Interview With Pitching Prospect Bob Keppel

In what is quickly becoming my favorite task at, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Mets' pitching prospect, Bob Keppel. Keppel was born on June 6, 1982 and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri...a Cardinals' fan of all things! While the Cardinals-Mets rivalry may not be what it used to be in the mid-80's, Keppel's allegiances were changed forever when the Mets made him the 36th pick in the 2000 draft.

"I grew up watching the Cardinals...Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Terry Pendleton", said Keppel. "When I was a kid, I thought the Mets were pond scum because they were our biggest rivals". It's funny how being drafted by a team will change your perspective. Keppel emphatically claimed: "When I was a kid, I hated Howard Johnson growing up and now he is one of my favorite coaches. Even though my family is full of Cardinals' fans, they root for me and realize that I am with the Mets now. They realize it is a business."

Keppel still has some ties to the Cardinals. His current favorite player on the Mets is former St. Louis player, Joe McEwing. "I really like Joe McEwing", said Keppel. "I followed him in St. Louis and I love how he gives it his all. He gives 100% all of the time, regardless of what position he plays." Despite growing up a Cardinals' fan, Keppel now tries to follow the New York Mets every chance he gets. "We don't have cable (television) in the apartment so I only get to follow them in the newspaper and in the clubhouse."

Keppel was not just a baseball player growing up. He was very active in his "Lifeteen Program", a church youth group, and was also a very good basketball player. When asked if he would like to be continue being involved with community programs as a pro, Keppel said: "I would definitely like to help others. I want to meet with several organizations and get involved in community programs, even when I am with the Mets."

Aside from the possibility of playing both basketball and baseball for Notre Dame, Keppel was offered a basketball scholarship St. Louis University. Playing point guard, Keppel averaged 14 points per game and 6 assists for his high school team.

While considering going pro, Keppel was seriously considering going to Notre Dame to play both baseball and basketball for the Fighting Irish, but opted to sign with the Mets. Keppel had two older sisters already going to Notre Dame. "It was a very difficult decision for me because of my family's tradition at Notre Dame and my relationship with Coach Mainiery (Notre Dame baseball coach)", said Keppel. "I looked forward to playing for him but I just couldn't turn down the draft. I had an opportunity to develop in the Mets' system and get started early. I have no regrets about turning down Notre Dame."

If Keppel had chosen to bypass the pros and turn down the Mets, he would have been a teammate of the Mets' 2001 1st round pick, Aaron Heilman. In fact, the two pitchers met at Notre Dame during a recruiting visit. "Heilman was my player host and I stayed with him for two days. He's a great guy and the Mets made a wonderful pick. He has a great attitude and I think he will be in the Majors in a couple of years, definitely." Keppel also said: "It would be a dream come true to pitch in the same rotation as Heilman. I can definitely see us at Shea Stadium together."

He compares himself to a duo of successful pitchers in the Majors. Said Keppel, "I'm a combination of Kevin Brown and John Smoltz. Brown, because I am tall and lanky and I have a little bit of Smoltz in me because I too have a drop down angle to some of my pitches". It is safe to assume the Mets would be real happy if Keppel resembles either one of those pitchers, let alone both.

Keppel boasts four pitches in his repertoire. "I have a two-seamer fastball which is mostly sinkers, I throw a four-seamer to the lefties, a change-up, and a 84-86 mph cutter/slider", said Keppel. "My fastball is currently ranging between 90-93 mph. I've been clocked at 94 mph once or twice this season. In a couple of years, I can see myself being around 95-96 mph. I am also developing a curveball to be my 'get me over' pitch so I can drop an 0-2 pitch down in the dirt".

After being selected by the Mets in the 2000 draft, Keppel had an inauspicious debut with the Kingsport Mets in 2000...going 1-2 with a 6.83 ERA in 29 innings. When asked on what he needs to do to make it to the Majors, Keppel said: "I basically need to improve on the command of my pitches and being more consistent".

Keppel has surely taken the first step in that direction this season with the Capital City Bombers. After his July 16th start against Savannah (6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER), he improved to 3-5 on the season with a 3.75 ERA. While those numbers may not jump off the page, the fact that he has walked only 16 batters in 88 1/3 innings pitched shows great signs that he is already improving his command.

While reaching the Majors is Keppel's ultimate goal, he realizes it takes time and he plans on getting there by attaining short-term goals. "I need to improve on my first-half stats and bring my ERA down to the low 3's or the high 2's. I need to keep the walk total down as I did in the first half and continue to go after hitters and learn my craft as a pitcher. Reaching St. Lucie is my goal for next season and it would be really great if I could get called up to Binghamton at some point next season as well."

"Realistically, I believe I'll need a year in St. Lucie and a year in Binghamton. My goal is to reach the Majors in 2 1/2 years, understanding of course that it could take longer". Keppel has been able to watch the "plan" fall into place with his former roommate and teammate, Neal Musser (who was recently called up to St. Lucie). He's made quite a few friends with players in the Mets farm system. Aside from having lived with Neal, he now lives with C Michael Jacobs (recently called up from Brooklyn), and has developed friendships with pitchers Matthew Peterson and Ross Peeples, OF Forrest Lawson, and Josh Reynolds.

Keppel believes that many people underestimate the quality of players in the Mets' farm system. On teammate Craig Brazell, Keppel said: "Craig is really hitting the ball right now and he has the batting average to move up in the system. I really think he has the tools to be a Major League first baseman." Though Keppel has limited exposure to his fellow farmhands, he could not say enough about SS Jose Reyes. "I feel Reyes has a very high ceiling and has the defensive ability to make it to the majors next season. He would be a typical 8-hole hitter, but has the ability to make the big hit time and time again."

On the Mets' minor league pitching, Keppel feels the Mets have a glutton of talent. "We have a ton of great pitchers in our farm system right now. In fact, we have too many." When asked to name the Mets' starting rotation in three years from pitchers in the Mets minor league system, Keppel said: "If I had to choose...Me, Patrick Strange, Jae Seo, Billy Traber, and Aaron Heilman. I've never seen Seo pitch but we have heard great things about him." After I pointed out the obvious omission of his good friend and former roommate Neal Musser, Keppel said: "The Mets may need to go to a six-man rotation to make room for Neal, either that or the Mets will have to make some trades".

What most major league scouts will tell is the most important asset for a pitcher (besides command and 'stuff') is confidence. It was quite apparent to me, there is no shortage of confidence in Bob Keppel...a trait that bodes well for a successful future. "From all the things I've heard from different people and knowing myself, there's no doubt in my mind that I can be a #2 starter for the Mets. I need to develop my curveball more to be a dominant ace starter for Major League ball club".

It is rare when you meet a player that is brimming with confidence but yet humble enough to know what it takes to get there. A class act and a pitcher with tremendous upside, the best has yet to come from Keppel. With pitchers like Keppel in the Mets' farm system, Shea should house some of the game's great arms in a few years.

Thanks to Bob Keppel for taking the time to talk with us at and be sure to continually check out our Mets' minor league coverage!

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