#35 Greg Billo
Acquired: Drafted in the 28th Round of 2008 Amateur Draft
From: Orland Park, IL
Entering 2011, I ranked Greg Billo as the 55th best prospect in the stacked Royals' farm system. Entering the season, I called for Billo to begin the season in Kane County where I predicted he would see dramatic improvement in several statistical areas, but in specific ERA. I couldn't have been more correct as Billo ranked third in all of Minor League Baseball in ERA at season's end. Billo's 1.93 ERA was behind only Matt Moore's 1.92 and Michael Fiers 1.86.
Billo's strongest asset is his excellent control. For his career he has posted 2.3 BB/9 and in 2011 that number came in at just 1.7. For some perspective the Midwest league average BB/9 was 3.31 in 2011. If Billo can keep his walk rate around 2, and his strikeout rate over 7 he should continue to have no trouble finding success as a starter.
Unfortunately, keeping the strikeout rate over 7 could prove to be difficult for Billo due velocity issues and his lack of a true plus pitch. Reports on Billo's velo varied throughout the season. At one point I remember someone reporting that his velocity was actually up to 91-92 mph. But toward the end of the year the common report was that his velocity was only 83-86, explaining why he wasn't getting the prospect buzz one would normally expect with an ERA so low.
In my mind there are two key factors when it comes to Billo's potential rise in prospect standing. First, Billo has to maintain his premium command. In addition to his fastball Billo throws an average curveball and decent change, with excellent command it could be possible for him to eventually develop into a back end starter as long as he meets the second condition. The final condition of course as that Billo can get his velocity to at least 88-92 mph on a consistent basis.
If Billo can meet these conditions, he'll likely eventually turn into a back end starter. If Billo can somehow turn one of his offerings into a plus offering maybe he can even be a 3 someday (not likely). Billo's an interesting prospect in that Baseball America has picked him as a breakout type player in the past. He has a good frame and it wouldn't be absurd for him to add velocity as he develops. Look for Billo to open 2012 as a Wilmington Blue Rock.
Picture credit: Milb.com