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West Fargo's Matt Strahm preparing for big spring training with Kansas City Royals

WEST FARGO -- Following a breakout season pitching in the minor leagues of the Kansas City Royals organization last summer, former West Fargo baseball standout Matt Strahm is about to enter a pivotal time in his professional career.

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Matt Strahm, a former West Fargo High School baseball standout, works out at Concordia College Jan. 28, preparing for MLB Spring Training, which begins next month. Strahm was named to the World Series champion Kansas City Royals 40-man roster following the postseason and likely will be list as one of the team's top prospects entering camp. (David Samson / The Forum)

WEST FARGO -- Following a breakout season pitching in the minor leagues of the Kansas City Royals organization last summer, former West Fargo baseball standout Matt Strahm is about to enter a pivotal time in his professional career.

Pitchers and catchers report to the Royals spring training complex in Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 18 and few may be as eager to get to work than Strahm, who was added to the team's 40-man roster in November.

"It is a little surreal right now, but I'm sure it will all set in once I get there," said Strahm, who is a 6-foot-4 left-handed pitcher and 2010 graduate of West Fargo High School. "I'm going in there with an open mind and not really knowing what to expect. I'm sure the veterans of the clubhouse will take care of me and show me the ropes."

Strahm, 24, isn't a stranger to spring training, but this one comes with heightened importance considering Baseball America has named him one of the Royals' Top 10 prospects entering the 2016 season. He's listed as the team's eighth best overall prospect according to the publication.

Kansas City Royals Director of Scouting Lonnie Goldberg said Strahm's position within the organization has elevated. The Royals made a handful of trades last season and gave up quality left-handed pitching prospects to get utility player Ben Zobrist and starting pitcher Johnny Cueto to contribute to the team's World Series championship run.

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"We were fortunate in that going into last season a strength in our system was our left-handed pitching and Matt was certainly a part of that," Goldberg said. "When we start talking about who is left-handed and is ready to pitch down in the minor leagues for us, his name is going to have to come up. That is why spring training is going to be extremely important for him coming in, getting acclimated and making an impression."

Strahm left an impression last season pitching for the Lexington (Ky.) Legends and the Wilmington (N.C.) Blue Rocks--the Royals' low and advanced Single-A affiliates, respectively. He finished the year with a combined earned run average of 2.59, 121 strikeouts, and a 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).

Strahm suffered an arm injury and underwent Tommy John surgery early in his professional career.  He pitched out of the bullpen with Lexington, but later made 11 starts with Wilmington while being under a five-inning limit.

"Going into spring training I still don't know what they are going to do with me," Strahm said. "Last year they wanted to protect my arm. This year going into spring training I'm going to do what is asked of me and see where I end up."

Matt Price, the scout who signed Strahm in 2012 after being selected in the 21st round of the June MLB Draft, said he still watches Strahm's pitching lines closely.

"They are taking things slow with him," said Price, who still believes Strahm could be a starter in the big leagues. "Teams are always looking for situational lefties during the September call-up part of the season and if he gets that chance it could be a valuable stepping stone for the next year."

Strahm returned home to West Fargo during the offseason. In December, Strahm threw with his younger brother Ben, who is a freshman on the Cowley Community College (Kan.) baseball team that is ranked No. 4 in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I preseason rankings. When Ben returned to Kansas, Strahm sent a text message to Concordia baseball coach Chris Coste--a former big league catcher with the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros.

Coste lined up a throwing partner to meet Strahm at Concordia's indoor training facility whenever he requested.

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"It is great that they have done that for me and I appreciate it," Strahm said.

Getting pointers from Coste is something Strahm said has been beneficial.

"I love talking baseball with anyone, but talking baseball with Coste is neat," Strahm said. "He is a former big leaguer and a guy I used to look up to when he played with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks."

Strahm said the pitch he has been working on most in the offseason is his changeup and getting it to a point where there is a more dramatic difference of speed from his fastball.

Strahm won't get his assignment until the end of spring training, but he likely has more experiences to go through in the higher levels of the minor leagues.

"It's up to them," Strahm said. "Wherever they send me I'm going to go out and perform to the best of my abilities."

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