that one season.
Staumont began playing baseball in the third grade, yet he didn’t begin to pitch until he entered high school. Attending his hometown high school in La Habra, he played two seasons of varsity baseball, obtaining an 8-2 record with an ERA of 2.12 and 87 strikeouts during his senior season.
He was not well scouted in high school, and he had very little interest from any major collegiate baseball program in the area. Scouts were instead looking to prospect his other teammates. His high school head coach Paul Caffrey was ultimately forced to advise scouts to give Staumont a chance.
One scout was from Biola University. Staumont settled for Biola since his mother worked there and it was only a few miles away from home. While it was not a heavily touted program, he was excited to play baseball for the collegiate level along with being able to acquire a college education.
“That was literally all it came down to,” Staumont said. “I could play a sport that I loved and get an education.”
Staumont only played one season with Biola, throwing 102.1 innings and holding a 3.96 ERA. After that one year, he decided to follow head coach John Verhoeven to Azusa to join Paul Svagdis’ program.
Staumont’s sophomore year for the Cougars was an up-and-down affair. He started 15 games, holding a record of 7-6 along with a 4.24 ERA. However, he led his new team in strikeouts while placing second in innings pitched with 80.2.
Staumont was also able to win a league title in the Cape Cod Baseball League that year, playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in one of the collegiate summer baseball leagues.
His velocity was steadily increasing as he grew more experienced. Back when playing for Biola, he would max at around 93 mph. His mechanics eventually led to an incredible increase throughout his collegiate career as it hit 102 mph in his final year with the Cougars. His now dangerous fastball became a sight to see, and it attracted a lot of attention from MLB scouts.
“It’s gotta be very difficult for a person at the age of 20 to 21 to warm up in a bullpen and 40 scouts are sitting there watching you and critiquing you in their mind while you warm up before you have to go out and compete for your teammates,” Svagdis said about Staumont. “Then you get out on the field and every pitch you throw, there’s 40 to 50 guys there literally just watching and kind of critiquing every pitch, so it can be a big distraction and he’s handled it really well.”
The problem with his increase in velocity, though, is that it came with a glaring flaw — a drop in command. He was walking a lot of batters, and his new pitching speed was something he was struggling to adapt to.
“I throw harder than most of the people in the area, but the problem with that is that I walk a lot of people too, so it’s a back-and-forth,” Staumont stated. This problem became a major issue in his junior year, as he handed out 54 walks in 68.3 innings pitched.
Nevertheless, he had a phenomenal season. He ranked second nationally in strikeouts per nine innings with an average of 14.29. He was also seventh in the nation in strikeouts with 109 during the 2014-15 season.
During his two years with the program, he went 13-8 with a 3.97 ERA. He also managed to get 198 strikeouts, which became the most ever in a two year stretch in Cougar baseball history.
He then fell in the hands of an excellent organization after being drafted by the Royals, a team that won the World Series less than a year earlier. Staumont continued the streak of having at least one Azusa Pacific player chosen in the draft with the program’s fourth consecutive year.
He started his minor league debut with the Arizona League Royals then got promoted to the Idaho Falls Chukars that same year. In 2015, he went 3-1 with an ERA of 2.48 combined with those two teams, pitching in 18 games and starting four of them. He pitched 40 innings and walked 32 that year.
In 2016, he split time from Class A Wilmington and Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Command remained an issue, as he walked 104 batters in the 123.3 innings he pitched. That year he went 4-11 with an ERA of 4.23.
During his 2017 season, he got promoted to the Triple-A Omaha team and struggled with them, claiming a 6.28 ERA through 76 innings, allowing 63 walks. His accuracy was hurting him, but his pitching velocity was still there, and he still managed to place third in the Royals Top 20 prospect lists that season. He ended up being optioned back to Class AA and ended the year 6-12 with an ERA of 5.56.
In his 2018 and 2019 season, Staumont became mainly a relief pitcher for the Triple-A Omaha team which suited him better. His ERA dropped to 3.51 in 2018 and 3.16 in 2019. He finished with a record of 2-5 in ’18 and 1-5 in ’19. He adjusted well to his new role and was one of the most devastating relief pitchers in their bullpen.
He was added to the 40-man roster in 2018, and would ultimately make his debut the following MLB season.
After earning the best strikeouts per nine inning rate with 12.97 in the Pacific Coast League in 2019, he made his major league debut on July 25. He pitched two scoreless innings in the 11th and 12th for the Royals. However, the Indians were able to win the game by a single run. He ended up playing 16 games that season with an ERA of 3.72.
Staumont pitched a solid average of 96 mph with his fastball and 82 mph with his curveball during his rookie campaign, and his pitching velocity continued to be the blueprint of his success.
In his second professional season, Staumont improved even more. He finished the 2020 season with an ERA of 2.45. He pitched 25.2 innings in 26 games. And somehow his pitching got even faster, with his four-seam fastball hitting 98 mph.
Staumont has many more years to continue building his legacy to becoming one of the strongest bullen pieces. This doesn’t just go for the Royals, but maybe for the entire American League. The future is bright for this former Cougar.