It doesn’t happen often that a guy turns down a big league draft offer to head to college and then is drafted by that same team three years later.
That is exactly what happened to right-handed pitcher Evan Beal.
The KC Royals drafted Beal out of high school in 2011 in the 8th round, but he chose instead to head to the University of South Carolina. Then in 2014, the Royals drafted Beal again, this time in the 21st round.
“It was pretty cool to go to college instead the first time and have it happen again with the same team,” Beal said after his High-A debut on Saturday night. “Just shows me that they had interest in me before and didn’t really change the second time around, so it was nice to see. Dealt with the same people in the process, had a familiarity with the same people, and it made for a smooth process the second time.”
Things may not have gone as planned at South Carolina or in the draft, but Beal is making the move up the Royals minor league ranks.
After signing last summer, Beal was assigned to rookie level Burlington to start his professional career. In nine games (8.2 innings), he had a 6.23 ERA and allowed 13 hits (a .361 average). He walked three and struck out five. Though the numbers weren’t great, he did convert four-of-five save opportunities.
Coming out of his first spring training, Beal was assigned to Low-A Lexington where he converted 5-of-5 save opportunities. In 22 games (36 innings), he was 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA and opponents hit just .206 against him. He walked 17 and struck out 30.
“We didn’t have defined roles per se in Lexington, but I feel like I kind of got stuck out there in save opportunities at times. I was never really named the closer, but I had a lot of fun going out there and pitching with the lead at the end of the game.”
On Saturday night, Beal made his Wilmington debut, throwing two scoreless innings of relief (2H, 0BB, 2K).
“It was nice to get in there,” Beal said after his debut, “but unfortunately it was in a losing effort [the Blue Rocks lost 8-1]. Just grateful to get my feet wet.”
Beal has only been in pro ball for about a year, but what adjustments has he made?
“I feel like rookie ball is an array of talent levels and age levels. There’s college guys, there’s high school guys, there’s international signs. So you just have to go out there and play to your ability and not play down to anyone else. Coming out of spring training this year, just grateful to make a full season club and then have the success in Low-A and get myself an opportunity to come up. Or stay in Low-A and pitch the way I know how. It’s nice to be here.”
The Blue Rocks are already playoff bound, but they were in desperate need of reinforcements in their relief corps last week. Hopefully Beal can slide into the later innings and have the success he had with the Legends prior to his promotion.
Hopefully Beal can be an integral part of bringing Wilmington a Carolina League title for the first time since 1999.