Immediately after the 2017 Rule 5 Draft had concluded, it appeared that the Royals had opted not to make a selection. In what appears to be a likely rebuild for KC in 2018, I had expected them to make at least one pick in the draft. I was disappointed to say the least… for about five minutes.
It seemed like not even five minutes after the draft had ended, it was announced that the Royals traded for two pitchers that were selected early in the Rule 5 Draft. Burch Smith, a hard throwing righty from Tampa Bay, and Brad Keller, a sinker/slider guy who has never thrown a pitch above AA, from Arizona.
I was thrilled with both of these moves for Kansas City. Smith mostly started last year in Tampa Bay’s organization, but profiles as a potentially elite reliever beginning on Opening Day in 2018. Keller, who instantly found himself in our top 10 Royals prospects, profiles as a guy who can be an impact SP in the Royals organization for years to come.
We reached out to Brad Keller and he agreed to do an interview with us since he will (hopefully) be spending a lot of time in Kansas City this year. Our goal is to help get Royals fans familiar with our prospects before they debut, so hopefully this will help Kansas Citians get to know the 22-year old righty.
Q: Tell Royals fans a little bit about yourself as a pitcher.
“I’m a groundball pitcher. I throw a 4-seam fastball and a sinker with a changeup and slider. I try to force a lot of early contact and get deep into ball games.”
Q: Tell us about yourself as a person.
“I’m not a prototypical Georgia kid. I don’t hunt or fish. I really like to golf. I live on a lake so I like spending my summers there hanging out on the lake.”
Q: Did you expect to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft?
“I did not. My agent down played it and acted like it may or may not happen. I didn’t expect anything to happen so it was crazy when it did. I’d always heard it was harder to get protected than to actually get drafted, so it was a pleasant little surprise.”
Q: How crazy was it to go from not expecting to be drafted, to becoming a Cincinnati Red, to being flipped to Kansas City almost immediately?
“I had actually just gotten off of the phone with my parents. I told them I was going to Cincinnati and we were pretty excited. Then I had to call them back and tell them I was traded. It was a really crazy series of events.”
Q: Are you excited to be a Royal?
“I’m thrilled about being with the Royals. They were after me in high school and Kauffman was the first stadium I’d ever been in. It’s cool how it all came full circle.”
Q: What are the biggest challenges that you expect to face jumping from AA straight to the Major Leagues?
“Honing in all of my pitches. In A-ball you can get away with a lot of mistakes, but you can’t at AA. So I’ve gotten that experience. I’m just not gonna change much and just go out there and pitch my game.”
Q: Are you excited to work with one of the game’s best backstops in Salvador Perez?
“Salvy just seems to always be around baseball. I’m super excited to be around and work with him. I’ve never worked with a guy like that. I once worked with Miguel Montero in one game in Spring Training but I’ve never worked with a guy like Salvy before.”
Q: Do you know what your role on the team will be in 2018? Do you have a preference between starting or the bullpen?
“Honestly I don’t care what role I get. Starting is my number one preference but I am willing to try the bullpen. I’ve never pitched out of the ‘pen before so it would be something that I’d have to adapt to, but what ever the Royals need me to do I’ll do it.”
I really enjoyed my time getting to talk to Keller. You can tell the kid is excited to be in Kansas City and he’s definitely a team player. He was incredibly genuine when it came to a potential move to the bullpen. He’s willing to do what ever it takes to help the team win and you need guys like that on your team. I really think that Keller is better suited in the rotation, but we’ll have a better idea of that after Spring Training. He may need a little time in the bullpen to get adjusted to big league hitters before he’s thrown into the rotation. Either way, Royals fans ought to be thrilled with not just the addition of Keller, but also in Burch Smith, Scott Barlow, and Trevor Oaks, three additional arms that are going to be big league ready in 2018. The Royals have begun the rebuild, and the addition of these young arms have expedited it considerably.