Starter Brad Keller, with the Arizona Diamondbacks Class-AA Jackson Generals, speaks about his goal to reach the major leagues.
At the age of 21, Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed pitching prospect Brad Keller made his Double-A debut for the Jackson Generals. The day was April 9, and Keller made a stellar debut.
In the Generals’ 20-5 win over the Birmingham Barrons, Keller tossed five scoreless innings. The Flowery Branch, GA native threw 51 of his 71 pitches for strikes and earned the win.
Keller has made three other starts for Jackson and has yet to allow more than one earned run in each. In the four starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA (3 ER/20.2 IP)
The No. 7 prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system, according to MLB.com, spent the 2016 season at Advanced-A Visalia in the hitter-friendly California League. Keller compiled a 4.47 ERA in 24 starts, but logged the most innings by a Rawhide starter (135.0).
With the Rawhide, Keller used a low-90s sinker to generate 1.75 GO/AO (Ground Outs/ Air Outs). As a General, he has averaged 2.00 GO/AO. In 2017, Keller has been effective against right-handed (.250) and left-handed batters (.222).
Drafted in the eighth round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft by Arizona, Keller spent his first season of pro ball with the rookie-level the rookie-level Missoula Osprey in the Pioneer League. With the AZL Diamondbacks, Keller made 12 starts (13 games) and was 7-3 with a 2.22 ERA.
The next year, Keller pitched for three affiliates. The 6′ 5″ 230-pound righty compiled a 2.30 ERA with the AZL Diamondbacks in six games (three starts) but struggled to a 6.95 ERA in eight starts with the Osprey. Keller made one start for Class-A short-season Hillsboro in 2014.
Keller spent the 2015 season with Class-A full-season Kane County. In 26 games (25 starts) for the Cougars, he was 8-9 with a 2.60 ERA.
With success at the Double-A level under his belt, Keller spoke with Venom Strikes about his professional baseball journey and the current season.
Q&A with Brad Keller
VenomStrikes: What did you learn about yourself pitching in the hitter-friendly California League last season?
Keller: The California league was tough. There is no doubt about it, but I learned a lot from that league. I mainly learned how to steady the ship. Not get too far up and down, just remain even keel. Keep a cool tempo and demeanor on the mound. Innings sped up on me fast sometimes last year. When things aren’t falling my way, learned how to remain focused and lock back into your next pitch or next batter. But I also learned a lot about pitch selection, reading barrels, seeing hitters tendencies. Things I’m bringing into this year.
VenomStrikes: Did you think you would be in Double-A already?
Keller: Honestly, I didn’t think I would be here at 21. But I don’t really feel any sort of age difference between me and the guys I’m playing with/against. I feel like we are all here, all competing and working towards the same goal no matter what our age differences are.
VenomStrikes: Where is your confidence level at?
Keller: I feel good right now. I’m just trying to take it one start at a time. Focus pitch by pitch. Give my team a chance to win every time I go out there. Not try to get too far ahead of myself. What has been working the best for me has been just attacking guys. Not trying to be too perfect and executing pitches and let the guys behind me make plays.
VenomStrikes: Are you able to create deception at 6’5″ throwing downhill?
Keller: I don’t think there is much deception in my delivery. I try to keep it as smooth as possible. I just work on getting over my front side, land on a firm front leg and staying closed. Also working on getting more drive out of my back leg.
VenomStrikes: What makes your sinker so effective?
Keller: I think cause I throw it in any count to any hitter. Especially if I’m in a jam and need a ground ball or a double play. I’m able to get in on the hands of righties with it as well.
VenomStrikes: Why is pitching to contact and generating ground balls so important?
Keller: For me, I want to go as deep into the game as possible every start. Get as many outs with the least amount of pitches. Pitching to contact allows me to attack guys and get swing early in the count. Keeps my pitch count low and allows me to go longer.
VenomStrikes: What is your mindset on the mound?
Keller: Just to attack guys. I know I got guys behind me that have my back and will do everything in their power to get the guy out cause they want to win as well. So I just go after hitters and not try to be too perfect on hitting the corners.
VenomStrikes: Do you have more confidence in your slider or change-up right now?
Keller: I feel more confidence in my slider right now. Have been able to locate it better than my changeup lately. But I think my change-up is really effective. And it has been coming along well.
VenomStrikes: Does your approach change facing an left-handed hitter compared to a right-handed hitter?
Keller: I establish the fastball early in on hitters and then work off of that based on how they handled it or what kind of swing they took on it. It goes the same for both lefties and righties.
To righties, I mostly use sinker-slider combo. I have been working on throwing more change-ups to righties. Just don’t have a lot of confidence in that pitch to righties as much as I do with the slider.
To Lefties, I use more of a 4 seam-changeup combo. Something I can get hard in on their hands with a soft away pitch. But try to punch lefties out with sliders. Whether it’s back door or back foot. Essentially the same idea to both lefties and righties.
VenomStrikes: What are your goals for the season?
Keller: I set 3 goals every year headed into spring training. The first goal is to break camp and the level above where I was the year before. The second goal is to make the All-star team whether in midseason or postseason. And the third goal is to move up by the end of the year. But it’s ultimately out of my control. All I can do is go out there and do my job pitch by pitch, start by start and give my team a chance to win.
Follow Brad Keller on Twitter @brad_keller13
Editors note: This interview was conduct via Twitter.