Scouting Mets' Prospect #23: Bob Keppel

Is Keppel Like Kevin Brown or John Smoltz?

The New York Mets drafted Bob Keppel out of Desmet High School in St. Louis as a supplemental first round pick in the 2000 draft. Keppel has shown some of the best command in the Mets' system and ranks #23 among the Mets' Top 50 Prospects. Here's a scouting report on Bob Keppel.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Bob Keppel
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: June 11, 1982
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Bob Keppel grew in Cardinals fan in St. Louis and was a standout athlete for Desmet High School, playing both basketball and baseball. In fact, Keppel was named the Missouri State High School Athlete of the Year in 2000 as a senior for his baseball and basketball accomplishments. Keppel, who played point guard for Desmet High, led his team to the 4A State Title in basketball by averaging 14 points per game and 6 assists per game in 1999, and scored 21 points in the championship game. If not for his baseball abilities, Keppel had visions of a burgeoning basketball career. Keppel went 8-2 with a 1.78 ERA on the mound his senior year, earning the St. Louis Dispatch Baseball Player of the Year award, and led the Desmet High baseball team to the 4A State Title with a 15-strikeout performance in the State semi-finals before being selected by the Mets as a supplemental first-round pick (36th overall) in the 2000 draft as compensation for the Mariners signing John Olerud.

While considering going pro, Keppel was seriously considering going to Notre Dame to play both baseball and basketball for the Fighting Irish, but opted to sign with the Mets. Keppel had two older sisters already going to Notre Dame. "It was a very difficult decision for me because of my family's tradition at Notre Dame and my relationship with Coach Mainiery (Notre Dame baseball coach)", said Keppel. "I looked forward to playing for him but I just couldn't turn down the draft. I had an opportunity to develop in the Mets' system and get started early. I have no regrets about turning down Notre Dame." If Keppel had chosen to bypass the pros and turn down the Mets, he would have been a teammate of the Mets' 2001 1st round pick, Aaron Heilman. In fact, the two pitchers met at Notre Dame during a recruiting visit. "Heilman was my player host and I stayed with him for two days. He's a great guy and the Mets made a wonderful pick", Keppel told NYfansonly.com back in 2001.

After being selected by the Mets in the 2000 draft, Keppel had an inauspicious debut with the Kingsport Mets in 2000...going 1-2 with a 6.83 ERA in 29 innings. When asked at the time on what he needs to do to make it to the Majors, Keppel said: "I basically need to improve on the command of my pitches and being more consistent". Consistency is not only what Keppel has worked on over the last four years, but what he has mastered. At just 22-years old, Keppel made it all the way to AAA-Norfolk and despite a career record of 29-29, Keppel's control has been remarkable. He boasts a career WHIP ratio of 1.29 and walks just a shade over two batters per nine innings in his career, a minor league career where he notched a no-hitter for the Binghamton Mets in 2003. 2004 was more of a lost season for Keppel as he battled nagging shoulder injuries in his first taste of AAA baseball for the Norfolk Tides.

Keppel compares himself to a duo of successful pitchers in the Majors. Said Keppel, "I'm a combination of Kevin Brown and John Smoltz. Brown, because I am tall and lanky and I have a little bit of Smoltz in me because I too have a drop down angle to some of my pitches". It is safe to assume the Mets would be real happy if Keppel resembles either one of those pitchers, let alone both.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2004

Norfolk

3-7

93.2

111

22

42

4.71

2004

St. Lucie

1-1

10.0

7

2

6

0.90

2003

Binghamton

7-4

94.2

92

27

46

3.04

2003

Brooklyn

2-1

14.1

10

2

13

2.51

2002

St. Lucie

9-7

152.0

162

43

109

4.32

2001

Capital City

6-7

124.1

118

25

87

3.11

2000

Kingsport

1-2

29.0

31

13

29

6.83


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Repertoire. 2-Seam Fastball, 4-Seam Fastball, Splitter, Slider/Cutter, Curveball, and Changeup.

Fastball. Keppel throws a 4-seamer fastball in 90-93 mph fastball range and brings it as high as 94 MPH at times. He throws his 4-seamer more to lefties. Keppel throws a 2-seamer fastball with excellent sinking action which serves more as his out pitch as does his splitter.

Other Pitches. Keppel's cut slider sits in the 84-86 mph range and should eventually evolve into his second plus pitch. Keppel has experimented with a knuckle curve as an alternative off-speed pitch. His slider is solid with very good movement but can't throw it as consistently as he and the Mets would like. Keppel's changeup is definitely his weakest pitch.

Pitching. Keppel works both sides of the plate and uses his fastball as his setup pitch. He uses his fastball to set up his splitter and slider for strikeouts and can get ground balls with his 2-seamer. Keppel is still learning how to utilize his repertoire more to get hitters out. If he could ever master his changeup and curveball, Keppel could be a dominating pitcher and have one of more extensive repertoires in the Mets' system. His lack of strikeouts have always been a cause for concern but the bottom line is he gets guys out.

Projection. At one time, many scouts projected Keppel to be a future ace and he still has time to fulfill those predictions. Remember he's still just 22 years old. It all depends on the development and consistency of his breaking pitches. If Keppel could improve his command on his changeup and curveball, Keppel has the stuff to be a frontline pitcher. As it stands right now, Keppel has the command and stuff to be a solid #3 or #4 pitcher for the Mets rather soon. He, along with Aaron Heilman and Brian Bannister, appears to be next in line to be given a shot at the Mets' rotation should an opening arise.

ETA. 2006. It is pretty much a guarantee that Keppel will be back at AAA-Norfolk in 2005 to work on the command of his breaking pitches as that is the only thing holding him back. He'll be out to prove that his sub-par 2004 was more of a fluke. His track history suggests it was.

Starting Pitchers

2004 Team

Aaron Heilman

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Bob Keppel

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Neal Musser AA - Binghamton Mets
Brian Bannister AA - Binghamton Mets
Yusmeiro Petit AA - Binghamton Mets
Miguel Pinanago A - St. Lucie Mets
Kevin Deaton A - St. Lucie Mets
Matthew Lindstrom A - Capital City Bombers
Vincent Cordova A - Capital City Bombers
Greg Ramirez A - Capital City Bombers
Evan MacLane A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Scott Hyde A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Michael Devaney A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Joseph Williams A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Mike Swindell A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Gaby Hernandez R - GCL Mets


Comments

The Mets have some good pitching prospects and the system's depth is only going to get better with the additions of Alay Soler, Matt Durkin, and Philip Humber. Considering they have not pitched a professional inning in the Mets system as of yet, we'll focus on the pitchers that have. Among the Mets' pitching prospects, Yusmeiro Petit and Gaby Hernandez seem to have the highest ceilings simply because of their age and talent. However, the Mets do have a number of other good pitching prospects that still have time on their side to make their mark. The following starting pitchers are currently in our Tier One group...the top starting pitching prospects in the Mets system.

1) Aaron Heilman - Heilman struggled out of the gate in 2004 but was perhaps the hottest pitcher in the entire Mets' system the second half of the year. All Heilman needs is a chance. Give the guy 30 starts and see what he can do. But that day may never come with the Mets as he appears to be in New York's doghouse. It's a shame too. He's a better pitcher than people think.

2) Bob Keppel - Like Heilman, Keppel struggled mightily to begin the 2004 campaign but finished the year strong. Keppel's always had the repertoire and pitching ability to become a Major League starter. The question has been his strikeout rate. Still only 22 years old and seems forgotten.

3) Neal Musser - With the trade of Scott Kazmir, Musser becomes the Mets' best left-handed starting pitching prospect. A top prospect a couple of years ago, Musser was beset with injuries and had a bounce back year in 2004. Musser is still only 24 years old and should not be forgotten.

4) Brian Bannister - His stats do not accurately portray how good a pitcher he is. Bannister has four plus pitches in his repertoire and has the chance to be a front-line starter someday. Remember, Bannister has only been pitching for 4 seasons...two in college, two in the pros. So as good as he is, he is still learning which is a scary thought.

5) Yusmeiro Petit - The Mets #1 pitching prospect the minute the Mets traded Kazmir. Forget about the pundits and all their talk about lack of "stuff". Petit knows how to pitch at such a young age (19). Drawing comparisons to Greg Maddux, Petit has the ability to change speeds on his fastball and is very deceptive on the mound. Bottom line is he's been baffling hitters from the word go.

6) Miguel Pinango - Pinango was cruising through the Mets system until an injury in St. Lucie ended his season in 2004 after just three starts. Pinango's command is superb. Only Petit's command is perhaps better and even that's not a lock. Still only 21 years old (he'll be 22 by the start of next season), Pinango is still a very good pitching prospect for the Mets.

7) Kevin Deaton - Growing up as an offensive lineman, Deaton is an imposing figure on the mound. Like Pinango, Deaton's rise through the system hit a speed bump in 2004 when he was plagued by injury (tendonitis). His fastball tops off at 94 MPH with solid movement and is still only 23 years old.

8) Matthew Lindstrom - Nobody throws as hard as Lindstrom does in the Mets' organization...nobody! Lindstrom is a fascinating talent that is getting a chance to showcase his stuff in the Arizona Fall League this year. With a fastball that regularly sits in the 94-96 MPH range, he can top it off at 100 MPH at times. Used primarily as a starter up to this point, his future seems to be in the bullpen...possibly as a closer.

9) Vincent Cordova - Cordova has the talent to be a very good pitching prospect for the Mets. Drafted out of college in 2003, Cordova needs to prove he can get hitters out at the higher level. Like Pinango and Petit, Cordova's success is predicated on his control. He's a Tier One prospect for now but time is not on his side.

10) Greg Ramirez - Used as both a starter and a relieve in his short career thus far, Ramirez is like Cordova. He has the talent and the stuff to be a Tier One pitching prospect for the Mets, but like Cordova, he's going to have to prove it at the higher levels to remain in this group. It's unclear how he will be used in the future.

11) Evan MacLane - MacLane gives the Mets' pitching in their farm system they seriously lack: quality left-handed pitching among their starting pitching prospects. MacLane was dominating South Atlantic League hitters in 2004 before being sent to Brooklyn where he had the same success. MacLane should be challenged in 2005 and will most likely be part of the St. Lucie staff. Like Ramirez, Cordova, Petit, and Pinango, MacLane is all about the control. He has great command of his pitches.

12) Scott Hyde - Hyde was not scheduled to pitch in live games this past season after being drafted but still managed to showcase some good pitching in his stint with the Cyclones. Hyde has the chance to be the "sleeper" among the Mets' 2004 draft picks.

13) Michael Devaney - Among the NY-Penn League leaders in ERA, Devaney is very solid. As is the case with most of the Cyclones' rotation, he'll have to duplicate the same success at the higher levels to remain in the Tier One level of starting pitching prospects.

14) Joseph Williams - Like Devaney, it's hard to dispute the success Williams had in Brooklyn this past season. The fact that he's a lefty aids his chances to be challenged quickly in the Mets' farm system.

15) Mike Swindell - Another college arm that was drafted in 2004 that will have to quickly prove he can become a solid starting pitching prospect for the Mets.

16) Gaby Hernandez - The Mets' third round pick in 2004, right now, Hernandez appears to be second behind Petit with the highest upside among the starting pitching prospects. It's too early to tell, but Hernandez has the talent to duplicate Petit's fast track through the minors.

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