Prospect Countdown #59 : Keynan Middleton

Top 100 Los Angeles Angels' Prospects Countdown, #59 : Right-Handed Pitcher, Keynan Middleton (photo : Travis Berg)

Keynan Middleton, Right-Handed Pitcher

HT : 6'2
WT : 185
DOB : September 12, 1993 (22), in Portland, Oregon
Throws : Right
Bats : Right
School : Lane Community College (Eugene, OR)
Acquired : Drafted in 3rd Round of 2013 MLB Draft
Last Year's Ranking : #44


The Los Angeles Angels took a risk in 2013, drafting a raw athletic pitcher in the third round of the draft. Keynan Middleton hasn't put up the numbers that scream success just yet, but his progress year in and year out could state that he'll prove the nay-sayers wrong, and become exactly what the Angels felt he would become when they took a heavy risk.


SCOUTING REPORT:

When drafted, there was maybe no player in the system as raw as he Middleton was. This gave the Angels the opportunity to develop him in whatever way they pleased. After three years, the direction they're going still has a giant question mark to it, as to how Middleton will project despite some of the best tools in the system, which has truly impacted Middleton's success and full development. However, having an athlete like Middleton could turn now with new organizational members that could make Middleton a large success.

Middleton is a true athlete, being a three-sport athlete in high school and two-sport athlete in high school. While in high school, Middleton spent his time as a tight end, halfback and defensive back, proving his true body strength. While in college, Middleton was not only a star pitcher, but also was checked out by many scouts as a point guard, having basketball as the sport he was possibly most talented in out of the three. Athletic pitchers allow them maintain velocity and stamina throughout performances, but tend to put all things together later in their professional career.

That athleticism is shown in Middleton's delivery, which has gone from a high effort delivery to something simple. He became much more free in his upper body, allowing his arm to not stiffen and allows his shoulders to be free and loose, taking away timing issues and makes his command better. Middleton uses his good arm strength to be a power pitcher. He is rather inconsistent though, dropping his arm at times to a 2/3 arm slot when delivering off-speed, as opposed to his natural 3/4 arm slot. He also has inconsistent landing points, which forces him to throw across his body taking away command and velocity, leading to mistake pitches. Middleton's best point in his delivery is his ability to hide the ball before snapping towards the plate.

Middleton has a nice arsenal of five quality pitches. His best are a pair of fastballs, a four-seam and two-seam. His four-seam comes in with more sink that actual four-seam action, and has side-to-side movement, as he throws it east-to-west. Middleton likely has his best command come from his four-seam, setting up his off-speed offerings. His two-seamer has late run as opposed to sink, and has been very effective working away from left-handed hitters. Both his fastballs sits in the low 90's, with his four-seam sitting 92-95, with reports of it jumping up to 97 at rare points last season.

In the early stages of his career, Middleton couldn't throw anything but his fastball for strikes, which made it hard to even see potential in his off-speed. Now, he's more polished and can find the zone with all three of his off-speed pitches. Maybe the best is his hammer curveball that drops in with a 10-6 drop, but there's plenty of development left. Along with his curve, Middleton's changeup needs development. He's still finding a feel for it, but when thrown well, it has strong running movement.

Middleton's slider has shown loads of improvement, and has become somewhat of a put away pitch on two-strike counts. It comes in with a fastball plane and drops late in a 10-7 formation. Middleton has improved his command of it, but can still run it up near the belt, which makes it very easy to tee off on. As he begins to fine tune his mechanics, his slider could become a special put away pitch with it's movement, and you could see Middleton's strikeout rates raise drastically.

Middleton has all the tools to be a Major League success, but one thing he is very limited to is experience. He only began focusing on just pitching in 2013 - three years ago - and is relatively new to pitching, all while being a "professional" at it. Inexperience is going to show in his delivery, mechanics, and in his statistics. More than anything, Middleton needs time on the mound, with in-game experience, to begin throwing more pitches, repeating his mechanics and learning every little bit while applying what he takes in. It is a work in progress, but the progress is showing.

No one knows where Middleton's success will come from more than he does, with an attitude towards self improvement. He knows he needs to listen, and apply, which is much easier said than done, especially in baseball. However, coaches and organizational members have given large praise towards Middleton's abilities to shut out negative influences and apply everything he's learned in bullpen sessions and simulated games. Now it's time for Middleton to take all that and apply it to a in-game, while facing opponents who are trying to do the same. Until Middleton turns the page and applies everything, proving his work ethic, he's still a raw athletic pitcher, but when he does turn that page, he could become a very special prospect.

VIDEO : Hardball Scouting

Scouting Report from Taylor Blake Ward - Senior Publisher for Scout.com


STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN:

Upon being drafted from Lane as a two-athlete star, Middleton could not piece together a strong performance over six outings in Rookie Orem. He finished his six games and 23.1 innings with a 8.10 ERA, 1.886 WHIP, while letting bats handle a .319 average and .960 OPS against him. He was sent to Tempe to polish out some things, where he excelled retiring 18 of the 24 batters he faced.

Middleton returned to Orem for a sophomore season and things improved, but not by a large amount. He finished the year with a 6.45 ERA, but he did manage to cut his hits per nine over one and walks per nine rates down by nearly two from the year prior. Middleton had one incredible performance, going five-inning of no-hit work, while retiring 15 of 17 batters faced, including the final 13 and seven by way of the K.

Middleton jumped to Low-A this past season, where he did prove that he can hang with the big boys, but the numbers may not have shown it. He finished the year with a 6-11 record, 5.30 ERA, and 1.552 WHIP. Middleton did shine for awhile, aside from his first start to final five, posting a 4.33 ERA in the middle 20. Maybe his best performance came in his second start, allowing a run in the first and then retiring his final 14 in a row.

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EXPECTED FUTURE:

Middleton is still far from polished, but he did go to show he can put back-to-back strong performances in Single-A last season. However, with a sinker that gets hit hard and weak command of his off-speed, a trip to the Cal League would be an absolute disaster. Middleton will have to work out his flaws in Low-A in 2016 before making the stride to High-A.

Middleton plays out as a reliever, but the Angels still feel he is a starter. If there's a game plan for Middleton from the Angels, we haven't seen it, and hope it doesn't cost them a potentially serious talent. Middleton could turn into an impact starter near the middle to back end of a rotation or turn into a middle relief arm, or many other options but the projection can't be foretold until there's an actual plan for him, and also when he pieces all things together.



For more updates on the Los Angeles Angels, their prospects, and our Top 100 Prospects Countdown, follow us on Twitter, @AngelsOnScout. Keep up with our countdown on Twitter with the hashtag, #LAATop100Prospects.

This article was published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher for Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.



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