SAN DIEGO -- The Royals kept busy Thursday by acquiring hard-throwing right-hander Jandel Gustave in a trade with the Red Sox.
Gustave, 22, was selected by the Red Sox from Houston's Triple-A roster with the No. 6 pick in the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft and dealt to Kansas City. The Royals are getting a pitcher, with a fastball that reaches triple digits, who has been a starter and reliever since being signed by Houston as an international free agent in May 2010.
"He's a big power arm," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "We've seen him from 96-100 this winter and we believe he's getting better. There's life in his fastball right now that makes us believe he's moving in the right direction."
As is often the case with young, raw pitchers, Gustave has had command issues to the tune of 146 walks to go along with his 199 strikeouts in 196 1/3 Minor League innings. But the Royals have seen enough improvement that they're willing to give him a shot to carve out a spot in what was the best bullpen in the American League in 2014. Rule 5 Draft picks must spend the entire season on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the club from which they were selected.
As for the huge jump from Class A ball to a potential 2015 season on the Royals' Major League roster, Picollo said it's all about potential.
"He's not quite there yet, but the upside is that of a setup man and maybe a guy who can close," Picollo said. "With the makeup of our bullpen, he can be a bridge to the fifth and sixth innings, and we'll see what we have."
Gustave spent 2014 with Class A Quad Cities and went 5-5 with a 5.01 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 79 innings. But the Royals were most impressed by his performance in the Dominican Winter League, where Gustave stuck as a reliever for Gigantes del Cibao and shined in 10 appearances, going 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA and striking out 10 while walking five in 14 innings.
"It's a small sample size this winter, but his walks are much better," Picollo said. "His delivery is more consistent, we like the angle on the ball right now, and the ball's down in the zone. You have to trust your scouting department and what you're seeing."
Picollo said Gustave was shut down by Houston this winter but that the Royals would explore the option of having him pitch again in the Dominican League.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.