Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 3/1/12
There's likely a young pitching prospect lurking in the Royals' farm system who could break through to the Royals' big-league rotation sometime this summer. But you may be surprised just which prospect that might be. Jake Odorizzi? Chris Dwyer? Mike Montgomery? Actually, the young pitcher flying under the media radar right now is Will Smith, the 22-year-old left-hander who came to the Royals in 2010 as part of the Alberto Callaspo trade with the Angels. "I actually think he could be in the (big-league) rotation at some point this season," assistant general manager of scouting and player development J.J. Picollo told me by phone. "And it's not my opinion. There are a lot of people in the organization who feel that way. Will is a kid who is coming along very nicely. Not a lot of talk about him but he is very much in the picture." Smith hasn't drawn the attention that the other young Royals' pitchers have mainly because Smith won't wow most scouts or fans with electric stuff. "He throws about 90 or 91 (mph) normally, and he can get it up to 94," Picollo said. "He's not a guy who hits 96-97 on the gun. But there are so many things to like about him. He is consistent, competitive and he works quickly. Players love to play behind him. "He's just an old-fashioned pitcher. He knows how to pitch and how to get hitters out. And now he's added a slider, which is helping him get right-handers out." Last year, Smith led the Texas League in victories with 13 for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He also led the league in innings pitched with 161 13 while posting a 3.85 ERA. "Just love the way he goes about his business," Picollo said. "Keep an eye on him." Smith is targeted to start the season at Triple-A Omaha. MONTGOMERY MUSCLE Picollo reports that left-hander Mike Montgomery, who had a shaky year at Omaha (5-11, 5.32 ERA), spent the off-season in Arizona and worked hard on training and conditioning. "He really looks like he is filling out and becoming a man," Picollo said. "We've been waiting to see that happen. I think he's going to be a different pitcher this year." Montgomery, 6 feet 4, 200 pounds, likely will start the year again at Omaha, unless he is nothing short of sensational in spring training. "This is a big year for him and I think he knows it," Picollo said. "He's simply got to work on consistently repeating his delivery. Last year, he too often cut off his delivery, made it short, and that was his biggest problem. "But there's no reason to believe he won't get there." COLON WAITS Middle infielder Christian Colon, the Royals' first-round pick (No. 4 overall) in the 2010 draft, didn't get a spring training invite, something not always easy to cope with for a young player drafted so high. "We talked to him about it and he was disappointed," Picollo said. "But frankly, if he wasn't disappointed, we'd be worried about his competitive nature. "The truth is, he had a good year at Double-A last year, but not a great year. And with our situation at the big-league level, there was really no room for him. "You have Alcides Escobar and Johnny Giavotella and Chris Getz and Yuni (Betancourt) up there, so there really wasn't a point to it. I don't think at this stage, Christian is going to those guys out. - "Plus, Ned (Yost) was hoping to keep the invites to 60 or below, so it was a numbers game." Colon hit .257 with eight homers and 61 RBIs at NW Arkansas, though he did lead the league in sacrifice bunts with 21. LAMB ON THE MEND Left-handed prospect John Lamb, coming off reconstructive elbow surgery last June, is throwing and will stay in Arizona through extended spring. The goal is for Lamb to return to pitching in the minors sometime in May or early June. Picollo said Lamb won't necessarily lose any velocity due to the surgery. "These days, there's about a 75 percent chance that someone coming off Tommy John surgery returns to their normal velocity or maybe even a little higher," Picollo said. "There's a far better chance he'll come back with as much zip on his stuff than if he'd had shoulder problems."
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