Jonathan Bowlan's Full Breakthrough Must Wait
The 2021 season was going great for 24-year-old righthander Jonathan Bowlan.
Then it wasn't.
The 2018 second-rounder out of Memphis recorded a 1.65 ERA through his first three starts for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He struck out 23, walked three and allowed 13 hits in 16.1 innings.
But before a breakthrough could fully take root, Bowlan left his fourth start after just seven pitches with an arm injury. A few days later, Tommy John surgery was scheduled for the 6-foot-6, 240-pound righthander.
A bit of good news comes via that last piece of information. Bowlan worked hard over the past few offseasons to reshape his body, dropping from 260 pounds when he signed to his current weight.
He now sports at strong, chiseled frame, and his strong work ethic and go-getter mentality will serve him as he embarks on the 12-18-month rehab from elbow surgery.
While Bowlan made gains from his adherence to the Royals' strength and conditioning program, his decision to change his diet has also been a key factor.
“I’ve kind of watched what I’ve eaten more recently,” Bowlan said. “Some days, you’re not going to feel great, but what I’ve noticed the most is just having that decent diet that you can improve on helps you perform to the best of your abilities.”
Northwest Arkansas pitching coach Derrick Lewis agreed with Bowlan’s assessment.
“Better conditioning helps with performance,” Lewis said. “You can do things that you want to do. You put the work in and your body will allow you to do it.”
It wasn't only conditioning that had boosted Bowlan’s stock. Already noted for outstanding command of three pitches, he began adding a curveball to his arsenal at the Royals' alternate training site last summer
His 80-82 mph curve with downward depth gives hitters a different look from his slider. He can use it to play off his other pitches, including a fastball that ranges from 93-97 mph.
“(His curveball) continues to get better for him,” Lewis said. “You can really see his confidence growing in that pitch."
— The Royals will be one of three organizations to field two teams in the Rookie-level Arizona League this summer. The bulk of those squads will consist of the approximately 50 players currently in the Royals' extended spring training camp at the minor league facility in Surprise, Ariz. Among the organization’s top 40 prospects likely to be part of their AZL squads are outfielder Erick Peña, righthander Samuel Valerio and shortstop Wilmin Candelario.