Dallas Keuchel – Astros LHP

Dallas Keuchel is not exactly a household name outside of the Houston farm system and the University of Arkansas where he won 19 games and pitched in the 2009 College World Series, but that may soon change.

Despite being listed as the #21 prospect in the Astros system in Baseball America’s 2012 prospect handbook, Keuchel hasn’t received a lot of attention because he’s not a “sexy” pitcher.  The lefty’s fastball clocks in at the 84-87 range and, as a sinkerballer, he doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts.  He relies on movement, location and a sinking change-up that sets him apart.

Since being drafted in the 7th round in 2009, the 24-year old lefty has moved quickly through the Astros system with consistently successful results until a late season promotion from AA Corpus Christi (9-7, 3.17 ERA, 1.120 WHIP) to AAA Oklahoma City (1-1, 7.50 ERA, 1.778 WHIP) provided the first hiccup of his professional career.

Keuchel played in the Arizona Fall League for the Salt River Rafters in 2011 going 3-2 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.306 WHIP.  A 5.08 ERA may not sound very impressive, but the average ERA in the AFL, as a hitters league, was 5.53.  What was impressive was his one walk in seven appearances (six starts).

I contacted Dallas during the off-season to ask him about his experience at the Arizona Fall League and his struggles at Oklahoma City last season.  He admitted that his slow start at OKC frustrated him and took him out of his game.  When he got to Arizona, he decided to relax and “let the good times roll.”

“My personal goal I set for myself there was to just attack every hitter and see what they can do with it. As I got the first couple starts under my belt I began to redirect my thought process and aimed more at not walking anyone. It’s tough to do, but I was close and am now more confident than ever in my ability to command the zone no matter who is hitting. Overall I think the command and location of all 5 of my pitches got a whole lot better and I couldn’t be happier.”

Keuchel’s work seems to be paying off. Through two starts for Oklahoma City in 2012, he has pitched 13 scoreless innings allowing six hits (none for extra bases), no walks and eight strikeouts.  He is 2-2 with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.462 WHIP with 24 groundball outs to four fly outs.

Keuchel works quickly and efficiently with an almost effortless delivery.  I am impressed not only by the control of his pitches, but also the control of his demeanor on the mound.  I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if he became the first Houston farm hand to make his major league debut this season, particularly if Wandy Rodriguez gets traded at some point.  Once that happens, he may open some eyes.   He’s not a flamethrower.  He’s a pitcher.

For more on the Astros farm system, visit What the Heck, Bobby? or follow me on twitter @whattheheck57.

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