Royals Find A Gem In Richard Lovelady

Richard Lovelady (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

When scouts are watching players, they are constantly comparing them to players they’ve seen in the past. It’s a way that the experience pays off in scouting. This first baseman reminds me of that slugger our team took back in 2007. This shortstop’s actions are like that Ole Miss shortstop from a decade ago. 

Player after player goes into the memory banks. Some slip into long-term memory never to be retrieved. Others keep popping back to the front of a scout’s brain.

The first time Royals’ crosschecker Sean Gibbs saw Richard Lovelady, he slid into the memory banks, even though almost everything he did told him not to bother.

He was an 85-87 mph lefthanded junior college pitcher in the midst of a solid-but-unspectacular 3-5, 3.07 season for East Georgia State JC. It’s worth noting that the next player drafted out of East Georgia will be the first.

Lovelady wasn’t really a draftable prospect. But there was something about the funkiness of his delivery and the Chris Sale-esque arm slot that stood out. There just aren’t a lot of lefties who throw like that. He was unique, so Gibbs filed the memory away.

A year later, Gibbs saw Lovelady again. This time he was pitching for Kennesaw State. Now a junior, Lovelady was suddenly throwing harder. What had been 85-87 had become a consistent 88-90. Considering how his funky delivery and arm slot would give lefties trouble, he’d become a draftable prospect.

“I’ve always said lefties come on late,” Gibbs said. “And sidearmers come on late.”

So a lefty sidearmer might not really be what he can be until he’s a little bit older.

The Royals had a little advantage when it came to scouting Lovelady compared to most other teams. In 2016 the team didn’t have a first-round pick. Kansas City wouldn’t pick at all until the 67th pick in the draft.

So while general managers, assistant GMs, scouting directors and crosscheckers for almost every other team were bouncing around seeing the top 50 players in the country, Kansas City could dig a little deeper. The Royals had scouts in the stands for Lovelady’s two appearances out of the Kennesaw State bullpen during the Atlantic Sun tournament. And they saw that he was now a 90-91 mph sidearmer with a fastball that would touch 92-93.

Kansas City was sold. It picked Lovelady in the 10th round and watched him post a sub-2.00 ERA in stops with the AZL Royals and short-season Idaho Falls.

If Lovelady had shown up in spring training this year with the same stuff that he showed last year, the Royals would have been happy. He was showing signs of being a useful lefty reliever. But he came back as much more.

“Spring training was where the major jump really happened,” Gibbs said.

Lovelady’s fastball now sits 91-94 mph and will touch 95-96. It’s firmer. It’s even more deceptive and he’s developed an improved ability to locate it both in and out to hitters. The Royals saw enough that they skipped him over low Class A Lexington to high Class A Wilmington.

With the Blue Rocks Lovelady went 1-0, 1.08 with an 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After an appearance in the Carolina League all-star game, he was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he’s 3-2, 2.59 with 26 strikeouts and 10 walks in 24 innings.

“His strike-throwing has improved. (Before it wasn’t) like the strike-throwing he’s doing now. He’s locked in and really focused. He’s taken off. He has a plan,” Gibbs said. “If the breaking balls come, if he can come in and the breaking ball sharpens just a little bit, he has setup ceiling.”

A little over a year after he was drafted, Lovelady is now not that far from the big leagues.

“He is a gem. There’s not a lot like him. I can’t say enough about the kid and his family and (Kennesaw State pitching coach) Kevin Erminio and (Kennesaw State head coach) Mike Sansino and what they do,” Gibbs said.

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