On Monday, August 13, the Blue Jay will open a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals. Sean Reid-Foley will make his first career start against Brad Keller.
Brad Keller was originally taken in the eighth round of the 2013 amateur players draft—just one year ahead of Sean Reid-Foley. However, after toiling in the minors with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the righty was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2017 Rule 5 draft.
The right-hander’s movement was not finished after being selected in the rule 5 draft. He was quickly flipped to the Kansas City Royals via trade. Originally listed as the number 7 prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the right-handed hurler has made a name for himself with the big club in Kansas City.
Starting as a reliever, it required four appearances—and four and two-thirds innings—for the young pitcher to allow his first big league earned run. The first run came in the seventh inning of an April 13 affair against the Los Angeles Angels. Interestingly, after allowing this run, in his next appearance, he was knocked around by the Blue Jays. He allowed three hits and one earned run in a third of an inning of work against Toronto.
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At the beginning of May, the former eighth-round pick made his transition to the rotation. While he has not been as lights-out-amazing as he was out of the bullpen, he has certainly been serviceable. Out of 12 starts, he has pitched five quality starts. As well, he has already pitched a shut-out—a seven inning start against the Los Angeles Angels.
Overall, Keller has been quite good for the Kansas City Royals. Through 33 appearances and 12 starts, he has posted a 3.57 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 1.381 WHIP, and 119 ERA+. In total, he has been worth a decent 1.3 fWAR.
The 23-year-old has a classic mix of pitches, alternating between a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and change-up. While he features a change, he will primarily throw either a fastball or a slider.
The Royals hurler has thrown his four-seam fastball 45.41% of the time this season. The heater is quick, maintaining an average velocity of 95.04 mph. However, the four-seamer has allowed a fair amount of hits, giving up a .267 BAA. While the pitch has allowed a lot of hits, not many have gone for extra bases, though. This year the four-seam fastball has allowed a good .370 SLGA.
Keller has used his slider 25.27% of the time this season. The breaking ball is decently hard, putting up an average speed of 86.41 mph. The slider has fooled a fair amount of batters, producing whiffs at an average rate of 30.95% of swings. Like the four-seamer, the pitch has allowed a lot of hits—holding a .258 BAA—but not many have gone for extra bases—posting a .303 SLGA.
The former Diamondbacks pitcher has fired home sinkers 24.48% of the time this season. The sinking-fastball is a few ticks behind the four-seamer, posting an average velocity of 93.74 mph. The pitch has done its job very well this year, producing ground balls at a crazy rate of 67.71% of balls in play. Interestingly, despite producing the most ground balls, the sinker has allowed a .224 BAA—the best mark in his repertoire.
The big righty has changed speeds on batters 4.84% of the time this season. The change is remarkably fast, maintaining an average speed of 89.10 mph. Also, the off-speed pitch has been the only offering to be hit hard, allowing an awful .500 SLGA and .400 BAA.
Keller is an extreme groundball pitcher, producing worm burners at a 54.6% clip this year. However, as a result of pitching to contact, he has not struck out many batters. This season he has posted a poor 15.6% K-rate and 5.91 K/9. Even more concerning, he has walked a fair amount of batters, putting up a 10.2% BB-rate and 3.87 BB/9.
In extremely limited experience, the Blue Jays have loved hitting against the Georgia native. Both Luke Maile and Devon Travis have a single in one at-bat. Also, Teoscar Hernandez has managed a triple in two at-bats. Out of the batters who have hit against the right-hander, only Justin Smoak has not managed a hit.
The Blue Jays will have a tough road ahead with this young starter. They should look to put up some big numbers to help their own young starter—Sean Reid-Foley—earn his first win. However, in order to do this, they cannot rely on extra-base pop against this starter—meaning they will need timely hitting.