Prospect Files: Ryan Ketchner

The Mariners farm system is overflowing with incredibly talented young pitchers, and none are more intriguing than LHP Ryan Ketchner. Born partially deaf, the soon-to-be 22-year-old hasn't let his disability stop him. subscribers can read more on Ketchner, his life-long battle, and the road ahead (likely Double-A in 2004).

Position: LHP
Born: April 19. 1982
Place: Lantana, FL
Ht: 6-1
Wt: 190
Bats: L
Throws: L
How Acquired: Selected by the Mariners in the 10th round of the 2000 First year Player's Draft (296th overall)

Ryan Ketchner began his professional baseball career in 2000 with the Mariners Rookie League team in Peoria. The day he showed up in the desert was the last time he was a mystery man.

From day one Ketchner's teammates, coaches, managers and opposing players knew he could pitch. They knew he would create a disappointing at-bat for the opposing team, work hard every day, improve on his shortcomings, and they all knew he wasn't going to walk many hitters using his great control.

What they didn't know was that Ketchner is deaf. The M's had no qualms about drafting him, and he has used his skills to adjust to situations heavily to his advantage. Ketchner has yet to disappoint the Mariners and continues to impress with his pitching prowess.

Ketchner's first year in 2000 was spent in Peoria and right from the start he displayed his strengths. In 25.2 innings, Ketchner, then just 18, struck out 27 and walked just three hitters in nine games. The 4.21 ERA and 1-2 record were solid as was his ability to adjust from a starters role to relieving, then back to starting at a moments notice.

The Everett Aqua Sox were the next stop for Ketchner in 2001, and again the left-hander showed his superb command and control by walking just 18 batters in 52.1 innings while striking out 58. Ketchner's 20 appearances included five starts and produced a 3-3 record with a sparkling 2.92 ERA. At season's end, he was named as a Northwest League All-Star.

Ketchner's career took a turn in 2002 that would allow for the southpaw to skyrocket up the prospect charts. The 20-year-old made 13 starts among his 32 appearances and was nothing less than spectacular all season long with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League. Proving that he could start effectively was the best thing about his 2002 season, but his numbers spoke as loud as ever.

Ketchner went just 3-6 with the Rattlers but he boasted a 2.59 ERA with 118 strikeouts and just 39 walks in 111 innings. Opponents hit just .229 against him and gathered just 75 hits all year. The M's thought enough of him to select him as a replacement starter for Triple-A Tacoma. Once again Ketchner would not disappoint, going 5.2 innings and allowing nine hits but just three runs while striking out six without walking a single batter.

The Inland Empire 66ers were the recipients of more of the same from Ketchner in 2003. The 21-year-old became a full time starter in the first half of the season and ended up winning 14 games. Pitching in the California League, known to favor hitters, didn't seem to bother Ketchner much as he sported a 3.45 ERA and struck out 159 in 156.2 innings while walking just 33 and allowing 133 hits and was named to the 2003 California League All-Star team.

Expect Ketchner to start the 2004 season with Double-A San Antonio. This type of promotion is a very challenging move and much more will be known as to what type of pitcher Ketchner can be by seasons end.

TOOLS: Grading Scale

Fastball: 50
Armed with a heater clocked in the 86-89 MPH range, Ketchner uses his sneaky fastball to set up his off-speed stuff. His unbelievable command of the pitch allows him to move it around the strike zone, making what looks on paper like an average fastball that much better. Don't expect his fastball to reach 90 MPH too often.

Change-Up: 70
Ketchner could possibly raise the change-up to an 80 after the 2004 season if he can polish it off with slightly better usage of the pitch. He will throw it as the first pitch to the leadoff hitter, or 3-2 with the bases loaded.

Curve: 60
The possibility that his curve can be a plus pitch is why Ketchner rates as high as he does. An average heater with two plus off-speed pitches spells success in the majors. Watch for Ketchner to use his curve earlier in the count than in the past years.

Mound Presence: 60+
2004 is a big year for Ketchner to sharpen his skills on the mound as far as his awareness and game knowledge goes. He has spent so much time working on his communication that sometimes his in-game focus isn't perfect. His mound presence is not a negative but it's about the only thing he could actually get better at. He holds runners well and his pickoff move is average or better.

Intangibles: 80
Any player that is as organized as Ketchner has a leg up on most prospects. His willingness to outwork everybody else creates a positive team atmosphere and Ketchner is seen as a leader in many ways.

MLB ETA: 2006

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