The Braves took a different approach in their most recent draft compared to the college-heavy draft classes of previous years: most, but not all, of their higher-profile picks came from the high school ranks. After using their first three picks on prep pitchers, the Braves dipped back into the high school well in the sixth round when they selected Seth Keller out of Hanover High School in Virginia.
Preseason Report Card
Naturally, Keller was not exactly on our radar on the Braves side of things, given that he was not in the organization yet. However, he was a known commodity ahead of the 2022 MLB Draft, as he was ranked in the 150-250 range in terms of draft prospects from the class. Those aren’t first round projections, but he was clearly on scouts’ radar and his Old Dominion commitment didn’t exactly scream “signability problem.”
What we saw in 2022
Keller was a late riser in the 2022 draft thanks to his offspeed stuff and how well it played during his senior year of high school. After the Braves drafted him, Keller was eventually sent to the FCL Braves for short-season ball, where he made his pro debut in the middle of August. He only made a pair of appearances as a pro in 2022 (which is not unusual). Keller failed to record a single out in his debut appearance while giving up four runs on no hits, four walks, and a HBP (rookie ball jitters can be funky), but his second appearance went much better with two scoreless innings and his first career strikeout as a pro.
Keller is a weird case on a number of levels. His fastball doesn’t jump off the page, as it usually sits in the low 90s, though we have heard he was previously able to run it up to the mid-90s. He is also a bit undersized at 5’10”, although that matters a little less given that he isn’t trying to be a flamethrower on the mound. He does, however, possess two potential plus pitches: a slider that has some hard break to it, and a changeup that he really sells and tunnels well off his fastball.
Given his size and arsenal, it might be wise for the Braves to start Keller off in extended Spring Training in 2023 to iron out his delivery a bit more and reduce the chances that he ends up in the bullpen down the line. Adding a tick to his fastball would surely help his cause, but his secondaries are at a good enough starting point to give him some real projection. Not having to rely on throwing hard could be helpful in terms of his durability long-term, given his size, as well. The changeup and slider are legit pitches and he has a track record of getting strikeouts against high-level prep competition, so we are cautiously optimistic that Keller could turn into a real starting pitching prospect, albeit one with a little more risk than some prep arms (which are themselves are very high-risk category).