We are within a week of the virtual MLB Draft, and today’s feature belongs to a intriguing prospect out of Arizona State in RJ Dabovich. The right-handed hurler has spent 1+ season with the Sun Devils, after playing a year in junior college with Central Arizona College. A former 18th round pick of the Kansas City Royals, Dabovich has excelled in the past few seasons, especially after transitioning to the bullpen, raising his stock to a likely selection in this year’s five-round draft.
Dabovich lives mainly on two pitches, which means he likely projects long-term as a reliever, although potentially with spot-starting capabilities. His fastball sits 93-94 and plays up to 97, which he offsets with a hard low or mid-80s slider. Control has been an issue at times, but he is extremely tough to hit, as opposing batters managed a paltry .082 average in his 11 ⅔ innings of work in the shortened 2020 season. He walked nine but avoided damage, saving four games and giving up just one earned run. He flashed impressive potential out of the pen, escaping a bases-loaded, nobody out jam against Cal, and finishing off a save against #1 UCLA. In a do-or-die situation in the NCAA Tournament, Dabovich also returned to the rotation, striking out a season-high six batters to keep the ASU season alive. A hard-throwing righty with a tendency to step up in big games and situations, Dabovich will absolutely hear his name called in the draft, and scouts believe this JUCO and ASU product has big-league bullpen potential.
Prediction: Round 5, Pick 135, Kansas City Royals
Full disclosure – Dabovich may go earlier than this, but the Royals have been rumored to be high on Dabovich, as multiple mocks have Kansas City going after the ASU righty. This draft class is ridiculously deep in pitchers, as 50 right-handed pitching prospects sit in MLB.com’s top 120 prospects, which is the only reason I have Dabovich slipping into the fifth round. Most years, he’s drafted in the top 3 rounds, no question. Either way, he’s great value at this spot in the draft, so Kansas City would gladly grab him here, although don’t be surprised if Dabovich is snapped off the board before the fifth round.