Lancaster, California —— Entering play on Monday, San Diego Padres left-handed pitching prospect Jerry Keel is 4-5 with a 3.02 ERA over 14 games (12 starts) for three different levels in the Padres’ organization, including the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, and he’s logged 79 strikeouts against 20 walks over 80.1 innings pitched in 2017. I observed the San Diego Padres’ former ninth round (2015) pick several times between 2016 and 2017; below is Baseball Census‘ full Jerry Keel scouting report, including several videos
Jerry Keel Scouting Report — Video
Our first video of San Diego Padres left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel is every pitch of his June 13, 2017 start against the Lancaster JetHawks:
In that start, the lefty went five innings, allowing seven earned runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out six batters. We’ve also got a couple Jerry Keel videos from 2016, when the San Diego Padres prospect was also pitching for the Lake Elsinore Storm:
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Jerry Keel Scouting Report — Notes
As expected, Jerry Keel is a little more advanced in 2017 than he was from my looks last summer. He’s throwing slightly harder now—88-91 mph on June 13 as opposed to 86-89 mph in my 2016 looks—and he’s still a legitimate four-pitch lefty with the use of a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. His curve has really become something, sitting between 68 (!) and 72 mph and topping out at 74 mph with big, slow break. I personally like guys that throw true, slow overhand curveballs, and while many evaluators will (rightly) worry about issues hanging the pitch, Keel does a pretty good job commanding it down in the zone and to the corners of the plate. His curve is still slow enough to the point where some hitters can adjust to it enough to make contact, but he picks his spots well and when down in the zone it has great depth.
The curve is strengthened by the slider, which gives Jerry Keel an advantage because it’s a truly distinct second breaking ball; it sits 79-83 mph and unlike the curve, it’s very tight—almost like a cut fastball. Where the San Diego Padres lefty can use his curve against left-handed hitters, the slider has better potential against righties if he can get it in on their hands or down to their back foot. I didn’t see his slider very much in 2016, and the increased use of it now gives him another option when ahead in the count, as well as a more consistent weapon if/when the curve lacks bite. His fourth pitch, a changeup that sits 79-81 mph, is about what you’d expect: decent tumble and arm side run aided by his big frame (Jerry Keel is listed at 6’6″, 240 lbs., and looks every bit of it). The changeup is a good look against righties—twice on June 13 Keel used it to get Colorado Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers out on his front foot with weak contact, and considering how infrequently Rodgers missed the barrel in early 2017, that’s an achievement in and of itself.
Jerry Keel Scouting Report — Projection
When you have a legitimate four-pitch lefty with good size, you keep him in the starting rotation as long as possible, and it’d behoove the San Diego Padres to do that with Jerry Keel. That said, I actually really like the idea of him coming out of the bullpen down the road. He’s not a plus velocity guy and likely won’t ever become one—if it hasn’t shown up by now, it’s not coming—but he’ll always have some serious deception with his size and long arms coupled with a deep repertoire.
There’s this little wrinkle, too:
That’s Jerry Keel facing off against Seattle Mariners outfielder Chantz Mack last August. See the slightly lower arm angle and hard arm-side run on the fastball? Mack—and several other lefties in the lineup that night—struggled with Keel’s infrequent dropdown, and at the time I really liked the downward pitch action he got from his new release point. I’m not necessarily advocating Keel become a full-time sidearmer (his overhand repertoire is too deep to abandon), but it’s something he didn’t show in that start two weeks ago, and down the road in his career I think the wrinkle could benefit him to wreak havoc on lefties.
Here’s another look at it:
It’s not a true sidearm release point, but it’s just enough of a very low three-quarters look—coupled with Keel’s long arms—that really gives downward, arm-side life to his fastball and makes it hard for lefties to stay in on his stuff.
Take an occasional wrinkle like that, add Keel’s deep repertoire and desirable frame, see if his velocity can play up a little bit in shorter stints, and I think you have the makings of a good situational left-handed reliever. There’s no reason to stick him in the bullpen right this moment, of course—it’d do Keel and the San Diego Padres well to keep having him gain experience with consistent innings in the rotation—but I wouldn’t be surprised, considering both his strengths and the Padres’ unusually deep roster of big-time pitching prospects, if Jerry Keel were to one day become a productive left-handed situational reliever. If done right, he could become flat-out nasty in that role.
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