Washburn strikeout king has promising baseball debut with Kansas City Monarchs

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times
Shown is Brock Gilliam pitching for the Kansas City Monarchs.

Nearly three months after breaking the Washburn University baseball program's records for single-season and career strikeouts, Brock Gilliam was on the mound for the Kansas City Monarchs July 26 in his professional baseball debut. 

The 23-year-old right-hander out of Basehor-Linwood didn't miss a beat in his first professional appearance, striking out the side, to close out a 15-6 win for the first-place Monarchs. 

"Going in, I was just trying to fill it up and throw strikes," Gilliam said. "It worked out and I was super pumped."

Gilliam wrapped up a stellar five-year career with the Ichabods in May after breaking the program's strikeout records for a single-season with 110 in the 2021 season and 221 across his career. He was a four-year standout at Basehor-Linwood High School where he also played basketball.

His performance in 2021 led to speculation that he could be drafted and an opportunity to compete in the inaugural MLB Draft League for the Frederick Keys in Maryland. He made four starts for the Keys and recorded a 4.38 ERA across 12.1 innings pitched.

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Despite a solid performance ahead of the draft, Gilliam was not selected and had to get creative with his next move. 

"I played with them (Frederick) for about three weeks and came home to prepare for the draft," he said. "I was staying in shape and hoping to be drafted or picked up as a free agent and when that didn't work out, I contacted the Monarchs and got a tryout."

Gilliam mostly utilizes a four-seam fastball and a changeup but he has a slider and curveball in his arsenal as well. Prior to the draft, there were reports that he could touch 96 mph with his fastball. Despite having solid results with his usual pitches, Gilliam said he went to the well for his tryout with the Monarchs.

"I'm starting to get my two-seam fastball back," he said. "I threw it my sophomore year of high school but I brought it back for my trial with the Monarchs and it was actually working really well so I'm trying to get that back."

Since his debut, Gilliam has appeared in three more games for the Monarchs and has not allowed a run. He threw the eighth inning in a 6-2 win against the Houston Apollos last Wednesday, allowing just one hit. In the series finale against Houston Thursday, he cruised through the seventh inning before running into trouble in the eighth, only to escape with the bases loaded. In the series finale against the Chicago Dogs Sunday, Gilliam threw two more scoreless innings and picked up his first professional win to help the Monarchs win their ninth straight game 2-1.

The Monarchs compete in the American Association and the league is made up of players with varying levels of experience – from the majors to low-A. Gilliam said being around players who have competed at higher levels has already benefited him.

"It's been a great adjustment," he said. "Culture in the clubhouse is great, you got a couple guys who have been in the bigs and others with AA and AAA experience. A lot of them have already talked to me about little hints and tips. Things to do on the field and stuff to think about."

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While the goal was to get drafted following his college career, Gilliam said the opportunity to compete on a field he is familiar with and in a stadium he visited throughout his childhood is exciting.

"It's close to home so I've got friends and family that can come to the games and watch me play," he said. "In high school, we used to play tournaments here (Legends Field) so I am kind of familiar with the stadium. It's cool to be back here and playing at this level."

The Monarchs have brought Gilliam in late-game non-save situations in each of his first three appearances and he has yet to allow a run. If he continues to pitch well, he might catch the attention of an affiliated team looking to add an arm, but he acknowledged the Monarchs is a great place to start his career.