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Tyler Kehrer: Angels Top Prospect #20

20) Tyler Kehrer, 3/23/88 - LHSP, Advanced Rookie Ball

3 Wins, 3 Losses. 55 IP, 4.72 ERA, 57 K/22 BB

Ranking in a Nutshell: He's a lefty who touches 96. Tom Kotchman told Stephen Smith, "In 20 years of doing short season baseball, I've never had a lefthander who...  - I just compare him to Jarrod Washburn with a little better fastball and a better slider."  Check out both offerings in a pre-draft video here, and note the opposing lefty hitter just about bail out of the box when Kehrer hurls that big-bending slider at 80 mph.  Baseball America is less impressed with Kehrer, calling him "more thrower than pitcher", and ranking him well below Patrick Corbin and Garrett Richards due to inconsistency. Me, I love the fastball velocity and his slider's potential, and suspect that he will make to the majors as a dominant bullpen force even if he never develops the change-up and consistency necessary to stick in the rotation.

Track Record: Inconsistent, like the scouting reports. He struggled with his command at Eastern Illinois University, where he walked 6 batters every nine innings and posted a 6.18 ERA over three years.  The performance trended upwards in his junior and final season, when he fanned 11 batters per 9 innings while yielding only a 4.42 ERA. He was brilliant initially in his pro debut, leading Tom Kotchman to tell Stephen Smith in July, "[Kehrer's] really been impressive. To tell you how impressive he's been, I told Eddie Bane, our scouting director, that if we took him 24th or 25th in the first round instead of 48th, I would have said that that was a good pick."  His ankle flared up in July, possibly a reoccurrence of an injury that dogged him the previous spring, and from that point on he only intermittently regained the command and dominance he showed in June. Other days, his control deserted him, leading to handful of awful August and September outings. Together, the brilliant and the disappointing averaged out to a mediocre overall stat line: 3 wins, 3 losses, and a 4.75 ERA over 55 total innings.  The peripherals look a little better: he fanned 9.33 batters per nine, best on Orem's staff; he held the opposition to a .266 batting average against, second only to rotation mate Stephen Locke's .261 BAA; and he posted a decent 47.5% groundball rate.

Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: If Kehrer transitions to the bullpen, then I think his fastball/slider combo may develop to the point of warranting a Billy Wagner comp. If his change-up and command come around enough to keep him in the rotation, then he projects more like a David Price type, albeit with a lower ceiling.  

Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)

At 6'3", Kehrer's a big, physical pitcher, but he has the mound presence of an even larger guy.  His mechanics are not as smooth as those of fellow lefty Pat Corbin, and become downright violent in his release and follow through. He throws across his body, and then spins off of the mound following his release, ala Frankie Rodriguez.  That delivery may help his pitch velocity and movement, but it also provides a convincing explanation for his command and ankle issues.  His mechanics scream relief prospect in the making to me, but Kehrer will undoubtedly get time to smooth things out.

His fastball/slider combo shredded lefties, who fanned at the rate of 16.4 per nine innings. Righties were another story, inflicting most of the damage against him, but they still K'd at a rate of 7.8 per nine innings and hit 49% of their balls in play into the ground, so Kehrer's not toothless against them. Both BA and Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect called his change-up promising, though BA went on to say he still "lacked feel" for the pitch. Add that all together, and you have a lefty with a low to mid 90's fastball, a plus if inconsistent slider, and a potentially plus change-up. That's a rare breed right there, so while Kehrer's getting lost in the Richards/Skaggs/Martinez Mesa buzz, don't forget about him: he could be very, very good. 

A special thanks to Stephen Smith for publishing the interview I linked to above.