Selected with the 1178th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Brian Keller rose to Triple-A Scranton by the end of the 2019 season. Brian recently took the time to speak with Pinstripe Alley about a variety of topics that will be published in two parts. Here is part one:
Dan Kelly – When you were drafted out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, by some accounts you were not much of a draft prospect until very late in the process and then you were taken in the 39th round, next to last round. Was there something that changed late in your senior year changed, or heading into that year did stuff just come together where you and the scouts saw noticeable improvement?
BK - Not a whole lot changed between junior and senior year. I guess I always thought that I might have a shot at getting drafted, but I would need to either throw a little bit harder than I did or I would have to just pitch really, really well to kind of get my name out there. My senior year I ended up doing pretty well throughout the season, I think that’s what got me the opportunity.
DK - I’m a New Mexico State graduate, and I saw your college debut was out at New Mexico State and that place is known for being hell on pitchers, what was it like moving up to the next level and then having your debut at 4100 feet altitude with a probably a strong wind coming off the mesa blowing to the outfield?
BK – Yeah, that was an interesting day for me. In high school I was a starting pitcher, and I’ve always been since, but that first year of college I was coming in whenever the opportunity came about. That was my first chance and I got that first one out of the way, and I don’t think I did that well, but I remember that it was cold, windy, dry and not fun.
DK – That sounds about right… Was there a coach or someone there who was the reason you picked that school over other options?
BK - Basically that was my only option I had, that was my only Division-1 offer and it was nice because it was close to home for me, so jumped on that. The coaching staff there was really good about letting the players kind of determine their future. They would guide us along the way. They would not cookie cutter us or anything they would let us kind of manage ourselves and make sure we got our stuff done, and I think that was big for my develop and getting to where I wanted to be.
DK - There is a possibility of the draft being shortened moving forward and then also possible contraction in the minor leagues possible for next year, is that something you follow? As a late round draft pick do you have an opinion on the topic as it may have changed your trajectory if it happened a few years sooner?
BK - Yeah definitely I don’t know if I have an opinion on it, I just know that I was lucky to be given this opportunity. Unfortunately this past year, I don’t know what they’re doing moving forward but this past year has been unfortunate for a lot of guys and hopefully they’ll find their way into affiliated baseball and hopefully a lot of guys can get the same opportunity that I did. I am grateful that I got in and got this opportunity.
DK - Since you became a professional you pretty much pitched at two or three different levels most years, what are some of the challenges that brings? It’s good because it’s upward progression but you know jump into different cities, coaches?
BK - Actually I found it more to be more of a blessing than anything else. I think one season, 2018 was the only year that I stayed at one affiliate the whole time and that was Double-A Trenton. It is a long season to be in the same spot all year, you know, it grinds on you. The other years it is nice then find some new scenery, play with some different players, have different coaches just it kind of refreshes you and it’s back to focusing on what you want to do now.
DK - You make the jump into pro ball, what adjustments were you asked to make when you joined the Yankees system? I noticed an uptick in strikeouts but your control improved as well. So what were there specific things that were suggested and you worked on to generate those results?
BK - I think a really good thing was that right when I got drafted... the pitching coordinating staff understood what I was strong at and that was command. I have personally always thought it was [better] to use of all my pitches, but they they told me to pitch more with your fastball, it’s better than it looks on paper and I did that and I think that really helped the trajectory of my career.
DK - On August 1, 2019 you have a one walk no-hitter tell me a little bit about that day?
BK - You know, I think the walk was in the first inning if I recall correctly, but yeah it was kind of like almost everything I threw they would either swing and miss or a few hard hits that they did have luckily went right to somebody. I remember Max Burt at third base made a diving catch or diving stop whatever it was down the line and everything fell into place that day and it was a lot of fun.
We’ll have more of this interview with Brian Keller tomorrow. Please check back as we discuss following past teammates and opponents through the playoffs and staying ready with no minor league season.