Brad Keller wowed KC Royals fans last year with his prolific pitching performances as a rookie. Could a down year be in the cards for the 23 year old pitcher?
When quarterbacks in the NFL have a good rookie year, more often than not, the term “sophomore slump” is thrown around that whole next offseason. A sophomore slump basically means the player, in his second year as a professional, did not play as well. Don’t be shocked if that happens to Brad Keller of the Kansas City Royals this year.
Keller was sensational for the Royals in 2018. He initially started off in the bullpen, but was eventually moved into the rotation due to a slew of injuries piling up for the Royals starting pitchers.
Keller never went back to the bullpen because he ended up becoming THE best player (well, at least best pitcher) on the team. He finished his rookie season with a 3.08 ERA in 140.1 innings thrown and through 41 games (20 starts). He recorded 96 strikeouts and posted a 9-6 record during his time on the mound.
Spring Training isn’t always the best indicator, as the games don’t count and it’s just to get these guys loose for the regular season, but Keller isn’t off to a great start in Surprise, but there should be an asterisk next to his numbers.
He has a 5.40 ERA in two starts so far while throwing in five innings, walking three guys and striking out six. As Jeffrey Flanagan’s tweet above indicated, Keller’s “poor” performance wasn’t entirely his fault.
All of that being said, Keller might not be the same pitcher he was as a rookie, and that’s okay. He’s only 23 years old and has all kinds of time to develop. The Royals were just fortunate that he figured things out as quickly as he did last year.
Let’s be honest here… The Kansas City Royals aren’t playoff contenders this season. That means this is the time for Keller to take his lumps and learn from them. He was great as a rookie, but now he’ll likely be thrusted into the “number one” role with Danny Duffy on the shelf for who knows how long.
Will the added pressure of being the number one pitcher in the rotation get to Brad Keller? We’ll have to wait and see how things play out for the young right-hander. Even if he does have the so-called sophomore slump, there’s no need for Royals fans to panic. He’s going to be a special player long-term for the KC Royals.