Prospect Profile : Brian Keller

Feature Sized – Charleston RiverDogs starting pitcher Brian Keller works against the Lakewood BlueClaws at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in Charleston, SC on Thursday, May 4, 2017. (Martin Griff)

If I told you there was a prospect in the current system drafted in the 39th round that has a chance to be an impact major leaguer, would you believe me? You’d have every reason to be skeptical. The odds that any 39th round pick will even make it to the majors, let alone become an impact player, are slim to none.

Brian Keller could be one of the rare players to break that mold. The Yankees took Keller in the second to last round in the draft in 2016. Baseball America described him as durable, but “nothing flashy.” Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer would later say that even then they had no idea what they had. It was only after he showed up to camp that the Yankees realized they had unsurfaced a diamond in the rough.

The basics:

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 180-pounds

Throws: Right handed

Draft: 39th round

Age: 23-years-old

Prior to being drafted, Keller had a solid senior year at the University of Wisconsin. He threw 107.2 innings, hada 3.1 ERA and an 8.64 K/9 with a 1.68 BB/9. After being drafted, he shined and threw a total of 41 innings with a 0.88 ERA, while striking out 51 and walking just seven between the rookie leagues and Staten Island. That definitely opened some eyes. After finally getting a full off-season to rest, he came out of the gate a bit rusty. Since the slow start, he has recently broken out like the Shawshank Redemption.

On the season he has a 3.52 ERA and an 83:14 K:BB ratio. Those numbers are impressive, but what he has done in his last four starts is a big deal. Over his last 24 innings, he has let up just four runs (1.5 ERA) while striking out 30 and walking 6. In short, he has been a monster. If this continues he will soon be promoted to Tampa.

The scouting report:

Keller’s scouting report will not jump out at you, but keep in mind two things. Firstly, the Yankees got him in the 39th round. Secondly, he is a big kid who still has some projection left in his frame and will probably gain a few ticks on his fastball with time.

As of the beginning of the season, Keller’s fastball sat in the 90-93 range. That’s not what makes him so effective though. He excels most with his three high quality secondary pitches; the curve, slider, and change. Moreover, he locates all of his pitches with the best of them. This combination of skills has allowed him to have a ton of success in his limited career so far.

As far as projection goes, he is limited by his age but has room to add velocity based on his size. The Yankees feel that once they get him on their throwing program and make a couple of changes he will add a couple of ticks on the fastball. If he is able to do that, all bets are off. As of right now he projects as a 5th starter with his stuff. If he adds some velocity he would bring his ceiling up to a middle of the rotation starter with the floor of a middle reliever. To get a guy like that in the 39th round is a tremendous find.

He is a very polished pitcher. Even if he doesn’t add any velocity, he is actually pretty close to major league ready now. He should move rapidly through the system. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is in Triple-A by the end of next season. He could reach the majors as soon as 2019, but 2020 would probably be a more realistic projection.

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15 Responses to Prospect Profile : Brian Keller

  1. Otto says:

    Very nice. I personally think the Yankees took 3 players late in this year's draft that have first round potential next year so I think the Yankees should go out of the signing pool and other say each 3 million. So they lose two first picks for the next two years, but they have three first round pick talents in the late rounds. This would help flood the system with more talent at a younger age. I am sure they will not do it, but I sure would consider it. I would also keep with the plan last year. I would unload Pineda, Gardner, Clippard and Tanka if possible. I would add Gray, Moose and/or Alonso if possible. I would bring up Adams and Acevedo and give them starts or long relief. I would leave Green in the long relief. This would keep the season alive without destroying the farm system.

    • buckeye balls says:

      no one will take Tanaka at this point. Agree on the other 3 although Clippard has no value right now. By Moose do you mean Moustakas? terrible OBA-Headley actually has a much higher career OBA. I don't see an upgrade. Alonso intrigues but I'd give Bird one more shot-if he gets healthy then we'd have a logjam at first/DH. I think Gray is going to be real expensive, same for Cole and Quintana. I'm ok if the Yanks pass on them this year and keep the top prospects. None of those guys gives us a playoff edge vs Kluber, Keuchel or Sale. I'd rather see them move lesser prospects for bullpen help. Right now only the big two can get outs and its going to get worse as the starters tire.

  2. gcorcoran says:

    I like the idea to sign the late round high schoolers and tough signs. If you're going to do it and sacrifice a first and second rounder next year thoigh, you really need to blow it out of the water imo. Draft 10 of those types of guys and sign all of them. If two or three of them turn out yo be worth first round picks then you killed it.

  3. gcorcoran says:

    Also, then you can shoot for the moon with your first through 10th rounders. No need to worry about signability or draft pool. Just draft who you want and pay them what you want to pay them, like the good old days.

  4. Steve S. says:

    Nice piece on Keller. It's fun to watch him grow start by start. His small sample from last year is what originally caught my eye. Yes, he should be at Tampa soon. I think he could handle it now. I hope Cashman doesn't do anything foolish in regard to a trade. They have a lot of options from within and all around the diamond to boot. Including pitching. I would leave first and third base alone and concentrate any upgrades on the pen and perhaps an in house rotation upgrade. I still think Bird will work out. If he doesn't, I think they're making a mistake ignoring Mike Ford. Miguel Andujar has become an RBI machine, but he needs more work on his defense. Maybe by the end of next season he'll be ready. If they don't move him first. I hope they stay away from the big bucks free agents like Harper and Machado after 2018. With all they have in the pipeline, they don't need to go there. They have their marquee player in Judge to pull the people in, andSanchez as well and all the others.

    • buckeye balls says:

      andujar just recalled. glad to see more baby bombers coming even if they aren't ready.

      • Steve S. says:

        Wasn't expecting that. Very excited though. This is an amazing time to be a Yankee fan. They're probably concerned about Holliday. I can't see Andujar playing third just yet. He's still too erratic in the field. I think giving him some time at DH makes sense.

  5. Jerry says:

    Do I see Clippard coming in? I don't believe it. Talk about praying for a positive outcome. OH my God!!

  6. az yankee says:

    6/27/17 Credit "Clueless Joe" and "Brain Dead Rothchild" with another Loss. Those two inept idiots. The Yankees need to clean House. The Yankees will continue their losing culture as long as frick and frack are in pinstripes. (Do you notice how the majority of the Yankee players and almost all their pitchers "chew gum like cows grazing" while batting and pitching. Dump the chew (simple distraction breaks concentration) I don't think the Yankees can overcome the ineptness of Girardi. Until on field management changes are made the Yankees will continue to be irrelevant . Joe and his coaches need to be Fired immediately. Replace him with Pena and let him pick his own coaches. Go Yankees!!! Screw ownership Cashman And Girardi/Rothchild.

    • buckeye balls says:

      the bullpen is no good and you can't win without one today. No sense trading for a starter now. The coaches arent going anywhere-its hard to watch but the more they lose the more prospects we keep and hopefully acquire. the only way we can play wining ball is to acquire a 7th inning pitcher plus a starter and that will cost way too much. If they put betances in the 8th last night you have to wonder if he would have fallen apart like he did in the 9th -it is pyschological with him? making Levine look smart about him not being a closer.

      • Steve S. says:

        Warren being out has really hurt them. Maybe they turn Acevedo into a future bullpen weapon. They are so deep in prospects. Not room for everybody. Pitching is really developing on the farm. I would look to trade that position surplus for pen help. Eventually, like over the winter I would like to see Castro moved. Could get good value for him. Plug Torres in at second. Let Andujar gradually take over at third next year. Also guys like Estrada, Solak and other can be part of a package to fill holes. Hate to part with those guys, but probably no room up here. Other guys like Aguilar and Hess right behind them anyway. No shortage of quality prospects, lol. Amazing.

      • Steve S. says:

        We also have to see what Wade turns into. Has quality tools. Fowler, Frazier. It doesn't end. I think they would be making a mistake to rely too heavily on Hicks.

        • buckeye balls says:

          agree its fun to see all these guys and not sold on hicks yet-but I love the walks. Rare quality today. He could be a guy to trade high on this off season if fowler or Frazier are ready

          • Steve S. says:

            i think

            Yeah, Hicks does work the count very well. I just think what he showed early was an aberration. I think he was 12 for his last 60 before he got hurt. They like him too much. He shows just enough to keep them interested. I think Fowler just got called up. I noticed he got pulled last night in the Scranton first game.

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