Signed: Non-Drafted Free Agent May 27, 2006
College: Austin Peay
2006 Accolades: Pioneer League All-Star, Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week and Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year. Third in League in innings pitched and third in League in ERA.
2007 Accolades: 2-time Carolina League Pitcher of the Week, Carolina League Midseason and Postseason All-Star, and Pitcher of the Year for both the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Carolina League. Led all Royals minor leaguers in wins, led Carolina League in wins and innings pitched, and was second in Carolina League in ERA.
What more perfect guy to begin our prospect countdown than Rowdy Hardy, who very likely has the best name in all of professional sports. Hardy went undrafted in 2006 and signed with the Royals for $1,000 as a fifth year senior out of Austin Peay University where he set an Ohio Valley Conference record with 32 career victories. Hardy is an underdog in every form of the word and has not just gotten by but exceeded expectations at every stop during his baseball career.
Hardy gets by with below average stuff and perhaps the best command in the entire Royals system. His fastball hits 86 mph on a good night but usually sits in the 82-84 mph range. Hardy does get movement on his fastball and shows no fear in throwing inside to hitters. Hardy also has an above average change up that has a late sink action to it. Hardy also has a still developing curveball.
After a rough 2008 in Springdale, the Royals attempted to convert Hardy into a sidearm style reliever for the 2009 season. Although the results weren't terrible the Royals seemed to have a change in heart and moved him back into the rotation where he returned to dominate form in several starts for the Blue Rocks. He was then promoted back to the Texas League where he pitched much better in his second go around, becoming the best pitcher in the Naturals' rotation.
It is tough to say whether or not the Royals view Hardy as a legitimate prospect, but given his track record he would be a guy that I would never bet against. He is twenty-seven so I think that the Royals should give him a spot in Omaha's rotation to start 2010, however I would not be surprised to see him in Springdale again occupying a starting role until another pitcher is ready to step in. I really hope this isn't the case but so goes the career of a "soft-tosser" that is consistently older than the players he is playing against.
I am not saying that I think that Hardy if given the chance is going to be the next Jamie Moyer. But I am not saying that he won't either. What I am saying is that the guy has found a way to succeed at every stop and until he can't figure it out he should be allowed to progress.