Brad Keller is the KC Royals’ brightest young pitcher currently on the MLB roster. The development of his new pitch will be critical in 2020.
One of the sore spots for the KC Royals in the Dayton Moore era has been the inability to develop consistent starting pitching. While that’s certainly a challenge for many MLB clubs, it seems to be even more difficult for Kansas City. Rule 5 draft pick Brad Keller, though, has been much better than expected since coming to Kansas City.
In 20 starts as a rookie, the Georgia man went 8-5 with a 3.28 ERA over 118 innings pitched. Although his sophomore campaign was definitely worse (7-14, 4.19 ERA), his ERA drops to 3.95 if we remove his final start of the season. Peripherally, it looks much better that way. Keller’s a low-strikeout pitcher, relying on contact to get outs. It came back to bite him a bit in 2019, but there’s reason to believe he’ll settle in during his third season.
First and foremost, Keller will have another offseason to further develop the pitches he already has. Keller relies on his four-seam fastball more than anything else, followed by his slider, then a sinker. After utilizing his changeup at a 3.4 percent clip in 2018, that usage dropped to 1.4 percent a season ago. Throwing pitch just 38 times throughout the whole season, it was time for something new.
In an interview with MLB.com, Keller noted shared that he’s adding a curveball to his arsenal. He emphasized that “either developing the changeup or finding a pitch that could act as a changeup” was a key component of his offseason routine. Not only is a curveball a great off-speed pitch to have in an arsenal, but it may assist Keller in striking out more hitters.
Keller’s already an average or slightly above-average major league starting pitcher. Still just 24 years of age, there’s plenty of time for him to settle in. We’re still a couple of seasons away from his prime as a hurler. Hopefully, a potentially abbreviated 2020 season will still have enough innings in it for him to get a feel for his new curveball.
If he masters that pitch, look out. He’s already got the impressive fastball and solid overall makeup to be a productive starter for years to come.