After passing on their initial picks, the Royals made a splash at Thursday morning’s Rule 5 Draft in Orlando, Florida, adding two arms by way of trade, acquiring RHP Brad Keller from the Cincinnati Reds and RHP Burch Smith from the New York Mets. They also drafted RHP Daniel Duarte in the minor league phase of the draft.
Brad Keller, RHP
Previous Organization: Arizona Diamondbacks
Levels Played, 2017: AA (Jackson Generals)
Drafted/Signed: 2013 MLB Draft, 8th Round
2017 Stats: 26 G, 4.68 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 130.2 IP, 142 H, 73 R, 68 ER, 57 BB, 111 SO (AA)
Probably my favorite pick up out of three players acquired Thursday morning. Ranked the Diamondbacks #9 prospect, Keller was left available for selection after a good season in AA.
The right-hander has a very imposing presence at the mound. One of the bigger pitchers in the organization now, Keller stands at a whopping 6’5″ 230 lbs. Like a lot of pitchers big in stature, Keller does his work with a deceptive velocity on his fastball, appearing faster than its actual velocity of 89-91. The fastball has got some beautiful sinking action that gets tons of ground balls. Watching video, the changeup looks really good. Probably one of the better ones in the Royals system.
Keller has a slow, nicely-timed delivery that he repeats well, along with consistent arm action, particularly when using his worm-killing sinker. This allows him to throw all of his pitches for strikes and hit the bottom of the zone at an ideal rate.
Keller isn’t anything spectacular, but I dig the pick up. If he can make it through Spring Training, he’ll almost definitely end up in the bullpen. Though I believe with his durability and command of his three pitches, being a back-end big league starter is very possible.
Burch Smith, RHP
Previous Organization: Tampa Bay Rays
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie (GCL Rays), A+ (Charlotte Stone Crabs), AAA (Durham Bulls)
Drafted/Signed: 2011 MLB Draft, 14th Round
2017 Stats: 9 G, 2.43 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 37 IP, 26 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 20 BB, 33 SO (A+), 3 G, 1.65 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 16.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 19 SO (AAA), 1 G, 6.00 ERA, 0.76 FIP, 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO (GCL)
One of the more alluring names in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, Burch Smith was on my radar when looking over the available players. With Smith, there’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike. One of the more discouraging things about him is that he has only thrown 82 total innings since the start of 2014 season, even missing the whole 2015 and 2016 seasons.
There was buzz about Smith heading into the Thursday morning’s draft, as Baseball America ranked him as the number one player available.
Smith missed all of 2015 and 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery but came back looking like the player who was once an intriguing prospect. Both at the end of the season at Triple-A Durham and in the Arizona Fall League, Smith sat 94-96 mph with his fastball, flashed a knee-buckling 74-76 mph curveball and showed a swing-and-miss 79-81 mph changeup. Though he’s 27 and has had serious arm health issues, Smith is major league ready and has the stuff to help a team as a back-end starter or move to the bullpen.
Always dealing with injuries throughout his minor league career, Smith has still managed to put up respectable numbers, owning a 3.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 284.2 innings. Like the numbers say, Smith is a big strikeout arm. I’m really excited to see how he’ll play out as a reliever with the Royals this year. Working with upper-90s heater and swing-and-miss secondaries.
The curveball has tremendous late movement and the changeup is hard with some serious bend to it. I think this arsenal could be very fun to watch out of the bullpen.
Daniel Duarte, RHP
Previous Organization: Texas Rangers
Levels Played, 2017: Mexican (
Drafted/Signed: International Free Agent, Mexico
2017 Stats: 37 G, 1.96 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 36.2 IP, 31 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 10 BB, 32 SO (Mexican)
In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Royals picked up Daniel Duarte, formerly a RHP in the Texas Rangers organization. Duarte spent this past season pitching for Tigres de Quintana Roo, a team in the Mexican League. In 2016 with the Rangers DSL team, Duarte posted a 3.05 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 6.7 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9.
Duarte has been pitching in the Mexican Pacific Winter League recently, allowing 14 ER in 26.1 innings, striking out 24 and walking 12.
Photo Credits: MLB.com